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Bar Scene: Chicago Bar Picks from Goose Island Brewmaster Nick Barron

BY: Halley Lawrence | Jul 2, 2014
Bar Scene: Chicago Bar Picks from Goose Island Brewmaster Nick Barron

Nick Barron, Goose Island’s most recently crowned brewmaster, is something of a revolutionary in the beer world. He won’t hesitate to buck tradition by adding mint and sweet basil to a wheat hopfenweizen, for instance, or by infusing an english bitter with 30 pounds of mushrooms to produce a subtle umami mouthfeel.

Barron’s forward-thinking style shines at Goose Island’s Clybourn and Wrigleyville brewpubs, both of which remain independently owned, even after Anheuser-Busch’s 2011 acquisition of Goose Island’s larger distribution system. The brewpubs’ independent status—and the comparably small size of their brewing facilities—make them a hotbed for invention.

“We’re able to create new batches very frequently—we have a new beer at least once a week, if not two,” Barron said. “We do a lot of small batches, one-off beers, exploring different flavors—99% of everything we make here is just for the pub [not the mass market].”

Though Barron spends much of his time engineering new beers, he also makes a point of exploring other breweries’ creations. We asked him where he likes to sample new brews around town.


“The Map Room (1949 N. Hoyne Ave.) and the Hopleaf (5148 N. Clark St.). They’re just fantastic bars that do such a good job showcasing the diversity of beer, and have a huge breadth of styles and such interesting beers on tap. Those are two easy ones right off the top. I also love Revolution Brewing (2323 N. Milwaukee Ave.). They have great beers, it’s fun to see what they're doing. [Also], Half Acre Beer Company (4257 N. Lincoln Ave.), if I ever have a chance to get up that way.”


“The pub scene [in London, where he lived while attending brewing school] is a bit different—everyone goes to the pubs after work, has a few beers, then goes home for dinner. It’s more social…everyone buys rounds. Elephant and Castle (111 W. Adams St.) captures that pub scene.”


“I’m a vegetarian, so I mostly go to places that accommodate that. The Handlebar (2311 W. North Ave.) has a fantastic menu, and Chicago Diner (3411 N. Halsted St.) has a great menu. The milkshakes are killer.”

Brewmaster's portrait by Andrew Nawrocki, Groupon

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Guide Staff Writer
BY: Halley Lawrence
Guide Staff Writer