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Chicago's Goose Island brewery moves some beer production out of state

Chicago's Goose Island Beer Company is shifting some production to New Hampshire.

Goose Island brews popular beers like 312 and Honker's Ale, as well as specialty beers like Matilda, and limited-editions like its Bourbon County Stouts.

Brewmaster Greg Hall says production grew more than 20 percent last year. Goose Island is operating at "full capacity," and the company has demand for even more beer. The brewery is temporarily shifting some production of Honker's Ale and India Pale Ale to the Redhook Ale Brewery in Portsmouth, N.H.

Hall says the company eventually plans to build another brewery in Chicago, and bring that production back here. They're hoping to take advantage of growing demand:

"It's very exciting that it appears craft beer and Goose Island in particular has really gotten over that tipping point," Hall said. "We're not just for the real beer aficionados now. We're no longer a curiosity for the mainstream beer drinker. We're just part of the regular rotation."

Hall said that's partly because people's tastes have changed. He said many people favor more flavorful beers now.

He also credited the tough economy. He said people are saving money, so they're not necessarily buying new cars or taking trips to celebrate, but they still want to reward themselves. Demand for Matilda, one of the more expensive offerings from Goose, grew 97 percent last year.

"Beers' role as an affordable luxury is, I think, more important now than ever," he said.

Hall says the first batch of IPA brewed in New Hampshire ships this week. The brewery's doing a test batch of Honker's Ale right now. That beer will likely ship from the East Coast this spring.

Nationally, the craft brewing industry is growing quickly, according to figures from the Brewers Association. Craft beers were up 9 percent by volume in the first half of 2010, compared to overall U.S. beer sales, which dropped nearly 3 percent in that same time period.

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