Goose Island founder John Hall was visiting our very own Shanghai this past week - and he sat down with TheBrewGirl for a pint and some pub talk.
When Hall opened Goose Island Brewery in 1988 (an auspicious year!) there were fewer than 100 breweries in the entirety of the United States. Today, over 5,000 breweries operate in the US, and Goose Island is riding the craft beer tide all the way to China, where you can now find Goose Island in tons of your favorite restaurants around Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou and more.
For aspiring craft beer icons everywhere, John Hall offers inspiration to keep brewing and drinking our way to the Next Big Thing. In China, where the craft beer scene has exploded in only a few short years - and still has so much room to grow - it’s exciting to dream big. Like, Goose Island, John Hall-sized big. (But multiply that by 1.3 billion beer drinkers.)
So what beer wisdom did John Hall impart to us? Watch the trailer and read on below.
他肤若凝脂,反映敏捷.感觉这几年酒没少喝,钱也没少花. 即使谈到不怎么轻松的领域(比如中国精酿市场, 比如不再属于自己的Clybourn酒吧), John也答得丝毫不显犹豫.我们猜想这是他早年漫游欧洲经商的累积,也是经营一家成功精酿酒厂二十余载,以及与百威的收购谈判中游刃有余的资本.
THEBREWGIRL: Do you speak any Chinese?
JOHN HALL: No I don’t. I drink Chinese!
This is your second time in China. And you’re enjoying Chinese food?
I love Chinese food!
Can you tell us one dish that you really liked? And how to pair this dish with a beer?
Peking duck. That was wonderful. I would say a Honker’s Ale would go well with that. I would say a Matilda would go very, very well with that.
Do you think China craft beer culture is different from what you expected it to be?
I was here a little less than three years ago, and there really wasn’t much at all. It’s really surprising how much [China’s beer culture] has grown in the two and a half years since I’ve been here. I think it’s very similar to what it was the in the States 25 years ago. The big difference is that it took the States ten plus years to build something that’s taken a year or two here in China. But that’s what China is. China is very speedy about change.
At this stage, which is more important to build the Chinese craft beer community? Is it about educating the consumer or bringing more good craft beers into the market?
I think it’s a combination of both. You have to build. As people start to drink beers, they’re not going to drink the“bigger” beers to start with. They’re gonna develop a palate, so it takes sometime. And that’s what we have at Goose Island. We have a broad portfolio:[from] entry level, you can grow through our different beers. Craft brew drinkers really want to enjoy the beer, so you can’t give them something that they don’t understand to start with.
Goose Island invented barrel-aged stouts, a new style, back in 1992. Bourbon County Brand Stout is one of Goose Island’s most famous beers. Tell us, back in 1992, when your son Greg told you he was going to brew a beer like this, what was your reaction?
I was surprised but not surprised. Greg’s a pretty innovative guy. He said that he wanted to put a stout in a bourbon barrel, and I said, “Well, that sounds interesting.” And as it turned out it was hard to believe. It blew your whole perception of beer apart. The rest is history.
So it was love at first sip?
It was love at first sip. It was an experience I hadn’t had before. I like bourbon whiskey, and this combination of beer and whiskey [is] very, very smooth. It goes down well. You get the advantage of both.
Was Black Friday, the day everyone lines up for the Bourbon County Brand Stout, the first time people lined up for Goose Island beer?
I think we’ve had some people line up before, but nothing to that extent. We used to release it some time in the fall, generally in October or November or sometimes in December, and Black Friday, being the big shopping holiday in the States - there again, my son said, “Let’s do it on Black Friday like everybody else.” Now it’s become an event like nothing else.
So you must have a lot of memorable moments from your 23 years in the brewery. What is your proudest moment?
The first time we brewed a beer. That was a pretty significant moment. To take the beer and then taste it and say, “Wow, we did it.”
1988. It was Honker’s [Ale]? The first brew?
Honker’s Ale. Exactly. What I’m drinking right now.
Still a great beer.
And I’m drinking it in Shanghai.
I’ll tell you another one. A very big moment. In 2002, we got a call from England. They wanted us to ship our beer over there. And I thought, this is crazy, they’ve got all these beers. But they said, “No, we really want to!” It was legitimate. So we sent our beer over there. And my wife and I went over the next year, and I had Goose Island in London, which is where my idea [for Goose Island] came from in the first place.That was pretty significant.
I heard Clybourn Pub [Goose Island’s Chicago home] recently closed down.
Yes, it closed down at the end of January for remodeling. [It’s] been around for almost 29 years. So it’s getting remodeled and we’re getting a new kitchen, a new brewery, and we’re kinda redefining ourselves a little bit. After 28 years, you probably need to.
When will it reopen?
I would say some time in September. It’s going to be six months.
You’re really looking forward to that.
Oh, very much so. That’s my second home. I love to sit at the bar, drink beer and talk to people.
Have you decided what will be the first beer you’re going to brew there when it reopens?
We’ve talked about doing a Honker’s Ale on cask. We’ve done that in the past, it’s terrific, but it’s not my decision, it’s the brewer’s decision.
Last question: What is your favorite Goose Island beer?
Everybody asks me that. And my answer is: it’s the beer I’m drinking. That’s the wonderful thing about beer. It’s the variety. I’ll ask you, what’s your favorite food? Depends on what mood you’re in. And that’s exactly how beer is. Beer is a beverage that gives you something to fit almost every mood and every situation.
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