“Waddle it be?”
Goose Island Wrigleyville is our favorite bar for enjoying salty yam chips and Honker’s Ale, any time of year. In summertime, Goose Island draws Cub fans looking for a place to have a fine pint of summer ale, cider or blonde ale. In wintertime, Cub fans still come to Goose Island to lurk in the shadow of a darkened Wrigley Field as they “wait ’till next year,” while enjoying an oatmeal stout, Christmas Ale or Hexnut Brown Ale. All of the aforementioned beers are brewed by Goose Island on the premises in large copper kettles located through the large paned glass windows, just beyond the first floor dining. In addition to a fine selection of brew, Goose Island offers patrons a full menu of upscale pub grub, plenty of televisions and a big screen, a little known beer garden in summer, and a clean wooden interior that brings to mind the classy saloons of old.
On May 1, 1999 the Goose Island Brewing Company opened their third restaurant and brew pub. In its inaugural year, Goose Island Wrigleyville became the epicenter of the 1998 one-game playoff celebration when Cub fans spilled out onto the street when our beloved Cubs triumphantly defeated the lowly Giants (to partly avenge the Cubs’ playoff loss in 1989). Will Clark can bite me!
Goose Island Wrigleyville replaced a short-lived, English-style pub (?) known as Weeghman’s Park (named after the original name of Wrigley Field). On a related note, the bar next door to Goose Island Wrigleyville known as Abner’s Yard (now Mullen’s on Clark) suffered the same fate as Weeghman’s. It seems that bars in Wrigleyville named after historic baseball references don’t seem to do well, while places like Sports Corner, Yak-zies, Bernie’s, and the Blarney Stone flourish. It doesn’t seem right.
Today, Goose Island Wrigleyville is one of the largest bars on this crowded section of North Clark Street. The former warehouse building that currently houses Goose Island rivals that of newcomer John Barleycorn’s Wrigleyville and the Wild Hare across the street, as well as nearby Cubby Bear, Murphy’s Bleachers, and Harry Caray’s Tavern. While all of these bars have come to be mainstays of Cub and music fans alike, Goose Island Wrigleyville has been able to hold their own by offering plenty good food and fine ales.
In addition to the beers mentioned above, Goose Island also brews India pale ale (charged with nitrogen to make it smooth), Friendly Lager (named after Wrigley Field’s nickname, the “Friendly Confines”), National Pilsner, Kolsch Bier, Kilgubbin Red Ale, Hefeweizen, and a wide variety of other seasonal beers. Goose Island Wrigleyville is also one of the few bars in Chicago like the Map Room and Mac’s American Pub that offer a hand-pulled, “Cask Conditioned Real Ale.” This brew is styled after British “ordinary bitters” and is served in an “imperial” pint glass. Goose Island does not sell any beer not brewed by the Goose Island Brewing Company, with the exception of Baderbrau and two ciders from the Woodchuck Cider Company. Bud Light drinkers will have to head to the beer tub across the street at Sluggers.
If you’re like me and like to sample all kinds of beer, you can earn your “MBA” at the Goose – a “Master of Beer Appreciation” that is. Just ask for a card and and you will earn “credits” every time you try a new beer. Once you have received enough credits, you will earn a 64-ounce bottle of your favorite subject for “home study,” and eventually your MBA. Kellogg, DePaul and the University of Chicago – eat your hearts out!
Beer lovers may also be interested to know that several of Goose Island’s concoctions have won prestigious beer awards: their Honker’s Ale and Blonde Ale were awarded the Gold Medal at the 1997 and 1999 Great American Beer Festival, respectively, and the Hexnut Brown Ale was chosen as the “Best English-Style Brown Ale” at the 2001 Real Ale Festival. All Goose Island ales are now available in 5-gallon “growlers” for you to take home with you. Looking for other brewpubs in Illinois? Check out MidwestMicrobrews.com.
The interior of Goose Island is reminiscent of old hotel saloons that are now hard to find. Once you push your way through the heavy wooden doors, you will find a long wooden bar on the south wall, which boasts many comfortable bar stools in front of it, old-fashioned metal light fixtures with orange bulbs hanging over it, and a plethora of those all-too-familiar white goose head tap handles behind it. Thick wooden columns and large steal I-beams hold up the exposed cement ceiling, and the front room walls are decorated with red, white and blue bunting. The floor is laid with large diamond tiles in alternating dark and light wood. Two roomy one-seater bathrooms are available downstairs, tucked away behind the merchandise counter; others are available upstairs if you’re brave enough to traipse up the steep metal staircase. Plastic ivy hangs on a section of red brick over the red curtained entryway to the large rear dining room, evoking the spirit of Wrigley Field. The back room offers a mural of several baseball legends, including Babe Ruth, “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, and Lou Gehrig. While they were all incredibly talented players, where are the murals of other Cub greats Billy Williams, Hack Wilson, Ferguson Jenkins, and Ron “The Penguin” Cey? Alas! However, there is another mural of former Cubs great and two-time National League MVP Ernie Banks, “Let’s play two!”, is located behind the wooden merchandise counter where you can buy Goose Island T-shirts, and above the ATM. It is also important to note that the entrance to the virtually unknown beer garden at Goose Island Wrigleyville is located in the northwest corner of the back room. Through a solitary metal door, you’ll find a roomy outdoor patio with its own beer tub and several green plastic tables and chairs. This area is perfect for avoiding the drunken horde following Cub games. It is also a great spot to observe all the ghetto scalpers hanging out at the 7-11 enjoying chili cheese dogs and 128-ounce Slurpies with the money they’ve ripped off of people.
Most of the food is good, but not outstanding. More importantly, free yam chips known as “Goose Island Pub Chips” are served in lieu of a boring bread basket as you eagerly anticipate your Blonde Ale Cheese Fondue, BBQ chicken egg rolls or fried calamari appetizers. Some of the more interesting main course options include the Stilton Burger, Paulina Market Half-Pound Brat, Dog Dog Goose (two veal hot dogs served with brown mustard), and the Waveland Melt (similar to a patty melt, but with beer onions!). More interestingly is the brunch menu, which includes: New Orleans Style Beignets (ala Cafe du Monde), Eggs Benedict, corned beef hash, huevos rancheros, banana-stuffed French toast, and buttermilk pancakes. My stomach is growling just thinking about it.
The busiest time at Goose Island Wrigleyville is around Cub games (surprise), but the place usually draws a pretty good crowd all year round. Patrons span all ages (including kids during the day) but tend to get younger as the night grows long. No matter the age, the crowd tends to be more laid back, is a little more well dressed, and people tend to handle their liquor much better than most other places in the immediate area. Goose Island is also a popular stop on Wrigleyville pub crawls. I once came to the Goose as part of an annual Fall pub crawl where, for some strange reason, a guy was carrying a small evergreen. While amusing at first, I became agitated as is continued to rub up against me. Several pints of Honker’s Ale had a pleasant, counteracting effect. Goose Island Wrigleyville is also endorsed by the Chicago Convention & Tourism Bureau as one of the better pubs to host business events. They even offer city patrons a bike valet service for $3 if you’re riding to the Cubs game.
Goose Island Wrigleyville is an upscale oasis offering beer and baseball, making it a fine addition to the Goose Island Empire that also includes locations on Clybourn and Fulton. Together they sell a combined 1,000+ barrels of beer per year – a sizable percentage of which is annually consumed by yours truly. For more information, check out the Goose Island Wrigleyville website. Here’s mud in your eye!