Goose Island Beer Co. continues its campaign to convince Chicagoans that it’s still a local brand. Goose and the Chicago White Sox have unveiled a new beer called Sox Golden Ale, which will be available at Guaranteed Rate Field in special cans with a peel-off schedule, as well as at some stores and bars. Goose Island announced the beer on Friday before the first day of Sox Fest, the team’s annual fan festival.
The packaging, featuring Sox Park’s familiar exploding scoreboard and pinwheels, will be big with fans. The beer comes in four and 12 packs. It weighs in at a modest 5-percent ABV.
Three years ago, with Chicago Cubs fans on the North Side coming off their 2016 World Series championship, Goose Island announced a beer collaboration with the Cubs called 1060 Wit. That was a draft-only beer available exclusively at Wrigley Field. Now Chicago’s attention appears focused on the White Sox after the team made several key offseason acquisitions in attempt to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Meanwhile, Cubs fans are bracing for the possibility that the team could trade former MVP Kris Bryant. Though, the star third baseman’s departure isn’t guaranteed.
Goose Island president Todd Ahsmann is a huge Sox fan. He didn’t have much to say in comparing the Cubs beer to the Sox beer. But he joked that would taint him during negotiations with the team: “I’d just say yes to anything,” he said, adding: “I’ve been wanting to do a beer with the Sox since day one.” The timing, with the Sox allegedly on the upswing this offseason, was just coincidental.
Bitter beers, like trendy IPAs, are popular with hardcore beer fans. But bitterness might not play well in the stadium. That’s why Goose Island brewmaster Keith Gabbert picked a golden ale: “It’s the right beer for the right occasion.” The beer will be available throughout the city: Ahsmann said White Sox brass told him that 40 percent of game ticket sales come from North Side zip codes.
Goose Island, which is owned by the parent company of Budweiser, has a local marketing department that’s worked at putting together events that downplay the brewery’s sale while trying to bolster the brand’s local ties. The annual Proprietor’s Day, when the brewery releases a special Chicago-only variant of its mega-popular barrel-aged Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout, is one example. But sports gives the brewery another vehicle. Last year, following a heartbreaking Chicago Bears playoff loss, Goose Island held a memorable field goal challenge that saw hundreds of fans line up in the cold. No participant kicked a field goal, but it brought lots of brand recognition.
Goose Island is one of the White Sox’s beer partners. The existing relationship includes recording videos with manager Rick Renteria which get played for fans at the ballpark. Last season, the brewery unveiled a new seating section at Sox Park in right field highlighted by a giant goose on the stadium’s concourse.
A news release describes Golden Ale as “easy drinking, refreshing, golden ale is perfect for a day at the ballpark or hanging out at the tailgate.” Goose Island held an event on Friday at Sox Fest to give media members the first taste of the beer.
So what does it really taste like?
The beer is an easy-drinking summer crusher. It should play well with tailgaters and inside the stadium. For those reaching for a lager, the beer offers a bit more complexity thanks to a mix of rye, plus cascade and Amarillo hops. Beer nerds will be placated. Those wanting a regular ballpark beer will also be pleasantly surprised.
Optimistic Sox fans want to know how the beer will taste in October.
“It will taste great,” Gabbert said. “Because it will remind you of the summer.”
When reminded that baseball postseason starts in October, and Sox fans want to see their team participate in playoffs, Gabbert realized the question’s importance: “Yes, it will definitely taste good in October.”
The beer will be released on March 1.