Lolita is lovely… And so are Juliet, Gillian and Halia. And while the Goose Island ladies all share a common ingredient – ripe summer fruit – a Bud Light Lime-A-Rita (or Straw-Ber-Rita if you prefer) doesn’t come close to the flavours of these fine beers.
I’ve written about the Goose Island gals before. In fact, the Chicago brewery’s “brewed for food” brand launch north of the U.S. border inspired this blog, with Sofie and Matilda having served as my muses.
I’ve also made reference to the fact that some might call Goose Island faux craft. It may not be well-advertised, but it is well-known (at least in the craft beer community), that Goose Island was bought out by Anheuser-Busch InBev. This is the same multinational corporation behind Big Beer brands like Budweiser, Stella, Corona and Becks.
Even so, when it comes to the quality of the Goose Island brand, it is fair to say the brewery hasn’t sold out. We met a Goose Island marketer at FoBAB who used the analogy of a child of divorce to describe Goose Island’s relationship with its parent company. According to him, Anheuser-Busch InBev is akin to a stepfather with a fat wallet. The conglomerate has taken custody of the brewery, and in the process, has injected significant capital into operations and innovation. The multinational has definitely bought my love.
Always a fan of the Goose Island label, I became acquainted with Sofie and Matilda’s aforementioned sisters after stumbling upon Lush Wine and Spirits in Chicago. The boutique bottle shop has several locations in the city and specializes in eclectic and rare wine, spirits and brews. We walked out of the store with what we jokingly referred to as a “$200 six-pack.” But the beers were worth the investment. So much so, that we brought bottles home to cellar and enjoy later.
Lolita is brewed in the Belgian Framboise style. The lively, rose-petal pink pale ale is fermented with wild yeasts and aged with raspberries in wine barrels, lending flavours of tartness and jammy fruit. Juliet, on the other hand, is a Belgian-style wild ale aged in cabernet barrels with blackberries. It pours a stunning burgundy colour, imparting flavours of tart fruit and wood from the barrels that contained it.
Gillian was a particular favourite. The spritzy Belgian-style farmhouse ale found its inspiration in an amuse bouche that combined strawberries, white pepper and honey. The spicy pepper notes are complemented by flavours of sweet and tart fruit. Halia is equally as flavourful and effervescent, celebrating juicy Georgia peaches and Brettanomyces yeast. Both beers are aged in wine barrels.
With a range of elegant beer styles packaged in beautiful bottles, it’s clear that Goose Island serves a very different market than Budweiser. The relationship between Anheuser-Busch InBev and Goose Island, however, is indicative of large corporate brands wanting a piece of the craft beer boom. In response to the growing market, Big Beer has been launching its own craftesque labels or buying out existing craft breweries.
And it’s no wonder that Anheuser-Busch InBev and Goose Island choose to keep their business relationship on the down low (there’s no mention of the parent company on the brewery website). Consumers can think less of a brand if they learn it is owned by a multinational firm.
But multinationals are getting wiser about working with the smaller brands they incorporate. As well as being aware of a general disdain for super brands, Anheuser-Busch InBev seems to have left Goose Island to its own devices. The parent company realizes that consumers – especially craft beer drinkers – appreciate products that, like the Goose Island ladies, look, feel and taste authentic.