For my golden birthday (24) I went down to Chicago with my brother and some friends for a private tour of Goose Island Brewery from my friend Dave who also happens to be a brewer there. I was super psyched and excited for the extended weekend ahead. Once we got down there though, Dave had some on and off health issues flare up, so our weekend took a slightly different turn, and he promised me a tour in the future. Flash forward 3 years, to my 27th birthday. We tried again, and again the same issues flared up.
I’m not going to lie. I started to think it was me…but he insisted it wasn’t, so me being me…I believed him and decided a third time would absolutely most definitely be a charm. So…for my 29th birthday (I laid low for my 28th and stuck around Madison…in case you happened to be wondering) we (me, Steven, my older brother Mike, and our friend John) hauled our asses down (up for Mike) to Chicago and decided to just make a day of it.
We got close to the brewery and I missed a call Dave and I was like, “Oh man, I hope this isn’t a call telling us to turn around…”…WHEW! It was not. It was a call to let us know where to park. I got a bit of a chill…it was finally going to happen! Third time was absolutely most definitely a charm, and I had a feeling the 5 year wait would be totally worth it.
…and it was.
Our tour started off in the barrel aging warehouse, which also happens to have rooms used for hosting events. Everything about this location is magical. The event rooms are absolutely gorgeous and there are barrels and bottles of their rare barrel aged beer everywhere you look. The architecture and design are simply stunning. For any craft beer lover this is definitely an ideal place to get hitched.
Next we moved onto seeing the actual barrels being aged in the warehouse.
You forget who you are amongst the endless rows of stacked barrels, all filled with the beer you’ve spent the better part of your 20’s chasing after. Each barrel housing a specific beer, being aged in the barrel it’s in for a very precise reason; flavor complexity.
If you take a closer look at some of the barrels it becomes very apparent there is pressure building up in them from the sassy activity going on inside. This is very normal, and the barrels are left to do their thing. Usually the barrels don’t get beyond the bulging phase, and this is what we hope for.
Looking at the individual barrels is kind of cool, in the sense you get to know where the barrel came from, what beer is being aged in it, how long it’s been aging for, and the beer leaking out gives you an idea of what the beer inside looks like.
After the barrel aging warehouse we traveled to the brewery, which is located a short drive away. This is where all the planning, mixing, and experimentation happens. These three smaller fermentation tanks housed three different versions of Bourbon County. One was mixed with scotch, and damn was it full of peaty deliciousness. We got our fill of pours straight from the tanks, and that is part of the reason why this is undoubtedly THE most spectacular brewery tour you could ever even dream of. We got to walk around with pours straight from the tank, and wander at our own pace. Oh, and we didn’t have to hide the look on our face when the n00b up front asked a quite elementary question.
We continued our way around the brewery; beer in hand and hearts full.
It becomes very apparent whilst walking around why brewers wear rubber boots…just look at the floor in these pics! I was wearing my fluffy Uggs…so not ideal, but they are boots, and they did do the trick.
Below we have the grain hoppers. The bags are each filled with a certain grain and from there are dispensed and milled based on need.
Here is a view of of a row of fermentation tanks from up above. It’s pretty crazy standing amongst them all. Such a vast amount of beer in one room…at one time. The beer sits in these tanks until it is ready to be bottled…this is where the sugary mixture becomes alcoholic and carbonated.
This is the moment in the World’s Greatest Brewery Tour…when we got to try Bourbon County Stout straight from the source. This tank is greater than the height of the building and is housed half inside and half outside the building. This beer is a personal favorite, and sampling it to my heart’s content, knowing people had to fight for tickets and would be standing in line a few days later for one pour…let’s just say I felt like the luckiest lady on the planet…and to experience it with some of my favorite souls was a beautiful birthday gift all in itself. #dreamsdocometrue
Boxes of hops were stacked in their designated corner, and it was fun to read their labels to see what types were being put to use.
The bottling line at Goose Island Brewery is no joke. It’s state of the art, and is certainly a piece of art itself. They have a bottling line for their regular bottles, as well as their bottles of Wild Lady Sours. Fancy AF.
What you see below is the machine that filters all the beer. As you can see, we were all very interested in what was occurring at that moment.
Here is a shot of a cluster of monitors…each with some brewing info…also a monitor dedicated to a bunch of cameras. Gots to keep the brewery safe!
Our last stop on our tour was this room below. It had some absolutely beautiful mash tuns…just look at them.
It also had a bar for employees only…so I guess you could say we were part of the crew for the day…or just special enough for the moment (I’ll take either or both). There were several beers on tap, and you better believe we tried all of them. I’m not going to lie…I was pretty damn happy at that moment…surrounded by some of my favorites (people and beer).
On our way out of the brewery I noticed the writing on the wall, “Our Ladies Get Wilder With Age”. I couldn’t help but throw this into the mix. It made me smile.
And just like that we were done. Never has 3 hours gone so fast. Thank you Dave, for giving us the best tour imaginable, and for making my last birthday in my 20’s something truly magical and special.