the press release in the Chicago Tribune, but John Laffler [one of Goose Island's barrel-aging brewers] is leaving Goose Island to start his own deal with the former cellarman [Dave Bleitner] from Two Brothers.
Simple question up for debate: Even with [brewer] Tom Korder left at Goose Island, does the news of John Laffler leaving finalize the death nell for Goose Island?
In my mind, it does. As we all know, each person has a different palate and in my mind, only experience can help get a palate where it needs to be to determine when a beer is ready from barrels. I am sure Laffler passed on some of the secrets to those he trusted, but the wealth of knowledge he takes with him, plus the change in [Goose Island founder] John Hall's role, is the final nail in the coffin for what we once knew as Goose Island. I am sure the next few releases will be on par, but I doubt the quality exists in two years.
Rod: To be perfectly honest, I'm curious how much longer Tom Korder stays. Any time key staff leaves a brewery, you have to ask yourself this question. I don't think it definitively means that Goose Island, brewer of one of the finest imperial stouts in the world, is dead. But it does certainly stack the cards against them. When it comes down to it, brewing is both an art and a science. A lot of the "art" side of Goose Island is leaving. I just hope that their successors are equally as creative. Speaking of, does anyone know who is filling Laffler's role and what that person's credentials are?
Also, haven't the Halls been out of Goose Island pretty much since they were purchased (but perhaps unofficially)?
In brighter news, I am very excited for Laffler's new venture.
Jason: I don't like to count someone out until the quality suffers, so I won't carve a gravestone for them. They wouldn't be the first brewery to lose a brewer yet survive.
Of course, I can think of breweries that did not survive or have struggled in the wake of a brewer departure. So what the fuck do I know?
Jake: Rod - Sounds like Laffler just officially announced it last week, so I do not know what the succession plan is. Greg Hall [former Goose Island brewmaster] has been gone since right around the purchase to focus on Virtue Cider (also awesome), but I think John stayed more hands on. I doubt any of us will ever know what level of influence he had though.
Jason - You make a valid point as always. I just know personally some of the luster is lost with the "art" side leaving as Rod said.
Matt: The issue for me is always going to be about quality. Bourbon Country Stout is one of the finest beers that is available in the beer world. If that quality goes away, then rip BCS. I really want to believe though that the very special beers from Goose Island will be continue to be impressive. Some of my beer highlights this year were King Henry, Bramble, BCS, and the individual staves of BCS at the Great Taste of the Midwest. The Goose Island truffle beer I had at The Great American Beer fest remains one of the best things I've ever consumed. It comes down to quality for me, and this supersedes the local movement. I'm sure that pisses some people off, but no one else locally is making a barrel aged stout that is semi-easily-available at a reasonable price or on par with that type of quality. We have great beer here, don't get me wrong, and I think Indiana breweries really excel at brewing wonderfully approachable beer. In due time perhaps someone here will also make a beer on par with BCS and then we can have our cake and eat it too.
I remember being at the Rathskeller shortly after InBev bought Goose Island. A guy sitting at the table next to us was saying how he could never support Goose Island again since they were now owned by InBev. He then bought a pint of Franziskaner Hefeweiss, an InBev product. I find it hypocritical to cherry pick where people are taking their "beer" stand without really knowing the full scope of ultimate parent companies. The Goose Island situation is just easy to hate. I don't enjoy that fact that InBev bought Goose Island, but I know people that work for Goose Island and they are employed in Chicago. I still feel pretty good about supporting them. Simply because my funds are not going to one individual local owner doesn't make me a bad person, and I'm not going to feel bad for buying Goose Island products as long the quality is still world class. If BCS is terrible, I won't be buying anymore.
People are freaking about what this means for the world of better beer, but I don't think big beer buying up smaller breweries is the issue. I truly think we will see big beer growing vertically and not horizontally any longer. InBev is entering the world of the three-tier system, and that is how they will snuff out selection of better beer, not by buying better beer brewers.
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