A change of pace today – apologies, whisky fans. Gearing up for the Bank Holiday weekend soon, I thought it’d be interesting to quickly look at three beers – largely because I was sent them, but also because as the weather changed a few days ago, and sometimes a whisky in the middle of a warm day doesn’t quite hit same spot. My sherry bombs were underperforming in the sun, and peated whiskies are really – for me – best in colder weather or cool evenings.
So with that in mind, I tasted three beers from Goose Island Brewery. The company was set up originally as a brew-pub in Chicago in the late 1980s after the founder, John Hall, was inspired by the variety of European beer. It’s now much more of a worldwide brand, and straddles that line between its craft heritage, and being owned a bigger beer manufacturer. Today it produces a huge range of beers, and their releases have consistently performed very well on the awards scene over the years.
312 Urban Wheat Ale
A pale colour, with a hint of lime to it. A lemon note to the nose, very refreshing in that it’s a bit like a shandy (though I mean that in a good way). Light on the taste, though I wouldn’t describe it as hoppy. Apples. Herbal, with a pleasant bitterness on the finish. Clean. Grassy and still herbal on the finish. The beer equivalent of Aultmore.
The darkest of them all. A lovely maltiness here that reminds me of the mash tun in a distillery. Quite raw, potent and very nice indeed. Fruity: cherries, apples. Foams in the mouth more so than the others. Again, a malty to bitter finish, with slight touches of caramel. (More like an English bitter, I suspect, but it doesn’t share the same texture.) This has the most difference of the three, in my mind. Clocks in at 4.3% ABV.
Colour is mid-way between the two. Massive citrus notes on the nose – it’s exceptionally refreshing. Lime cordial. Fresh. Hoppy, perhaps with a touch of yeast. Crisp and very clean. A mild finish. For me, the most drinkable of the three, despite it being the strongest of them at 5.9% ABV.
So there we go. Three Bank Holiday beers from Goose Island, all very pleasant and each a little bit different. For me, the Goose IPA is the one I’d serve in the garden with a barbecue (however, as I write up this post, it’s actually raining).
They each cost £1.75 – oh, to be a beer reviewer! – which strikes me as a bit of a no-brainer.
If you’ve not tasted it, you must seek out Goose Island’s ‘Bourbon County’. Their Stout that is aged for 2 years in Pappy 23 year Barrels. All of the Bourbon guys over here go crazy for it. They did have some problems this year with an infection however and had to recall most of it so its quite scarce. Might have to wait till next year 😉
Hi Alex. Thanks for the tip-off – that sounds like it’s definitely worth hunting down!
I was going to say exactly what Alex has: Bourbon County is epic. In fact, it is one of the best-tasting liquids I’ve ever had (spirits, wines or anything else).
Hardly a summer sipper and hugely boozy but just wonderfully composed and intense. It converted me to Imperial stouts aged in Bourbon barrels (De Molen also do a good one called Rasputin).
I didn’t know about the infected batch but just goes to show how delicate and vulnerable fermentation can be.
James – that’s high praise indeed!
I think it’s something to do with the ABV and mouthfeel: high strength stouts, wines, port and sherry all fall within a sweet spot for me where flavour is intense, very complex and evolving but doesn’t tire out the palate in the way that whisky and spirits can. I’m also a chocolate and vanilla fiend and Bourbon County has both in abundance so that could explain things, too.
Does that mean you lean towards more sherry cask matured whiskies, such as the GlenDronachs of this world?
Mark, I live 1hour from Russian River brewing in Santa Rosa, CA. Its most probably one of the best breweries in the world. High praise from a man from Dublin, Ireland 😉 Check out their ‘Pliny The Elder’. Its a double IPA and is stunning stuff. Pairs very well with Single Malt. I like it with HP18 personally. Happy to try and ship you some bottles if you can’t get it over there. Slainte.
@Mark: I quite like GlenDronach and some of the Cask Strengths are very good. I haven’t been able to try as much pure Oloroso’ed GlenDronach as I’d like, only the PX finished stuff which isn’t my thing. I’m more of an ex-Bourbon fan but if the Sherry bomb need arises it’s usually Glenfarclas or Aberlour.
@Alex – cheers, squire – I’ll investigate!
@James – there is a lot of the PX Dronach out there, but I’m a sherry nut and will happily guzzle it in all forms.