Posts Tagged ‘Goose Island’

12 Beers of X-mas: Goose Island Christmas Ale

Sunday, December 25th, 2011

Since my original 12 Beers of X-Mas back in 2008, the idea has been taken up by many others, including Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Peter at BetterBeerBlog, Dan Murphy with the Press-Register, and the guys over at beerschoolblog. Cheers!

Goose Island Christmas AleThis year’s 12 Beers of X-Mas begins with the 2011 Christmas Ale from Goose Island. The reverse label on my bottle of this American brown ale is upside-down. The obverse shows the goose with a Santa hat, encircled by holly and ivy.

The Christmas Ale pours a barely hazy copper brown. The tan head is generous, but not as solid as I would like. The nose is mild but complex. A spiciness is immediately evident, with cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. A rich nutty and bready malt character follows, accompanied by a slight grassy hoppiness.

The grassy hop flavor stands out, assuring this beer a prominent place among American-style brown ales. The hops lend some bitterness, almost balanced by the nutty malt flavor. A spicy character and alcoholic bite add to the complex richness. An appropriate winter beer.

+Goose Island Christmas Ale 2011

3.6 (3-8-7-3-15)

Spotlight Week: Goose Island Beer Company

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

2010-01-14-giIf you want an inspirational story about a brewery that pulled itself up by its bootstraps, you need look no further than Goose Island Beer Company. In 1988, John Hall opened the first Goose Island Brewpub, at Clybourn and Sheffield on the north side of Chicago. Though essentially in Lincoln Park, the brewery is not all that far from Cabrini-Green, which at the time was easily the most unsafe part of the northside. Over the years the brewpub built a community of beer fans and simultaneously played an instrumental role in revitalizing the surrounding neighborhood.

By 1995, the brewpub had grown enough that Goose Island opened the brewery on Fulton Street. This is the facility that currently produces all the company’s bottled beers. They have since expanded further, opening a second brewpub on Clark Street, half a block from Wrigley Field. Each of the two brewpubs produces their own specialties and unique creations. After a deal with Widmer (wherein Goose Island brews are sold by Anheuser-Busch distributors) the beer is now available nationwide, and also in England. It seems the plan has paid off, for in the last three years they have grown from 37th largest brewery to 22nd.

2010-01-14-matildaGoose Island produces five year-round beers: 312 Urban Wheat Ale (one wonders what exactly “urban” means here), Honker’s Ale (a regular bitter), India Pale Ale, Nut Brown Ale (formerly the more inspired Hex Nut Brown), and Oatmeal Stout. They also brew a variety of seasonals (some with more interesting names) and their acclaimed special reserves. Among the most sought-after craft beers these days is their Bourbon County Stout, a bourbon-barrel aged imperial stout that sells for upwards of $5 per 12 ounce bottle. Tonight I will try three others of the brewmaster’s specials: the Belgians Matilda, Sofie, and Juliet.

Matilda used to be brewed with Brettanomyces wild yeast. It is my understanding that they now only bottle with that infernal bug. It pours the color of a persimmon, crystal clear despite warnings of “a sediment”. The lace-inducing off-white head is not nearly voluminous enough. Matilda has a delicate fruity nose: mostly raspberries, cherries, and honeydew. There is a little spicy aroma and some clean malt as well. Perhaps some roses in the background.

2010-01-14-sofieThe taste is spicy with yeast character. A noticeable alcohol warming supports the peppery flavor. There is some strange fruit and caramel. A little dustiness and that strange fruit are all I get from the Brett. A bit of hop bitterness seems present but is quickly gone. Tastes just a little flat. Officially it is “dry and quenching”, but I don’t find it either. There is a prominent sweetness that turns cloying, leaving a coating on the tongue accompanied by a lingering astringency. Don’t drink this one now; sit on your bottles for two or three years.

Twenty percent of Sofie has been aged in wine barrels of undetermined varietal on a bed of orange peels. This has been blended back with the unadulterated version to yield a barely hazy, barely yellow brew. A decent amount of creamy bright-white head leaves a thick lacing on the glass. The nose is of orange peel, almost to the point of smelling like Gojo. Actually, it has the exact aroma of fermented Mountain Dew (not that I know that at all).

The taste continues the citric bomb with a tart lemon flavor. At first that character makes it seems like a Berliner weisse, but it is not nearly acidic enough and much too sweet. The lemon yields to pepper and a malt flavor. The sweetness lasts throughout and lingers on. This is a highly regarded beer, and frankly I don’t understand why. The flavor is flat and the sweetness cloying. As my brother (who likes it) said, people must like Mountain Dew more than I.

2010-01-14-julietFinally we get to Juliet, an aptly-named sour, aged in wine barrels of indeterminate variety on blackberries (at one point they were using gooseberries). Juliet is an opalescent burnt orange with some white head. The nose is deep. Fruit dominates the first level, mostly pie cherries, dates, blackberries, kiwi, and raisins. Then comes a dusty, barnyard sweetness. Deeper yet is a rich balsamic vinegar character. A complicated and intriguing aroma.

The flavor is likewise complicated. Seriously fruity at first, the sour character soon comes out. Berries, pomegranate, and a little more exotic fruit are present. A lemon tart and balsamic vinegar sour add a rich complexity. Some caramel flavor attempts a malty coup but the acidity fights on. The flavor continues to develop on the tongue for several minutes, eventually resting as a latent astringency. The sweetness and acidity balance each other initially but they both linger a bit long. An otherworldly berry taste is really the star of this beer.

++Goose Island Juliet

4.3 (4-9-9-3-18)

+Goose Island Matilda

3.6 (3-8-7-3-15)

+/-Goose Island Sofie

3.2 (4-6-6-3-13)

Goose Island IPA

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Another beer from Goose Island. I like reviewing their beers cause I get the impression many people have access to them and they tend to be of high quality. This one is their India Pale Ale.
Goose Island IPA
It pours a remarkably light-color, the straw shade of a cream ale. This is a bit strange, as pale ales tend to have caramel malts to provide a bit of sweetness in order to balance the hops, and caramel malts add those rich reddish browns. It is fairly clear but there is certainly a bit of haze. The off-white head is creamy and strong, but not very voluminous. The nose is strongly of Pacific northwest hops: the floral grapefruit and orange character that defines American pale ales.

The flavor is at once creamy and sweet yet robust and bitter. Strong hop bitterness leads the way and doesn’t let up, providing a throughline that the rest of the flavor dances around. The hops aren’t content to be a bit(ter) player, though. Herbal, earthy, almost vegetal flavors intermingle with serious grapefruit, mango, and citric hoppiness. Notes of light malt come through: a clean and malty, almost bready, flavor. This contributes a bit of sweetness that is frustratingly evasive. For a moment it almost seems balanced, then the bitterness rears its beautiful head.

+Goose Island India Pale Ale

3.7 (3-8-7-4-15)

Goose Island Mild Winter

Sunday, December 7th, 2008

Goose Island released their Mild Winter ale almost a week ago, so I figured it was time for me to try it. (Truth be told I’ve already had three…) They put a hefty measure of rye in this one, as well as roast barley and crystal malt, giving it a complex malt character.

If I’m not mistaken, Mild Winter (like the forthcoming Imperial Brown Goose) is a regular seasonal at the Clybourn brewpub location that has been promoted to distribution. Greg Hall, the Goose Island Brewmaster, calls it an American Mild, backing up the name by saying brewing with rye makes it more American, a strange claim as roggenbier (German for ‘rye beer’) is an old German style.

Mild Winter pours a brilliant rust with a redness bordering on purple. The head is a creamy straw, but doesn’t last long. The nose is subtle and spicy. A floral spiciness, something like potpourri, is followed by an almost grassy note. There is just a hint of fruit.

The taste is predominantly rye, which has a paradoxically fruity spiciness. There is something of a hop herbal flavor as well as a noticeable but not invasive hop bitterness. As the spiciness fades more malt flavors come through: biscuits and a light caramel sweetness. The palate is quite lively, and the light sweetness, slight bitterness, and spiciness balance quite well. A well executed mild ale.

By the way, I have no idea what Bull means by the comparison to Wayne Brady. That he is mild? I guess almost anyone seems mild next to Dave Chapelle, just as almost any beer seems mild next to lots of offerings from American micros.

+Goose Island Mild Winter

RateBeer: 3.6 (2-8-7-4-15)

Stout Week: Bourbon County Vertical

Friday, November 28th, 2008

This evening, after the family Thanksgiving celebration, Matt and I had a mini vertical tasting. This is when you open several vintages of the same beer and compare. We are both fans of the special reserve beers from Goose Island, so we’ve got a few still around from last year. Perhaps at some point we can do a vertical with Matt’s Matildas.

Tonight we had a 2007 and a 2008 Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout. This is a serious imperial stout, probably weighing in around 10 or 11 percent alcohol, before it is aged in bourbon casks for several months, bumping it up to 13%. The story goes that every year when this one is bottled the Goose Island top brass comes around to the packaging line to ensure they get their cases.

Bourbon County pours a thick hazelnut black with no head, just a few stray bubbles. Make sure you drink this out of a thin, clear, ideally stemmed glass, as it will reward you with an enchanting copper coating. The aroma is sweet and playful, with notes of black licorice, light oak, and some bourbon. The 2008 has a sharp alcoholic nose as well as something that smells like twizzlers. The roast aroma is more prominent in the 2007, which has an overall rounder, more robust nose.

Bourbon and roast malt ride the egg-nog thick wave of this ale. Caramel, licorice, and some anise round out the flavor. The 2008 is again just a bit too boozy. The palate is chewy and sweet but not at all cloying, and somewhat smoother on the 2007.

Overall both vintages seem very similar. Where there are differences I attribute them to the varied fermentation of the beer in each batch rather than to aging. Somewhat more care was taken with the 2007 batch, and whether it was the fermentation or barrel aging, it did not pick up the unpleasant sharpness of its younger brother.

++Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout 2007

RateBeer: 4.2 (4-9-8-4-17)

+Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout 2008

RateBeer: 3.9 (4-8-7-4-16)

Goose Island Imperial IPA

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Pours an opalescent rust with a luscious, creamy, long-lasting, wheat-colored head. It leaves a thick lacing on the glass and heavy rings. You can smell this beer from a mile away, with it’s thick aroma: a sharp spicy hops fade into citric and pear fruity hops. Thick and sweet, with a note of alcohol coming through. I could sit here and smell this all day.

Right up front is an earthy hop flavor and prominent sweetness. It is definitely bitter, but not too intense. There is an earthy hop flavor and the bitterness and sweetness dance. It is just a bit cloying.

Quite a good brew, intense yet well-balanced. I would only ask it to be a little less sweet.

++Goose Island Imperial IPA

RateBeer: 4.1 (5-9-7-3-17)