Any relationship that’s been carrying on that long, even if it is still going strong, is bound to go at least a little stale; it’s bound to get at least a little one-dimensional. Unfortunately the same is true even of Goose Island and Intelligentsia. The BCCS is an incredible beer, but industries in which coffee beer collaborations keep getting more and more adventurous, coffee stouts and porters—even those created by industry titans—are somewhat old-hat.
Sensing the sea change themselves, Goose Island and Intelligentsia recently teamed up once again to create an adventurously experimental coffee golden ale called Fulton Street Blend.
“When we moved our roasting works to Fulton Street, the first thing I did was knock on the door of neighbors, Goose Island,” explains Intelligentsia coffee buyer, Jay Cunningham. “We started trading coffee for beer, and talking about the Bourbon County project with Greg Hall right away. We’re both focused on quality and have grown up with the culinary community in Chicago. It’s cool to see Goose really attack the fine dining market and help change the common (mis)perceptions about beer and food; we’ve pursued very similar goals with coffee. They’ve just been awesome neighbors and collaborators!”
It was in that spirit of collaboration and neighborly love that the Fulton Street Blend originated.
“The Fulton Street Blend came about during the development of the Bourbon County Coffee project. I love that beer and think it’s truly one of the best, but you really can’t (And shouldn’t!) drink very much at a time. I wanted to make something that would be in everyone’s fridge as their go-to coffee beer. The timing seems right, there is so much interesting beer being made right now and people are really excited about coffee beers.
The two parties kicked around a few ideas, including a Belgian stout, black ale, a Baltic porter, or an oatmeal stout—two styles that have been done a lot, but styles that they felt they could do better than anybody else. Like me, though, the coffee beers that really piqued their interest were the lightest ones: pale ales, saisons, lagers… Styles that you wouldn’t expect to have coffee infused.
In the end, they decided upon the low ABV, highly sessionable golden ale.
To create the beer, Mike Siegel—Goose Island’s Brewing Innovation Manager—soaked Intelligentsia’s whole bean House Blend in the beer base; similar to the way a brewer will dry hop a beer. “The beer base is fermented in a stainless steel tank just like a normal beer,” explains Cunningham. “Then it’s run through a specially-built tank filled with whole bean coffee. Compared to cold brewing or adding a brewed concentrate, this process is really painless and consistent; it doesn’t impart too much color and you get a lovely and persistent coffee aroma with every sip.”
Cunningham says that the House Blend was chosen not just because of its popularity with consumers, but also because it “represents what [Intelligentsia loves] about coffee’s potential.”
Intelligentsia changes the components of the blend seasonally based on what coffees are fresh off harvest, but the profile is really consistent and always really pleasant. House Blend is currently a blend of coffees from El Salvador, Rwanda, and Tanzania.
You can learn more about the Fulton Street Blend Coffee Ale by watching this promotional video Goose Island produced for their website:
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re sipping the Fulton Street Blend Coffee Ale—a collaboration from Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company and Intelligentsia Coffee. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: El Salvador // Tanzania // Rwanda
elevation: 1350 – 1950 meters above sea level
cultivar: Pacas // Bourbon
process: fully washed
style: Golden Ale
color: Pale Amber
ingredients: Coffee, 2-Row, Munich, Caramel 60, Millennium Hops, German Select Hops
Upon cracking open the bottle of Fulton Street Blend, the beer pours a beautiful and clear golden hue into the Stange—somewhere between deep gold and pale amber—and displays with a foamy, white head about a half-inch thick. The aroma of the beer is light, fragrant, floral, and decidedly coffee-infused; citrus blossom, malt, caramel, a bit of nuttiness, and roasted barley.
Sipping the beer is a weird, wacky experience. I’m not going to lie—I’m really not sure what to make of it. It is a very light-bodied beer with a slightly buttery body that finishes with a crisp, clean snap. Lots of interesting flavors happening in the glass, too; granola, honey, caramel, malt and barley, lightly toasted wholegrain bread, raspberry, cherry blossom, rose hips, citrus, and the faintest nuances of raw cocoa.
Light body; buttery mouthfeel; citrus acidity; clean finish.
Well, I don’t really know what to say here. I didn’t know what to expect when I first heard about Goose Island Beer Company’s Fulton Street Blend, and I’m not so sure I fully understand it even after drinking it.
It was a golden ale, and it had coffee infused with it. It was a golden coffee ale. It was novel and interesting—a lightly creamy mouthfeel and a healthy dose of carbonation with a crisp, clean finish. It was an extremely drinkable and tasty beer with a decidedly coffee flavor. Was session coffee beer a thing? If not, it is now.
A very admirable experimental outing from Chicago’s craft beverage titans.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.