Illinois: Sofie 2012, Goose Island Beer, Chicago

The beer that proves craft v. crafty is a big sloppy fib – and well within the range of possible futures for brewing generally. $8.99 last weekend just across the border. I look for it and its siblings whenever I cross over as it is one of the best values in good beer.

Lemon, pears and fine herb aromas. In the mouth, bright mid-weight beer with a creamy texture up front followed by slightly astringent green apple and lemon acidity. Overarching bready huskiness, light spice, a bit of sulfurous funk and a slightly yoghurty yeast. White pepper note in finish. Loverly and reasonable. Rare combination.

An absolutely swell beer made by a brewery owned by an international faceless monolith. Deal with it. BAers have the love.

One thought on “Illinois: Sofie 2012, Goose Island Beer, Chicago”

  1. [Original comments…]

    Roger A. Baylor – February 22, 2013 10:55 PM
    No thanks. I don’t sleep with the enemy.

    Alan – February 23, 2013 9:05 AM
    Fools take on pointless fights.

    ethan – February 23, 2013 3:36 PM
    I think it’s still a good beer, but I have to say I also think it was once a better beer. But as good/better/best is so subjective, I’m not all bent out of shape about it. Did the beer change or did I? It’s very hard to know.

    Gary Gillian – February 23, 2013 3:43 PM
    The main point as I understood BA was that the source be known, that is all really. Clearly big breweries can make great beer. There isn’t a huge number currently, but some.


    Alan – February 23, 2013 5:15 PM
    No. the BA’s point was pure self-congratulatory PR of the thinnest saddest sort. Inspired me to hunt out more non-compliant great value beers like this one. Was it better before? I don’t think I care as it was really good yesterday.

    Gary Gillman – February 23, 2013 7:26 PM
    I didn’t read it that way at all.


    Alan – February 23, 2013 8:23 PM
    Can’t help you with that. It was pretty self evident.

    Ethan – February 25, 2013 12:00 AM
    In a way, you’re right not to care: if you liked it, you liked it. Case Closed.

    OTOH, had you liked it more in the past, it would be relevant to your broader point. Carlos Brito’s tenure at AB-InBev has been marked by extreme slashing of costs–this is well-documented. Budwesier just switched hops, and they’re brewing Becks in NY for a reason, after all. So if Sofie has suffered from a similar program- cheaper 2-row base malt, or not being given the same conditioning time, well… How can you *not* decry it?

    Having said that, I think Magic Hat’s new Rye IPA is delish- and comes from a “crafty-esque” company, North American Breweries- themselves recently acquired by Cerveseria Costa Rica. So, yeah: Do I believe some good beers can come from Kraphtt companies? Of course.

    But I also believe they can ruin a beer.

    (Full disclosure: I have done consulting work for NAB- and would again if they asked.)

    Alan – February 25, 2013 8:17 AM
    I hear you but, if I am honest, I buy Sofie well ahead of 90% of what is supposed to be craft beer. I believe deeply that what the BA considers craft beer is in a bit of a crisis. High prices, poor industry leadership, foolish gimmickry and masses of beers which do not distinguish themselves in any way. Beers like this remind me of the pointlessness and risks associated with where we find ourselves.

    ethan – February 25, 2013 9:06 AM
    Craft Will Eat Itself, perhaps.

    But fresh, local, and generally anti-corporate is here to stay. I hope!

    Alan – February 25, 2013 9:52 AM
    I should say so. I think your model is the honest path, frankly. Ten thousand more CBWs across the world would solve big crafty quite nicely.

    Gary Gillman – February 25, 2013 10:36 PM
    Craft will not eat itself. It is here to stay. It earned its stripes over 30 years when big brewing showed no interest in fine beer, not until its sales went flat. In an environment where craft is only 6% in shipments (in volume not $$, the value is somewhat higher), it is well-advised to be cautious about how it defines itself and how it deals with big brewers. Sure, some will sell to big brewers and so should they – they earned a payday – and maybe some of those beers will remain sound and some won’t. E.g. Creemore is still very good. And indeed some bigs will decide to make fine beer on their own – some will, but not very many, probably.

    True independents will always lead the fine palate side of this equation and their share will only grow.


    Alan – February 26, 2013 11:05 AM
    I think you may have missed the basis for that. What you propose is entirely unlike any phase of brewing history.

    Gary Gillman – February 26, 2013 12:35 PM
    If you meant that I missed the basis of why you feel craft will eat itself, I did review carefully the points made earlier (high prices, similar products, gimmicks, etc.). But these have always been part of the craft beer scene, from day one. Jackson used to gently lampoon the early brewpubs by noting that each seemingly told the customer, “we have our gold, our amber and our stout”. Prices were always higher for craft beers (in general) than for regular stuff. Gimmicks abounded then too, the old vans everyone seemed to buy and refurbish, the beer-and-food dinners, beer camp, all that stuff. It was and is all part of the craft brewing scene. Even weird and wonderful products existed in the old days too, e.g. Icebock from Niagara Falls Brewing, Upper Canada Brewing’s experiments with real ale straight from the pin, the early fruit beers, etc. Business is always trying to draw attention to itself in different ways.

    I believe that craft brewing will endure as a permanent, separate part of the beer business. It is unprecedented, I agree, but the same thing is happening in other parts of the drinks and culinary world: you have Yellowtail, Gallo and specialty, high-end wine makers. Big bakers (e.g. Weston) vs. the well-established artisan bakers in most larger urban areas. Big dairies vs. small cheesemakers. Where did I just read that Will Durant said the future belongs to the artisans? An over-general prediction, but with a core of truth I think.


    Alan – February 26, 2013 1:27 PM
    Still, that does not explain why you believe that what you are calling craft will have that homogeneous permanent success separate from all previous experience in the brewing industry. You are just asserting that it will. Keep in mind that the leadership of the Brewers Association are as far from artisans as industrial brewers.

    Gary Gillman – February 26, 2013 2:58 PM
    Well, it depends how you define artisan, and that will always be a relative thing. Only Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams are really sizeable, perhaps New Belgium too, and even they don’t ship very much compared to the true behemoths in the industry. I think this shows that Jim Koch is an artisan, has an artisan spirit:

    I am not just asserting it Alan, I mentioned a broader trend of which brewing is a part. We are past the time IMO when beer is a largely undifferentiated product in terms of quality. There are two kinds of beer now, almost separate markets albeit with some cross-over.


    Gary Gillman – February 26, 2013 2:59 PM
    Sorry, I mentioned Sam Adams twice. I meant Dogfish Head for one of those.


    Alan – February 26, 2013 4:07 PM
    Well, I think we can wind this up by letting you know I understand Jim Koch is about as much an artisan as an engineer at Ford or GM might be. I would also cite Ethan in last weekend’s Buffalo newspaper:

    “…when it comes to who’s my competition, I have more to fear from the growth of Sierra Nevada than the 13th iteration of Shock Top that Budweiser is foisting on people, or whatever.”

    Gary Gillman – February 26, 2013 4:20 PM
    I can’t disagree more. He recreated, from nothing, an 1800’s beer made by his own ancestors, and much later helped Jack McAuliffe recreate his groundbreaking 1977 New Albion Ale. They used a pilot plant to brew it in. Jim Koch ensured that Jack would get the profit, too. He loves good beer and incarnates the artisan spirit, IMO. As for fearing Sierra Nevada more than anything put out by Bud, it shows to me the kind of segmentation I was referring to, that each level serves two basically different markets. (I wouldn’t say Shock Top is that great by the way).


    Alan – February 26, 2013 4:28 PM
    Good luck to you with that. You’ve made your point.

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