By Bobby Bush
Weeghman Park Restaurant Brewery opened for business in 1997. The rollickingly brewpub took its name from the original designation of the professional baseball stadium across the street. Now known as Wrigley Field, home to Chicago's Cubs, the 1914 field was the home of the short-lived Chicago Feds. It was renamed in honor of its new owner, William Wrigley, Jr., in 1926.
Like the Feds, Weeghman Park did not last long, succumbing to off-season slowness less than two years after opening day. The building sat vacant until well-established Goose Island Brewing Company came along to dust off the bar and clean out the cobwebs. Goose Island began as a brewpub in 1988 and added a microbrewery in the late 1990s, so they know what their doing, including brewing. Goose Island Wrigleyville became their third facility in April 1999.
The Cubs and the Braves were in the 4th inning when I left the skybox. Bad beer (read: Budweiser) was the only thing available, though I did sneak a plastic cup of Goose Island's Summertime Kolsch in from downstairs, with a helpful smile from the security guard. I skipped gleefully across the boulevard and took up residence at the long stretch of mostly-empty bar, glanced up at the game on the tube and did what comes natural. I ordered a taster tray of everything.
Goose Island Hefeweizen, one of three beers actually produced in brewer Will Turner's Wrigleyville brewhouse, was cloudy gold. Citrus acidity almost hides a hint of chocolate in this sweetly finishing drink. Blonde Ale, another house beer, was very hoppy for the undefined blonde category. Close to, though lighter in mouthfeel than an IPA, this Blonde was a delight. Big selling Honkers Ale, most likely brewed in the west Chicago microbrewery, was mild in comparison to the Blonde. Caramel start with hoppy finish, both sensations lingered in the long aftertaste. This was a challenging session brew.
Goose Pilsner was crystal gold. Maltiness was too big, holding the expected hop snap at bay. Summertime was better balanced, a perfect lawnmower beer. Dark copper in hue and accented by roasted nut nose, Hexnut Brown was big in the flavor department with sweet, dark chocolate dominating. No noticeable bitterness was found. Schwarz was noted for its distinctive burnt taste. Earthy tones, beets included, punctuated the sour/bitter, hardly sweet complexity of this interesting beer. Dortmunder Pils was completely different from the Goose Pilsner. Golden liquid topped by a frothy white head of foam, this sweet starting beer was chased by bitter dryness in finish and aftertaste. This alarming contrast offered a more powerful version of what the Goose Pilsner was missing.
India Pale Ale was the "darkest" beer on tap for this hot summer stretch. It was so hoppy, you could almost chew those tiny green leaves. Big Cascade hops grapefruit sour, with a touch of grassiness; it hardly held a bitter note. This copper gold ale finished extremely dry. On the beer engine, cask conditioned Ellie's Celebration Ale, another of brewer Turner's creations, was smooth in mouth and medium bodied. This deep orange beer was bitter, with wine character. Flirtations of apples and pears became evident in mid-swallow. Alcohol was obvious in this complex "hoppy, red ale."
This sprawling brewpub is comprised of multiple rooms and several bars, including a fenced in area outdoors, facing the towering brick ballpark façade. The brewhouse rested behind glass, opposite from the main bar. The cooler for keg storage resides upstairs, above the bar, as does a room for private parties. Sunlight streamed in through huge picture windows, illuminating each glossy white, goose head tap handle.
The game ended on television as it had started in person, slowly. The only good thing about baseball is that you can get up, take a leak, grab a beer and return to your seat and not miss anything. I watched the post-game crowd roll in, just as the genial bartender told me it would, and struck up conversation with a Cubs fan. Beer consumed, schedule to keep, I walked to the Metro Station to catch the El.
Goose Island Wrigleyville is too good for just baseball.
This article first appeared in Focus, a weekly paper published in Hickory, North Carolina.
© Bobby Bush