Goose Island Vintage Ale House

Bars and pubs, Craft beer pubs Balham
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A beery bar and restaurant from Chicago’s Goose Island Brewery.

Balham’s Vintage Ale House seems to be in the throes of a minor identity crisis. That name – and the fact that it’s the first UK opening for Chicago’s Goose Island Brewery – implies that it’s one of those elaborate craft beer pubs they do so well across the pond. True, there are a few oversized bar tap ‘toppers’ like you see in the US (model goose heads and a teeny telephone), and a small list of hops-infused cocktails. But GI have erred on something a little more refined: a wood-clad, low-ceilinged, open-kitchened joint that’s more beer-led restaurant than late-night watering hole.

Food is the focus, and portions are very, er, American. And not smugly clean-eating west coast American either. Heart of the Midwest, ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ American. A ‘starter’ of smoked short rib and blue cheese croquettes – intensely beefy, beautifully fried, slicked with sriracha mayo and the size of soap bars – was gigantic. Likewise a platter of chorizo-stuffed, bacon-wrapped dates with an exemplary romesco sauce. The same size, basically, as the house burger that followed: buttery rich, shot through with marrow and topped with taleggio. Chips here are chunky, crinkly (high five!) and clearly hand-cut. To finish: ‘Oh my! Caramel pie’. A light caramel cream/fudge slabbed onto a biscuit base with barley ice cream and honeycomb. It was utterly worth the frivolous punctuation.

Delicious? Sure. Cripplingly rich? Oh yes. Thank god for all that beer, then. A pint of 321 Urban Wheat Ale was insipid, but a ‘prestige’ flight of vintage Belgian-style ales – massively expensive by the wine-sized bottle, another nod to the non-boozehound nature of this place – was superb. Particularly killer was a tart, fruity glass of the brewery’s Lolita beer, aged in wine barrels. Drown me in sour beer. But first, bring me back here for more of those croquettes.

By: Tom Howells

Posted:

Venue name: Goose Island Vintage Ale House
Contact:
Address: 3 Ramsden Road
London
SW12 8QX
Transport: Tube: Balham
Price: Dinner for two with drinks and service: around £90.
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Chloe W
tastemaker

Goose Island was not at all what I was expecting - rather than an old-fashioned ale house, it is almost Scandi inside with white tilled walls, pale wooden furniture and soft lighting. 


We went as a big group, and they couldn't have been more helpful. A great selection of beers - with something for everyone from their hoppy and punchy Goose IPA, to the spicy, crisp and refreshing 312 Urban Wheat Ale - named after the 312 dialling code in Chicago as I discovered. 


The food offering was simple but delicious - big sharing platters of cold cut meats and cheeses are just what you need to soak up all the beer, and their smoked short rib and blue cheese croquettes are game changing - a crisp and crunchy outside gives way to a soft meaty filling - I'm drooling at the thought! 


If you're feeling adventurous I would recommend finishing your night off with a boilermaker - a 1/2 pint of beer with a whiskey chaser. After a few of these you'll definitely know about it. 


All in all, a fantastic evening in a relaxed, fun atmosphere with delicious food and great beer.