I took a day from work on Friday, January 24, to go to the Goose Island media event before SoxFest. It was all right with work, since me and my fellow drones tend to hoard vacation days and try to use them up at the end of the year.
No doubt about it, the McCormick Place West site was cavernous, and already filled with exhibitors, and stages for autograph sessions fronted by long mazes to hold lines of autograph seekers. And on either side of the main stage was Budweiser beer truck, and the Goose Island truck.
As announced last week, Goose Island has produced a Sox Golden Ale as a collaboration with the Chicago White Sox. It's a continuation of their partnership that has already seen the installation of a Goose Island section in the outfield bleachers. Goose Island's president Todd Ahsmann, and head brewer Keith Gabbett were on hand to talk about the new beer. I took notes while sampling the new beer, so details became sketchier as the afternoon went on.
Gabbett explained that the idea of a White Sox-branded Goose Island beer was first brought up last March. What followed were several sessions of pitching ideas, tasting samples and deciding on a particular style. "When we started talking about this collaboration, we were looking at the occasion for the beer. After all, we're known for a lot of different thing. We have a sour program, for our stouts, of course. Goose IPA is huge. But none of those fit just as well in a baseball game setting. We wanted to something a little more drinkable, a little more sessionable, so we made a golden ale. It's an approachable style. It has a little bit of malt sweetness to; a little complexity from the grains and hops. It's really meant to be drinkable, crushable, something you want to have two or three of while you're watching the game."
With that, the Sox' World Series winning coach Ozzie Guillen joined Gabbett and Ahsmann to "christen" the new beer.
This is indeed a beer for the grandstand folks, but it comes in pretty nice. A clear, light orange pour under a thin head of foam. Lightly malty beer smell, with a note of fruit. Gabbett told me they put a bit of rye in it as well, but that does not show up very much. It does have a clean malty taste, with a note of light citrus fruit. I have been disappointed with many Golden/Blond Ales, because they need to be enjoyed fresh, and being light on hops, the malts can end up a bit saccharine. But this one has some oomph to it. The level of malts reminds of their Summertime Kölsch style, with just enough hops to keep it from getting cloyingly sweet, and that’s the difference. I found myself enjoying quite a few. After all, I don't get many opportunities for day drinking.
Some other notes I gleaned from the event:
Revolution Brewing's #SoxSocial Tap Room will remain in place for the 2020 season, as will the Craft Kave vending stands.
Goose Island president Todd Ahsmann happily pointed out in interviews that he had gone to school with Goose's first brewer, Greg Hall, and considered his father, founder John Hall, Jr., his "second dad." He also was one of the early employees of the original Clybourn Avenue brewpub. After a few years in other fields of endeavor, John had asked him to to come back to a management position at the growing beer company.
The 1060 Wit made for the Cubs in the 2017 season was a one-time deal, which was only sold within the Friendly Confines. I mention this because someone is going to comment "They made a beer for the Cubs first!"
There was still time before SoxFest opened its gates to a few thousand people lined up already. Nkosio White of ChicagoBeerGeeks (never hurts to shout out to other blogs) and I checked out the rest of the layout. Such as the Garage Sale, with tables of items like T-shirst and caps for old promotional events, shoes and bats, and jerseys for current and departed players. None of these were certified "game-worn," so I could have picked up a nice pair of shoes for $15. Don't know how well the cleats would have been received on our wooden floor, though.
We also crashed the interview area, where regular sports reporters were talking with players and other personnel about the upcoming season. I wish I had something to say to someone, but I did not feel like going up to a player in a $1,000 suit to ask, "Hi! Who are you?"
But as, no doubt, with any fan fair, there was a lot good positive vide from players and personnel, this time in light of some impressive off-season acquisitions. It's that time before even spring training, when all the athletes are in great shape, and every team is tied for first place.