Balham’s Goose Island Vintage Ale House: A Q&A with founder and president

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Drinks: Beers
Location: England, USA
Other: Venues

Chicago craft brewer Goose Island opened the Goose Island Vintage Ale House in Balham in south London recently. Employing 15 staff, the venue spotlights the brewery’s full beer range, with the option to match beers to the bistro-style menu. Company founder John Hall and president Ken Stout spoke to John Porter

Of all the possible locations in the world, why Balham?
John Hall: I spent time in London well before I started Goose Island, and really enjoyed the pub scene. One of my biggest inspirations for our brewpub in Chicago was Fuller’s, and when the opportunity came to expand, we thought why not go back to London? As for Balham, we wanted to find a neighbourhood where we could establish ourselves.
Ken Stout: When John opened his first pub on Clybourn Avenue in Chicago, it wasn’t the greatest neighbourhood. We’ve been part of the resurgence of the community there, and we’d love to be part of the resurgence that’s happening in Balham.

What will customers find that’s different to other craft beer pubs?
JH: We have a selection of our beers, all of which we believe are as worthy of going with a great meal as any wine.
KS: This is where we’ll build interest in our beers, and really showcase what we can do in terms of matching beer with food. We have our core brands, such as our IPA, on draught, but we’re also offering our seven prestige bottled beers, aged for 18 months in wine barrels and each made with a different fruit.

How will the offer be communicated to customers?
JH: We expect to become a destination venue, although we know people won’t be knocking down the door straight away. It’ll be word of mouth.
KS: We’ve come over from Chicago, from the birthplace of Goose Island, to spend time with the staff to make sure they really understand how to position the beer, and to be comfortable talking to customers about why our beer pairs so well with food.

Are there plans to open more?
KS: No question – this is the first. It’s an experiment. If it works well, we’ll want to do it in other great cities where there’s a beer culture. Brussels would make a lot of sense. So would Paris, Rome, Milan. I suspect it would make sense to have just one in each city. It’s about attracting the right customers, who really appreciate the experience, and they become your ambassadors.

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3 Ramsden Road, Balham, SW12 8QY; gooseisland.com/vintagealehouse-balham

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With a core team that includes Chris Losh, Julie Sheppard, Laura Foster, Holly Motion and Isabella Sullivan, plus an impressive roster of columnist bartenders, sommeliers and specialist journalists, Imbibe collectively boasts hundreds of years of on-trade drinks industry experience and knowledge.

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