NEAR WEST SIDE — At Fulton and Wood streets, a longtime brewery is angling for a reintroduction to the city that made it.
"To be in the mix and to be relevant, we've got to introduce ourselves to Chicago better than we ever have," said Ken Stout, consumer experience director at Goose Island. "We're the most well-known craft brewery in Chicagoland, but nobody knows we're here."
That's exactly what Stout aims to change. For the first time, Goose Island's Fulton Street brewery plans to open to the public, offering tours and a taproom experience, beginning in January.
The public tours have been five years in the making, Stout said Monday at the Near West Side brewery. As Goose Island planned, other big names on Chicago's craft beer scene — Revolution, Two Brothers, Lagunitas — offered up taprooms and tours, opening their brewery doors to the drinkers who loved them.
Today, hosting tours is no longer a competitive advantage, Stout said. It's a competitive necessity.
"It's gone from something we've always thought we ought to do, to something we've got to do," Stout said.
Goose Island will launch its Fulton Street brewery tour in January, offering tours in the afternoons three days a week — Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
The brewery tasting tours, priced at $10, will be available via reservation and will include beer samples and a Goose Island pint glass. The tours will be limited to groups of about a dozen, Stout said.
Starting March 1, the brewery plans to offer tours five or six days a week.
For beer enthusiasts, the brewery tour will offer up the history of the 25-year-old Goose Island brand, Stout said. Before the company was acquired by Anheuser-Busch in a 2011 phased sale, nearly all Goose Island beers were brewed at the Fulton Street brewery. Today, Goose Island's 312 Urban Wheat Ale, Honker's Ale and some seasonal beers are brewed in Anheuser-Busch facilities in Baldwinsville, New York, and Fort Collins, Colorado, Stout said.
But most other brews continue to be brewed at Fulton and Wood, including draft-only Green Line, Matilda, Sofie, Oktoberfest, Festivity (formerly Christmas) Ale, the Fulton & Wood series and Bourbon County Stout.
The brewery opened in 1995.
The tasting room
Currently under construction, the tasting room will offer eight beers on tap at 1800 W. Fulton St., Stout said.
The tasting room will open from 5-8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays with seating for 89. The brewery does not plan to serve food.
The small space is designed to foster a "visceral experience" between Goose's fans and the Fulton Street brewers, Stout said.
In a world where craft beer fans now have so many more options, Stout said the tour and tasting room offer additional inroads to tell Goose Island's 25-year-old story.
"We have a lot to show — we've got a great story, great beers and great people," he said.
Goose Island also offers tours at its original Clybourn brewpub location, which opened in 1988.
Late last month, Goose Island shuttered its Wrigleyville pub after 15 years in the neighborhood. Because of a pending Wrigley area development plan, the brewpub's landlord could not guarantee the lease would run through the end of the 2015 Cubs baseball season, according to company founder John Hall.
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