Over the last several months both Goose Island and Rock Bottom in Chicago changed their head brewpub brewers.  One brewery approached the change in a manner designed to keep customers happy.  The other brewery lacked discipline and control and failed to provide a the quality that loyal customers could expect.

Rock Bottom lost Pete Crowley who wanted to go out on his own, and Goose Island transfered Wil Turner to their production facility.  Rock Bottom replaced a highly regarded brewer with a well regarded and experienced brewer, Chris Rafferty.  Goose Island replaced their brewer with a man who lacked the resume and the experience of the man he replaced.  While new Goose Island head brewer Jared Rouben is a smart man and does know how to make beer; he is not realistically in the same ballpark as his predecessor.When Rafferty came to Chicago he made what I feel is an unusual move.  He knew a good beer when he saw it and did not tweak every recipe.  For instance, at Flossmoor Brewing Company their signature Pullman Brown Ale has been changed with each brewer.  However, Rafferty is not tweaking the Chicago Gold, Line Drive Light, and a few others.  He is putting his stamp on the place by introducing some of his own recipes.   This does include an excellent Pilsner.

On the other hand, the beers at Goose Island never quite tasted the same.  Maybe the recipes have been tweaked, the lines went bad or something else happened.  No one I know seems to enjoy the beer as much.  To much changed so fast that loyal customers could not come in and drink or eat something familiar.  People who enjoy craft beer enjoy two things: innovation and consistency.  While Goose went with innovation, the consistent beers people drank every year just were not there or not like people remembered them.  I know I take a hard line on Goose Island in many of my posts, but I feel like they have gone down the path of maximizing profits at the expense of stupid customers who do not know the difference.

At Flossmoor Brewing Co., the ownership had an audit done by a previous brewer and his recommendation was to revert back to the old recipes used by several brewers ago for the Great Eight.  I appreciate the  throw back to tradition , but I think it handcuffs the current brewers options as well as an inability to evolve with customer tastes.  A mass produced Budweiser today should taste like a Budweiser from forty years ago.  Craft beer is in large part about evolution.  The quality of ingredients and customer tastes are constantly evolving to the next level.  By sticking with a static recipe the owners of Flossmoor will likely be left in the dust.

From a standpoint of owners managing brewers I find it somewhat odd that Rock Bottom a national operation seems to be doing a better job than locally owned and managed operations.  Brewpubs can be the heart of a community, and being sensitive to the community is what matters.  If you make good beer they will come.  Management in these establishments need to learn a hands-off approach when it comes to beer.



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