Another Update, March 6: Phase Three has just posted to Instagram that presales will be Wednesday, March 10, through Oznr, with pickups starting Thursday the 11th during taproom hours. Instagram link.
Update, March 5: I have finally heard back from Goose Island about the sale dates. Preorders will be available Saturday, March 6 through the Oznr app. Goose Island just set up an Oznr page, so it may be available from both Goose and Phase Three. Pickups will be starting Wednesday, March 10.
The beers were brewed alternately at Phase Three in Lake Zurich, and at Goose Island’s Fulton Street brewery. Phase Three’s version is named If You’re a Bird… and includes hints of cocoa nibs and coconut while Goose Island’s version is called …I’m a Bird, and is finished with cocoa nibs and strawberries. They carry an abv of 12.5%. Their names, of course, play off the imagery of the two brewers’ avian logos.
The release of the two beers had been planned for this past Friday, Feb. 19. But the weather, and other issues, forced them to delay packaging the beers. The collaboration is (tentatively) scheduled to go on sale Friday the 26th. This article will be updated and the event posted to my regular schedule of events once confirmed.
While Goose Island is the “big dog” in the Chicago beer scene, they still have friends among the smaller brewers, says Goose Island brand manager Mike Smith: “We have so many connections in the industry, just counting the maybe 50 brewers in Chicago and across the country that had started at Goose Island.”
Depending on whether there are openings in the brewing schedule, a collaboration can come about pretty quickly: “We had started talking about this in November, maybe even early December. We were joking around about how Phase Three was making fantastic stouts, and we’ve been known for our Bourbon County Stouts for 25 years. We started thinking, what if we made a stout with cocoa or strawberries, which would come out for Valentine’s season.”
The beer was brewed with Phase Three’s brewmaster Shaun Berns, and Goose Island’s brewmaster Keith Gabbett. An imperial stout recipe was agreed upon, with differences arising not only from the coconut and strawberry additions, but from variations in the equipment and process. “Just for fun, we let Phase Three use our house yeast, and then they brought theirs to our batch,” Smith said. The Goose Island batch was run on their two-barrel pilot system.
Shaun said he was up for the collaboration because, “I have a close friend that works in the lab at Goose, also Bourbon County was the first big stout I ever had that had adjuncts in it and got me very interested in the style.”
“It’s kind of an unwritten law that all the brewers in a collaboration come together to each others’ breweries,” Smith noted, “To work out the recipe, but also to have fun, and to enjoy each other’s beer. I showed a little late for the brew day, but I still managed to try a sip or two of each version.”
Phase Three has been in business just since 2019, but they’ve already received plaudits for their beers, including their barrel program. “We started filling casks about a month after we started selling our first beers, so back in May of 2019,” Shaun said. “We currently have about 150, which is a pretty good sized barrel-program for a brewery of our size. Most of the casks are filled with stout, which right now are Eunoia (adjuncted stout) that we’ll release multiple times a year, each with different adjuncts and then Minutiae which is a yearly release that has no adjuncts and has a stronger focus on the base stout and the casks being blended. The other casks are filled with Dark English Barleywine, called Arabesque which will see its first release this May or June as an 18 month blend. We also have casks filled with an imperial porter, called Pressed which will actually have it’s first release in just a couple of weeks: Barrel-Aged Pressed Reserve, a coffee infused Barrel Aged Imperial porter.”
For the collaboration brew, Goose Island has gotten hold of some Willett Bourbon barrels to lay some down in; and that should make an appearance in about a year.
I asked the collaborators how they have been managing to adjust their business in the COVID-19 pandemic over the past 12 months. Berns said it was especially difficult as a brewer and as a public-facing business: “We’ve had to pivot a lot over the last year. We didn’t have an official taproom until September of 2020 and its been shut down most of the time because of COVID. We were lucky that through the Fall (and most of Winter) we were able to seat people outside. We recently opened back up and have some additional seating adjacent to our taproom in what we call “The Branch,” that features a mural on the wall of some hunmingbirds (our logo) on a long branch that extends the length of the wall, it’s also surrounded by our growing barrel program and has a more relaxed feel than our main taproom.”
Smith noted, “From Day One, we worked with the local government, with the state, and with the CDC, to make sure we provide a work environment with safe practices down the line. We worked out how to work with a smaller crew and still make great beer.”
Though collaborations are more common for smaller brewers, it turns out Goose Island has been doing them with as well. “We have already done a hazy IPA with Old Irving Brewing. We’re already looking into when we can do a second batch with them. We also did a collaboration with Alarmist Brewing that went really well.”
If You’re a Bird… and …I’m a Bird will be available at the Goose island Taproom, 1800 W. Fulton, and at Phase Three’s taproom, 932 Donata Ct. Lake Zurich.