Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Tasting of Goose Island Brews

I was on a mission to find local winter beers in my favorite beer store - The Wine & Spirits Co.

I was eyes-forward, focused, and headed to the section were the Connecticut beers are normally racked. I was shoving my cart in front of me heading straight for my goal when I heard from behind me, "Would you like to sample some beer?"

{{brakes screeching}}

I put on the brakes and hung a U-turn.

In my head I thought, "Hell yeah!! Free beer!!"

But what I said was, "Yes, that would be lovely, thank you kindly." Or something sort of like that.

When I saw what the tasting was for I was mildly disappointed - Goose Island - but, hey, free beer is free beer.

I have pretty strong opinions and I'm not afraid to express them. I also try to have an open mind. After talking to the gentleman dispensing the samples (Gerard - Craft Beer Coordinator, Dichello Distributors) I did another U-turn.

I don't want to like Goose Island beer, I really don't.   A small craft brewery bought by macro-beer giant Anheuser-Busch is a big turn off for me.  The big guys making a play to push out the little guys by posing as craft brewers and taking away business from the true artisans.

Gerard opened my eyes to something. Although, it's true the Goose Island is now owned by the macro beer brewing gigantoramous not all of their beer is brewed by Anheuser-Busch. Some beers like Honker's Ale and 312 are, indeed, being brewed at Anheuser-Busch plants. Other beers are being brewed by the brewmasters at Goose Island.

When Anheuser-Busch bought them, Goose Island saw it as an opportunity to focus their attention on creating new distinctive craft styles and hand-off the production of their more popular brews to someone else. I also found out that hundreds of gallons of beer was dumped before Goose Island signed off on what Anheuser-Busch was bottling with their name on it.

So, I have gained new respect for Goose Island.

Matilda (7.0% ABV) is a Belgian Pale Ale from the vintage line of beers by Goose Island. It is a hazy amber with a thick foam over the top.  The aroma is fruity with a grainy presence. The taste is overall fairly sweet and fruity.  It is also very heavy on the rye. The mouthfeel was medium with lively carbonation.  The finish was dry with a subtle bitterness.  Overall: good.

Sofie (6.5% ABV) is a Belgian Farmhouse Ale. It is a clear pale gold. The aroma was grainy with some fruit notes. The taste had a strong bready grain profile accentuated by banana, citrus and clove.  The wine barrel aging imparted a distinctive crisp quality that was wine like.  The mouth feel was medium with lots of bubbly carbonation.  Overall: very good.

Pere Jacques (8% ABV) is a Belgian Dubbel. It is clear amber with a small, thin head.  The aroma is of dried fruits, caramel, and malt.  The taste has a distinctive Belgian yeast funk. Deep flavors of dried fruit and sweeter essences of caramel and vanilla come through.The alcohol can be detected in taste and sensation, but its not overwhelming. The mouth feel is smooth and creamy. Overall: very good.

Pepe Nero (6% ABV) is a Saison. Pours a dark mahogany brown with a big fluffy head. The aroma is distinctly Belgian with spices.  The taste has the clove, banana, and other flavors notable with this style. However, there is a mild bite of peppercorn that is quite nice.  Earthy hops round out the flavors. The finish is nicely bitter. The mouth feel is medium and crisp. Overall: good.

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