Goose Island, a brewery that started in Chicago in 1988 before becoming part of the Anheuser-Busch portfolio in 2011, hosted a beer pairing event at Pebble Beach Food & Wine with bites from Chef Charles Phan and knowledge from Goose Island educator Suzanne Wolcott and longtime sommelier Joseph Spellman, who started his beverage career as a Goose Island bartender. Here are the 15 memorable facts and quotes from the session:
1. Belgians originally brewed saisons for farmers and day laborers. Wolcott said it was “considered a nutritional and healthy beverage, and above all, it was sanitary.” Sofie is Goose Island’s Belgian style saison, aged in oak neutral wine barrels.
2. Phan said that Vietnamese people tend to drink their beer at room temperature because the country doesn’t have enough refrigeration.
3. Wolcott: “Tasting things that taste terrible together reinforces what does taste well together.”
4. Phan: “Sometimes I look at beverage as a way to reset my palate.”
5. In Belgian, they have hops stacked like bales of hay. They use hops more for bittering agents than for aromas.
6. Wolcott: The lower the alcohol content, the more susceptible it is to bacteria and “getting funky and losing its beauty.”
7. Wolcott: “Hops and capsaicin have molecules that stick to each other and go bam!…If you’re looking for a thrill ride…” However, “Sugar has a beautiful ability of taming heat.”
8. Charles Phan said that with curry, you have spices, you have fat, and you have acid, like tamarind or mango. If you don’t have enough fat or acid, the spice will start to taste bitter.
9. Phan: If things are too cold, it inhibits your ability to smell and taste.
10. There are only seven breweries that are Trappist, six in Belgium and one in the Netherlands. Goose Island modeled Pere Jacques after Abbey ales produced for special occasions like Lent.
11. Wolcott explained why Goose Island puts beer in Champagne bottles, saying, “Part of it is to elevate the status of beer,” and also “to put bottles on the table in a nice restaurant and not feel bad.”
12. Wolcott: “Yeast is aerobic, meaning it eats oxygen” and protects against oxidation.
13. Wolcott said bottle-conditioned beers “develop healthily and readily up to 5 years…We never say beer gets better. That would be an injustice. They evolve.”
14. Spellman: “Beer is driven by brand. Wine is driven by place, and more specifically, by vintage.”
15. Spellman: “It’s not a frat house anymore, it’s not a tailgate, it’s not a ballgame. It’s about serving cork bottle, bottle-conditioned beers in a context that makes sense.”