One of the first things I learned on my Chicago trip was that Goose Island at Clybourn had changed and that I wouldn't like it. Maybe that affected my friends thoughts on the matter, as no trip there was scheduled, but I had liked it a lot last time and thought "What the Hell? I'm giving it a go." Opportunity knocked when the Yankees who didn't fly home on Sunday went to the baseball on the opening day of the season. Now I'd rather scoop my eyes out with a spoon than do that, so Goose Island it was. Again the Chicago Public Transport system was up to the task. It's pretty good, though for some bizarre reason, you can't buy a day ticket from most stations, instead having to go to a convenience store. Just a little tip should you ever go there.
Set in what can best be described as an industrial area, I got there around one in the afternoon to find the place heaving. I found a good spot at the bar though and soon made friends with the young couple next to me. Thanks Becky and Derek. The beer menu was perused and I knew I was in for a good time when I realised there was 24 beers on offer ranging from an English style mild at 3.5% to a mighty Bourbon stout at 13.5%. None seemed more expensive than anywhere else, despite dire warnings to the contrary. Being a sucker for Belgian style wheat, something the Yanks seem to do even better than the Belgians, I started with the Wit which was on the money, but maybe a little too lemony for some. Then via a couple of tasters - as long as you are buying, tasters are no problem and in fact were offered more often than not - to Goose Island IPA, the classic GI beer and just as good as ever. Then to celebrate the new baseball season in the only way I'd be happy doing, by drinking the celebratory Opening Day IPA at 6.4% which though it I didn't like as much as the "ordinary" IPA, was pretty damn good anyway. Then the stouts; Maplewood Farm Bacon Stout which was much better than the name suggests, a pint of Blackberry Stout which was an excellently balanced beer and followed by generous tasters of Bourbon Coffee Stout and Bourbon County Imperial Stout - the 13.5% bad boy - both were magnificent, but you wouldn't want a lot of them. I moved down the scale somewhat, by settling back to drink Honkers (cask) and IPA. (As an aside I made a mental comparison with the version brewed in the UK for JDW and from memory they were pretty similar.) Then my civilised visit was over and it was off to the Map Room for a bit of an Alpha King sesh with some cold and wet baseball fans. That was a bit less civilised!
Goose Island Clybourn really does have something for everyone. It is friendly, buzzy, has knowledgeable and attentive staff and good food; it's easy to get to and isn't overpriced by Chicago standards. Oh. And the beer (and company)is pretty damn good too. If you are ever there, don't miss it.
Apologies for this indulgent post, but that's my Chicago trip done with.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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