Out of all their lauded beers I was hoping to savor, the multi-award winning Bourbon County Stout was at the tippy-top of my list. Goose Island was one of the first breweries to marry beer with bourbon barrels back in 1994. They were obviously onto something because Bourbon County Stout is still running strong and, in the process, helped inspire a whole new frontier of barrel-aged beers.
Barrel-aged, cask ale, wild beers, session, saison, lagers, ales, bocks... the list goes on. For as many year-round beers Goose Island offers, they have as much if not more seasonal and limited-release specialty brews that once they are gone, they are gone. In just the three days I drank at Goose Island, I saw their beer menu change accordingly.
While savory nonetheless, an hour lunch is no time at all in which to bask in all of Goose Island's beery delights. Long before I boarded that plane for Chicago, I knew what my Saturday was going to encompass: a long lazy day of Goose Island beers and food.
Come Saturday, that's exactly what I did.
It was early afternoon with a cheerful sun smiling at me from a veritable sea of azure blue dotted with white fluff. Soaking up the temperate climate, I strode across Clybourn right up to Goose Island where, after a somber pause of thanks, I crossed through her doors of destiny.
My first stop was their gift shop, a cute little corner tucked away right before the vast dining area entrance. Having previously struck out, I was determined to bring home a t-shirt. The screaming canary-yellow 312 Urban Wheat t-shirt grabbed my attention and wouldn't let go; my choice had been made for me. A classy pair of Goose Island glasses also vied for my attentions, so they were lovingly wrapped up with their final destination being Jen and Josh's humble abode. Giftage accomplished, I answered the call for beer, beer, and more beer.
Given it was a gorgeous Saturday afternoon, I was pleasantly pleased to find a relatively quiet cozy spot at the bar. Sitting pretty, it was mere moments before their latest and greatest beer menu was placed before me. I seem to recall a food menu showing up at the same time, but my focus was on the beer, rightly so.
Throughout the progression of the afternoon and well into the evening, I smelled, supped, and savored my way through two sets of their standard sampler tray: 4 mini nonic glasses of 5oz each. The glasses were mighty cute, if I do say so myself, eliciting more than one fond smile of adoration. Or maybe it was the beer...
But I digress.
For the beers themselves, I took plenty of time to select which would be the chosen ones. I had no delusions as to being able to taste them all; there had to be at least 24 different beers, if not more, to drink of. It was a beer geek's paradise. Ultimately, the two sets of 4 I ordered were:
- 312 Urban Wheat
- Honkers Ale
- Harvest Ale
- Bourbon Barrel Imperial Brown Goose
- Schwarze Bier
- Bourbon County Stout
Diversity tastes beautiful.
Sprinkled in-between my beervana were tasty morsels chosen from their Slider menu. Sliders are small portions of individually cooked meals for a reasonable price. Another added benefit to sliders is diversity. Just as I celebrate beer diversity, so too do I celebrate food diversity. And last but certainly not least, sliders are great for slow savory enjoyment so as to avoid overindulgence.
Speed was not the name of the game as I lazed through my first set of beers and on into my second. Each beer was a savory sensual delight, one leading right into the next until I came upon the one and only Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. Beer is my utmost liquid passion, but I also enjoy many other classic spirits, bourbon included. The Bourbon County Stout was the perfect conclusion to a long satisfying day.
Nearing the end of my session, I bore witness to the most sacred of events: the changing of the bartender. The chap who cared for me the majority of my stay was ripe with dry wit and a solid understanding of their beers (and spirits). His replacement was a chipper young lass bursting with spunk and energy. Total opposites, but both shone behind the bar in their own way.
I wanted to stay longer, but the night was moving forward with or without me; there was a plane to catch Sunday morning. I almost surrendered to the sultry siren's call of one more Bourbon County Stout, but responsibility won out. With a heavy heart and a cheery glow, the check was signed and I passed through those doors of destiny one more time into the cool night air.
Hailing the last taxi of my short yet fulfilling Chicago trip, I suffered no regrets. Tomorrow I would be back in my beloved hometown, Vero Beach, Florida, lavishing love on my kitty. Chicago and Goose Island may now just be memories, but I will be sure to return, hopefully sooner than later.
(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)