Goose Island Brewpub

July 14 2009 - 7:21 AM

A couple weeks ago, Chicago's thriving craft beer scene got some unexpected national recognition when the NYT ran an article on local microbreweries. Though a few lesser-known gems are mentioned (like Ukie Village's Bar DeVille), the article reads like a Who's Who in highlighting the area's best beer lists, from the Map Room to road-trip destination Three Floyds in Munster, Indiana. Luckily, many of the best beers are offered in conjunction with excellent food, so no sacrifices have to be made if you are in the mood for noshing. Hipster haven Piece packs its tables with patrons salivating for their thin-crust pizza, while Hopleaf offers an irreproachable menu of Belgian-style mussels, charcuterie and sandwiches. But the grandaddy of all brewpubs in Chicago is Goose Island. When it was announced that the Clybourn brewpub would not be closing after all, I leapt to my feet and shouted, "There is a God!"

Recently, Goose Island revamped and unveiled a radically new menu. With its emphasis on small plates and heirloom meats, this inevitably draws comparisons to the Publican. As a fan of both restaurants, I would opt for Goose Island if you are in the mood for quality fare that is still accessible, while the Publican is a little more upscale and rigid in its demands on diners.

On my most recent trip, I opted to try the duck chili burger, a mammoth burger topped with duck chili, jalapenos, red onion and a fried egg. The duck chili was rich and laden with meaty shreds of duck, and my burger was cooked to a juicy medium-rare. This was accompanied by a German-style red potato salad, dressed with a delightfully grainy mustard rather than mayonnaise. (You can also choose chips or fries.) Other items on the menu include diverse offerings like a pulled pork sandwich, andouille sausage and ceviche. I was also pleased to see that the fish tacos were still on the menu, though only as a small plate offering. Bring back the fish taco dinner, please?

Goose Island provides ample descriptions of their beers, and additional aid is readily available from your server if you have questions. Our server was very warm and knowledgeable as I queried him about the source of the walleye in the fish & chips. We managed to snag a table for 8 without a problem on a Saturday night, but you can score some Open Table points if you plan ahead.

For the education-minded beer aficionados among us, I recommend earning your M.B.A. (Master of Beer Appreciation) at Goose Island. This is a card that lists 45 beers produced by Goose Island, by season. Each beer you drink will result in a credit earned, and at the 15 and 30 credit marks, you will receive a free growler "for home study." Completion of all 45 credits will result in your name inscribed on a plaque at Goose Island and access to events like the Goose Island MBA Reunion.

The brewpub is also the site of some of their brewing operations, with tours of the brewery available on Sunday afternoons at 3 and 4:30 pm. This is also a fun activity to do with visitors, though you should call well in advance because the tours sell-out quickly. For your efforts, you will be given a crash course in beer brewing, be privy to the secrets of Goose Island's brewing operations, receive an attractive Goose Island pint glass, and sample six of the beers in season. (Hint: if you sit in the last row, oftentimes the leftover beer will make its way toward you.) This is by far the best $5 I have ever spent.

Goose Island Brewpub (Clybourn location)
1800 N. Clybourn
(312) 915-0071