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Chicagoist's "Beer Of The Week:" Goose Island Old Town Yard

By Paul Schneider in Food on Feb 24, 2012 8:00PM

Have you abandoned Goose Island since its sale to A-B InBev last March? Good. More for us. And for everyone else who's not a prick.

The latest trick up Goose Island's tail feathers is the Fulton & Wood series, a collection of beers dreamed up and brewed by small collaborative teams of brewers and other Goose Island employees with free reign over style, ingredients, and process. The Fulton & Wood beers will be released over the next year and will only be available on draft in Chicago. Just when you thought Goose Island might be turning corporate and showing its hometown its backside, here it is innovating with purpose and funneling the fruits suds of that labor to our pint glasses - ours alone.

Old Town Yard, a traditional Munich-style Helles, is the first in the Fulton & Wood series, and actually the first lager brewed at their Fulton Street brewery in quite awhile. Lagers take almost twice as long to produce as ales, so making a lager in a brewery that's operating at capacity can sound like insanity to the cellarmen and production managers who are responsible for moving product to market. The brewing method for this beer also involves a decoction mash, which ties up the brewhouse longer than the average Goose Island brew, meaning fewer batches can be made on Old Town Yard brewday. Combine those time-intensive processes with careful sourcing of the best German ingredients available and you have a beer that is not only outstanding for its style, but one that demonstrates a willingness to put quality and innovation before the bottom line.

It pays off. Old Town Yard is a super-clean, easy drinking, malt-forward lager. The bready, grainy, slightly caramel-sweet malt profile is balanced by a subdued earthy, spicy hop aroma. Brightly carbonated and brilliantly clear at 4.3%, Old Town Yard is the perfect beer to straddle late winter and spring. Nothing about this beer stands up and screams like the tartness of Juliet or the alcohol heat of Bourbon County Stout, but its subtle complexity and balance make it no less special.

The biggest surprise about this beer is how straightforward it is. The recipe is a collaboration between Goose Island brewers Gavin Secchi and John Laffler. Laffler's regular Goose Island duties iinclude tending to the growing battalion of barrels that give birth to beers like Madame Rose, Lolita, and Bourbon County Stout. Some days he's in the lab, working on off-beat projects like carbonating fruit. Laffler's day-to-day is so cutting-edge, the elegant simplicity of this traditional beer is a real surprise. The spot-on execution is not.

Here's Goose Island brewmaster Brett Porter along with John Laffler talking about Goose Island's commitment to innovation at the Fulton & Wood release party.

Find Old Town Yard on tap around the city.

Paul Schneider writes the craft beer blog Chitown On Tap.

Photo credit: Michael Kiser, Good Beer Hunting