At this point, thanks to its 2011 purchase by AB InBev, Goose Island can be found almost anywhere. It’s the default “craft” beer at many bars, even if most drinkers no longer consider it craft. And that means you’ve probably consumed a Goose Island beer at least once in your lifetime. (We’re willing to bet more than once.) But how much do you really know about Goose Island? Here are 14 facts to sip on.
The Idea for Goose Island Came From an In-Flight Magazine
Owner John Hall read an article on new breweries and the opportunities they were presenting to entrepreneurs in a Delta in-flight magazine in 1986. He made the decision then and there to explore a career in brewing. “I read this magazine article about small little breweries on the West Coast,” Hall recalls. “[That started me thinking about my] time in Europe. In the back of my mind, I always wondered why we didn’t have the variety of beers available here in the States that you saw in Europe.”
It Was Originally Just a Brewpub
The brewery’s 1988 origins were humble. It initially debuted as a brewpub in Lincoln Park, Chicago, and remained that way for seven years.
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The Intention Was Simply to Become Chicago’s Beer
When Hall launched Goose Island, Chicago didn’t really have a local beer. Considering its location between Milwaukee, the birthplace of Miller, and Budweiser’s hometown St. Louis, Hall felt it was high time Chicagoans had a local brewery, too.
Greg Hall, Goose Island’s Famed Brewer, Is John Hall’s Son
John opened the brewery just as his son was graduating from college, so he offered Greg the job of head brewer. Greg then attended the 140-year-old Siebel Institute of Technology to learn more about brewing.
The Brewery Has Always Been Committed to Making European-Style Beers
John and Greg wanted Chicagoans to experience beer styles from England, Germany, and Belgium.
Gillian Anderson Was One of The Brewery’s First Employees
When she went on to become famous in The X-Files, Goose Island named a beer after her.
Goose Island Pioneered Bourbon Barrel-Aged Beer
Greg Hall got the idea to age beer in used bourbon barrels after sitting next to Jim Beam’s master distiller at a dinner in 1992. The result was the critically acclaimed Bourbon County Stout.
There’s a Black Market for Goose Island’s Bourbon County Line of Beers
Fans of the beer have been known to pay upwards of $200 a bottle for old and rare Bourbon County offerings.
Sofie Was Named for John Hall’s Granddaughter
Aged in wine barrels and named for Greg’s daughter, this Champagne-esque beer has a rabid following.
For a While Goose Island Also Sold Soda
Technically they didn’t make the soda, but they did license their name to the WIT Beverage Company. That agreement ended in 2013, and the soda is no more.
Budweiser Bought Goose Island for $38.8 Million in 2011
According to Hall, the brewery had grown so large they were left with the decision to take private equity investment, offer an IPO, or sell. He decided to sell to a company that knew the beer business and could help expand Goose Island globally.
John Hall Is Still Goose Island’s CEO
While Anheuser-Busch now owns Goose Island, John Hall remains CEO, directing the day-to-day operations. Greg, however, left soon after the sale.
Greg Hall Started a Cider Brand That Also Sold to Anheuser-Busch
Shortly after leaving Goose Island, Greg Hall started Virtue Cider. Within four years, he sold that as well. Fans were not pleased. “I don’t know who’s gonna catch up to me and sell two companies to AB,” says Hall. “I’m the leader in the clubhouse of hate mail, I think, and I’m O.K. with that.”
More than 10 Other Goose Island Vets Have Also Left to Found Breweries
Labels include Firestone Walker, Southern Tier, Revolution, Fremont Brewing, and more.