Collaboration beers are about as popular as hops these days. And while many of them are simply a reason to get each other's names out there, others are a tour de force, bringing together unique ingredients, processes, and approaches that challenge both sides' skills and expertise. The Goose Island x Deschutes Class of '88 Belgian Style Ale is one of those.
Dechutes has been touring the country and producing the Class of '88 series with a number of veteran craft brewers who started up that same year. It was an amazing time for the industry, and an uncanny coincidence that so many took the leap at the same time.
For the Goose Island Class of '88, the team sourced Muscat wine barrels, grapes, and juice from Michigan, and set about producing their beer independently, one in Chicago, and one in Bend, Oregon. The entire recipe was identical, so the only differences would be tweaks in the process, and the actual barrels that are an x-factor all their own. Various wild yeast strains and bacteria present on the skin of the fruit started the process before the brewers even got ahold of the ingredients, causing some fermentation to start spontaneously during shipping. And then the wine yeast the team chose decided to play its own hand. As a result, there was almost no chance these beers would turn out the same, and so the competition began.
Brett Porter, Brewmaster at Goose Island
"We used the same barrels, same grapes, same juice from Michigan. And the barrel guy at Dechutes, Ryan Schmake, is so good at this, I was concerned that their beer was going to be so much better than ours. He’s so meticulous. He could always do more work in 40 hours than anyone I’ve ever met . What brewer wouldn’t be worried? We also used a vinous yeast strain, Wyeast 1388, that’s very finicky, because we wanted that vinous quality. It likes to reach a false finishing gravity and just stop. There are ways to get it to go again — you can re-pitch it, agitate it, you don’t want to oxygenate it. There are thing you can do. Halfway through this thing I was petrified. I tasted it — it was uninteresting. It was boring. It tasted like grape juice mixed with a not-very-good beer. And I’d spent all this money on these casks. But one of the great things about Goose Island is that we know how to fix things on the fly. So during the business time of the year, the hottest part of the summer, I got on the forklift with my friend and brewer Patrick Reisch and we re-dosed all the casks with more of this 1388 yeast. Lo and behold, the beer blossomed. We had to weed out a few casks, with an apparent extract target that was below the target, but the beer came out wonderfully well."