Goose Island outsourcing 312 beer to New York
“Urban Wheat Ale” will be Chicago brewery’s third beer made on East Coast
07/29/2011 4:53 PM
Chicago’s biggest beer company, Goose Island, is outsourcing the brewing of another of its flagship beers from the Near West Side to the East Coast.
According to Goose Island founder John Hall, the company is set to start brewing its immensely popular 312 wheat beer at a brewery in upstate Baldwinsville, N.Y., run by Goose Island’s new owner, Anheuser-Busch. That could happen as soon as 30 to 60 days from now, Hall said. It was first reported by the Chicago Tribune's Josh Noel.
It’s the third beer that Goose Island is outsourcing from its Fulton Street brewery on the Near West Side to the East Coast. Earlier this year, the company moved production of its India Pale Ale and Honker’s Ale to a brewery partially owned by Anheuser-Busch in Portsmouth, N.H. Every bottle of Goose Island IPA is made in Portsmouth right now, and Honker’s is set to begin production there any day now.
At that time, Goose Island said the outsourcing was actually a good thing for the beer. Honker’s and IPA are both relatively simple, straightforward beers to make, and moving them out of the company’s main facility gives them more space to focus on their more nuanced brews.
The same is true for 312, which also is a relatively simple beer to make — as well as the company’s most popular beer. But the space Goose Island has been using to make 312 will be freed up to make more complex, innovative beers like its Matilda and Sofie Belgian ales, and its barrel-aged Bourbon County Stout.
“When we announced our deal with AB, the underlying idea for that was that our business was brewing faster than we could supply it,” Hall said. “We can’t make it  here. We’ve either got to turn down orders or find someone else to make it for us. We’re making more and more of our vintage ales — those are beers that are unique that other brewers can’t make, and we’re putting more investment into them.”
Hall said more of the company’s simpler beers could be outsourced, too, to make more room at the Fulton Street brewery, like its seasonal Harvest and Summertime ales.
However, its sustainability-focused Green Line Pale Ale will always be made in Chicago, he said, as will all of the Belgians and Bourbon County Stout.
One thing Goose Island has repeatedly emphasized since it was bought by Anheuser-Busch is that Chicago is still the brewery’s home, and they want to build a big new brewery in the city.
“We’re undergoing fairly radical change in our company as we become part of a much bigger organization, but in the next year, we’re going to figure out what we need,” Hall said. “Anheuser-Busch has assured me that Chicago is our home, and that we’re going to be faced with the need for a new brewery.”
Hall said that Anheuser-Busch is on board with that idea, and while nothing’s in the works yet, he noted that it would likely take two to three years for a new brewery to get up and running.
As for complaints that the company has lost its way during its acquisition by a beer-making monolith, Hall said things at Goose Island haven’t changed — they can just make more beer now.
“I think we’re the same company, we’re supporting the same things, we’re doing everything we did before. We’re doing this to be able to build our business,” he said. “It should be obvious that AB has a lot more capacity than little, old Goose Island ever did.”