For years, craft brewers have been pushing beer as a dinner-table alternative to wine. So it's worth asking: how's that going for you?
I'm sure that in places like Portland and Denver, it's common for people to bring a four-pack of your favorite microbrew to a dinner party. But here on the East Coast, I've yet to see it. At least in the circles I travel in, great beer is respected, but it has yet to knock over wine as the drink of choice with a fine meal.
I doubt I'm alone, if only because there are still some pretty high barriers to beer's tabletop ascendancy. Beer may want to be taken seriously, but its marketing often says otherwise. Conversely, people may want to take beer seriously, but they don't know how. And beer is consumed in quantities that make it tough to split a 22-ounce bottle five ways.
Goose Island, the grandfather of Chicagoland craft breweries, believes it has the solution. For much of its life it has focused on making predictably good if not always great beers, in crowd-pleasing styles like IPA, nut brown ale, and English bitter.
But over the last few years, Goose Island has found religion, and alongside its old standbys, has started to churn out edgier, higher-end beers. Its Bourbon County Stout, one of my favorite domestic brews, is a 13 percent ABV bomb with a dark rainbow of malt, chocolate, and raspberry flavors; it's like drinking liquefied (and heavily spiked) Black Forest cake. Like good wine, BCS is best stored for at least six months, to let the alcohol mellow a bit. (Along with the brewery's regular-production BCS, this year it's putting out a few limited-release expressions, including coffee, vanilla bean, and "rare," aged in Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels.)