Goose Island has been around long enough for me to remember it in the fridge when I was a kid. My dad used to drink it. I’m also a fan, and I pick up the delicious Sofie fairly regularly when I’m in the mood for saison.
I accidentally ran into the Goose Island folks while they were here for Madison Craft Beer Week, and I joined them at a few of their events.
We started-out with a cheese & beer tasting at Fromagination with Goose Island educator/cheesemonger Suzanne Wolcott. We ended at Nostrano for a beer-paired dinner. We may have hit a few bars in between.
There’s been major concern regarding Goose Island since the conglomerate that owns Budweiser, InBev, purchased the brewery last year. But word is, other than instituting drug testing, the parent company has left the golden goose alone. Actually, many feel that it has been an improvement for the brewery—allowing for better market access and some extra cash to push creativity.
I got the sense that for moment the purchase has had minimal impact.
Goose Island’s motto is “brewed for food,” and the ales are indeed great with nosh. Especially at Nostrano, where chef Tim Dahl is a long-time Goose Island drinker.
Dinner began with the elegant Sofie paired with a soft shelled crab over asparagus, French breakfast radishes and chickories. Large caperberries were cut in half to reveal their exotic lotus-like innards, and they provided a subtle pickle-y tang. The crab was fried in a light batter, and the whole was a nice launch to the meal.
Braised pancetta, which has been on the menu for a few weeks now, was already a favorite of mine. I love the rabe, hazelnuts, and the grapes together. And the pancetta is a layered pork playground. The pork might have been heated a touch too fast and hard, however, as the fattiest parts were just on the edge of melting– but it was still delectable. The Matilde, which is perhaps my favorite Goose Island Beer, was a perfect pairing.
I am not a ‘dark’ beer guy, but the Pepe Nero—Goose Island’s black pepper saison— was a complete surprise for me. I loved it at Fromagination with Sartori’s Bellavitano Espresso, and I loved it again with Nostrano’s chestnut tagliatellé. This ale was born for the deep flavor of chestnut and cured goose yolk, as well as the kind of salty zing this dish got from guanciale. The chive blossoms strewn in the bowl made this course visually stunning, and it was easily the best pairing I had all Craft Beer Week.
As an aside, Goose Island’s Omaha-bred Andrew Osterman told me that he uses Pepe on his steaks. Omahaians know their beef, so I paid attention: poke holes in a tupperware, throw in some steaks, and let them dry in the fridge for a night or two. Then, the next day, pour in the Pepe Nero. Let the steaks soak it up. Grill.
Dessert was the Caramélia Crema paired with Pere Jacques Belgian-style Abbey Ale. This is a dessert I have written about before, and adore. Kumquat, rich chocolate, lovage, smoked almonds. It has it all. The ale held up to the many flavors.
Rounding-out the meal were mignardises—in this case cute little macarons: one rhubarb and poppy, the other lovage and chocolate genache.
The Goose Island dinner made me remember the days before microbrews became the insanely hoppy, fruity, ridiculously over-blown monstrosities they are today. The backlash seems to be coming—extreme is on the way out. When the full retreat begins, Goose Island will be well-placed to welcome diners back to beer that is a compliment to food, not in competition with it.