‘Twas the night before Christmas in Chicago’s north side, not a creature was stirring except Goose Island’s brewery with pride…. the drinkers were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of Bourbon County Stouts danced in their heads…
Christmas has come early for me this year! As many of you know, I frequently travel for work to Chicago from the East Coast but stay in the northern suburbs in the middle of nowheresville en route to visit clients about topics far less interesting than craft beer. Occasionally I make my way downtown for some good food (deep dish) or some sightseeing. I’ve been to the Sears (Willis) Tower, Wrigley, Millenium Park. I’ve done the architecture boat cruise. I’ve seen the major touristy sights many times. But usually I arrive late and stare at the walls of my hotel room and drown myself in local Chicago’s Revolution Beer (the beer is quite good, the staring at the walls is not so good). The one place I hadn’t yet visited is the home of one of America’s best breweries, Goose Island. Well, with the holiday’s approaching, I’ve decided I’ve been a damn good boy and I’ve treated myself to an early Christmas gift: a visit to the Goose Island BrewPub at Clybourn Ave in Chicago. I made a promise to myself to visit this before year end and Hallelujah I finally made it! And what an enjoyment this was.
Goose Island Brew Pub
The Goose Island Brew Pub sits on a corner lot around a bunch of old warehouse/factory places that have been renovated in the typical open roof setting, making the neighborhood look rather trendy and hip. Driving up I saw the friendly Goose Island sign hanging catty corner on the building, and I got shivers just thinking of the treat that was in store. Interestingly there is a kick ass beer store right across the street (Binny’s Beverage Depot) which carries a crap load of good stuff (more about that later), this could get you distracted from making it into Goose Island. But this night nothing was getting in my way.
Upon entry we walked past the open area Brewing casks and the small gift shop and entered a large pub of multiple floors and rooms. Tours were weekends only, but we were there to eat and drink only which is really all I care about. The place was packed, equal mix of dudes and chicks, a fairly popular destination it appears. Nice to see both sexes enjoying good beer in unison. The place was loud, upbeat, and had a good vibe to it. We were seated and the beer menu and food menu was delivered. Suddenly I morphed into a bratty kid at Toys R Us, “I want this. I want this. Please, Please, Please!!!”. It’s hard to control oneself in these situations.
Alas I settled on five beers since I had to drive (4 of them were part of a 6-ounce mix and match flight sample so don’t get on your high horse about the whole driving thing). The food menu was pretty good too. I was a very happy individual.
So what did I order you ask? And how was it? And would you go back? (seriously do you even need to ask this last question)? Ok, let’s get to the reviews:
Pub Burger with Sweet Potato Fries – I was pleasantly surprised, the burger was quality meat, cooked well, pub cheese, nice robust bun. Fries came with this weird type of ketchup that tasted kind of like Peter Lugar’s steak sauce if you ever had that, like a tomato and vinegar and curry mix or something. It was damn good. Overall I give the food a B+. Better than I thought it would be, perfect for the situation. But I know what you’re saying, who really gives a crap about my food review? Let’s get on to the beer…
The beer list was awesome, they seem to rotate things weekly with a couple of new additions each Thursday. Almost all beer was brewed on premises. There were approximately 30 choices of Goose Island brews available across a spectrum of styles. Something for everyone for sure. Here’s a summary of what I had:
- Barrel-Aged Extremely Naughty Goose: 12% ABV, aged in Jim Beam barrels. This beer totally rocked! Had a toffee flavor to it but really smooth. The type of beer you can sip all night (until you pass out, then wake up and have more). High in alcohol but never really feels that way due to the smooth nature of the body. This was a real joy. Would love to get my hands on a growler of this.
- Santa Session: 5.1% ABV, a light crisp malty beer, not too strong on the spice but with a little ginger flavor to it. Almost tasted like the ketchup described earlier, either that or I was drinking and eating and stuffing my face at the same time as everything was so frickin delicious. A nice subtle holiday starter until you get to the big boys.
- Damen Silos: 5.0% ABV, a quality oatmeal stout, typical chocolate and coffee flavor. Not too heavy, went down very smooth. Good balance and taste. Smelled awesome. Drank it too fast. Wanted more. Wish my glass was full. Wish I could have savored it longer. Wish I could take it home with me, lay down next to it, and nurture it all night long.. ok, now it’s getting weird.
- The Grouch: 8.9% ABV Imperial Pilsner. This was quite a treat, a pilsner that really kicks your ass. This is not your everyday Grandpa’s Pabst Blue Ribbon special. Lots of sweet aroma, a balanced flavor, but an alcohol intensity like a haymaker to the temple. This is the type of drink that gets you going, one sip and you’re like “HELLOOOO, Holy Sh**”. Forget coffee in the morning, I’m switching to Grouch.
- Barrel-Aged Barleywine: 11.0% ABV, aged 10 month in Jim Beam barrels. This was the perfect nightcap. Excellently brewed, had a nice vanilla hint to it. Tasted strong enough to put hair on your chest, yet delicate enough to make you want to caress it lovingly while baby-talking sweet nothingness to the glass (I’m not sure what the hell that even means, I’m clearly buzzing). This is another absolute winner in my book, I need more NOW.
Unfortunately the night had to end, I did have to work the next day. On my way out I stopped at the gift shop for some knickknacks (not a huge selection but that’s good as I probably would have dropped even more cash) and headed out the door. Remember the Beer store I mentioned across the street? We stopped by there and had a look around. Nice large selection of Craft brews with a massive selection of Mid-West breweries, something we don’t see often on the East Coast. Note to self: bring a larger suitcase next trip! I inquired about Bourbon County and of course I was told that there was a Black Friday Special release at the store a couple of weeks back. The lines started at 5 AM, they opened at 8 AM and were sold out by 8:45. So much for me coming home with a Bourbon County treat. I’ll have to time it better next trip, perhaps skip the work meeting altogether and camp out for the latest release.
So all in all, this was a great night. I highly recommend checking out the Goose Island Brew Pub at Clybourn on your next work trip to the windy city.
Oh, and just when things can’t get better, I hear they are opening up a larger full-sized tour and tasting room at their Fulton Street location where most of the mass production and distribution takes place. Well now I have a New Year’s Resolution to look forward to achieving in 2015! Life is good! HONNNNNKKKKKK!