Goose Island Beer Co. | Brewery Yard
When drinking your favorite craft beer, how often do you think about the history behind it? To be honest there isn’t a lot of history behind most craft beer. In an industry that isn’t very old and more typically focuses on the new and exciting release, history often doesn’t make its way into craft beer. But Goose Island’s Brewery Yard is one beer that features a unique and interesting historical tale.
Brewery Yard is a stock pale ale. You’re probably wondering what a stock pale ale is and if you’ve ever had one. The answer is most certainly no. A true stock pale ale hasn’t been brewed, at least according to Goose’s knowledge, in nearly 50 years. The Chicago brewery teamed up with brewing historian Ron Pattinson to create an authentic stock pale ale to release to the public.
So what is a stock pale ale? The beer is brewed as a pale ale, but then it’s aged in oak barrels for 10 months with Brettanomyces. Pretty unique right?
Stock pale ales were first made in the 19th century and were aged for long periods of time before being exported and sold. The beers featured a ton of hops. In some instances recipes would call for 10 pounds per UK barrel. Compare that to a double IPA today that uses only 2 pounds per UK barrel.
The beer would be very bitter in order to keep it safe from bacteria, but because of that, it wasn’t drinkable fresh. Aging the beer in oak barrels allowed it to come down in bitterness and the addition of Brettanomyces would help prevent any oxidation effects.
The barrels would be kept outside in what was known as the brewery yard which allowed the beer to be exposed to the elements. It was with this time outside, as well as the Brettanomyces, that gave the beer its aged taste.
After WWI, there was virtually no more brewing of stock pale ales. The hopping levels have gone down significantly since the early 1900s and the switch to the pellet hop instead of using the whole cone, as well as several other factors, made stock pale ales a thing of the past.
But Goose Island wanted to bring back the style to showcase what beer would have tasted like decades ago. With the help of Pattinson, they released Brewery Yard, which is only available in bottles from the Goose Island Brewery at Fulton and Wood.
Brewery Yard is unlike any other beer I’ve ever had before. When you have your first sip of the beer you won’t know what to expect. In fact it will take a second or third sip before you truly comprehend the nuances. It’s a complex flavor profile that takes your taste buds on a journey you’ve never had while tasting beer.
Initially you get a funkiness from the Brettanomyces that you’ve come to expect in saisons, lambics or other traditional Belgian beers. But that funky taste is cut quickly by the bitterness that comes from the pale ale that is still the base of the beer but coupled with the characteristics the oak barrel provides. I also got some fruity notes but those were very subdued and weren’t the highlight of the beer. Like I said – it’s complex.
It took me a bit to warm up to this beer. After the first sip I was hesitant to take another, but once you understand what you’re supposed to get out of the beer you begin to enjoy it more. It’s a historical beer and it has a purpose for the craft beer drinker. You get to experience something that dates back more than a hundred years. I can’t imagine you’ll find breweries jumping on the bandwagon to brew stock pale ales anytime soon.
For me, it’s not a beer I would need to seek out and stock up on. However, I highly recommend any craft beer drinker try Brewery Yard if they get the chance. In an age where we are trying to find the juiciest IPA or the most complex stout, Brewery Yard is a change of pace from what we’ve come to expect from the craft beer world.
MIKE ZOLLER IS THE MIDWEST EDITOR FOR PORCHDRINKING.COM. FOLLOW HIM ON INSTAGRAM: @CHICAGOBEER AND PORCHDRINKING CHICAGO’S TWITTER FEED FOR THE LATEST CHICAGO CRAFT BEER NEWS: @PORCHDRINKCHI.