Goose Island – Honkers, 312 Urban & IPA

Tasting: May 17 – 20
Styles:
Honkers – Ale (English bitter)
312 Urban Wheat
IPA — what else?

Goose Island Honkers, 312 and IPA

According to the encyclopedia of Chicago, Goose Island is an 80 acre tract of land just to the north of the confluence of the north and south branches of the Chicago River. Over its history, the land that comprises the island had been residential, farm and industrial. When the last home and residential streets were finally destroyed (sometime around 1985) – the city leaders made it part of a planned manufacturing district. I don’t see any affiliation with the brewery and the island, but a map shows me that the island is close to their Chicago-based brewery.

The operations of Goose Island beer began as a brew pub called “Clybourn” in May of 1988. Goose Island is renowned for its Bourbon County Stout. Bourbon County is a stout aged in bourbon barrels such as those used by Elijiah Craig and Pappy VanWinkle. I’m hoping that with their eastward distribution expansion comes the opportunity to find Bourbon County on shelves here — I already have my name on a list in anticipation. Goose Island Beer was also part of the biggest craft beer story of 2011 when they sold a major share to AB InBev (Anheuser Busch — for you and me). They have moved some brewing operations to New York, but they still remain a Chicago craft beer landmark.

First up is Honker’s Ale. Advertised as an English-style ale — a “bitter” to be more precise. ABV is 4.2%. This bottle is unpasteurized and I’m just noticing that it’s about three months old. That might negatively influence the flavor. I should be more careful as I just bought this last week. Pours a ruby influenced dark amber. Not much nose. Flavor is “light”water cracker like grains, with ever so subtle molasses and not much in the way of bitter in this bottle of bitter. Makes me wonder if the hops have retreated with age. It’s subtle with a crisp finish. Carbonation is a little heavy for an English-style ale and it’s light in body. Again, age might have a factor — but I have to call it as I see it and I see it at 82 points.

Next is IPA. ABV is 5.9%. A few weeks ago I had an IPA from Firestone Walker (Union Jack). It was amazingly big and could easy pass for a double IPA. So, I’m afraid that I might not be fair to the few IPAs that follow. This one pours a lighter ruby/amber. Mellow aroma of grain. First sip is of light citrus and grassy hops. Some bready grains — maybe a little too much for my liking. Here again, a little demure in flavor. I started at about 82 points — but I liked it a bit more at the end of my glass. I’ll still put it at 84 points.

Last up — 312 Urban Wheat. This beer is named for Chicago’s telephone area code. It has to be the lightest colored beer next to a Coors Light that I have ever poured. It checks in at 4.2% ABV. My first impression is that Coors Light might have more flavor. Sad when your best thoughts are that its wet and cold. There is a banana and lemon undertone and it does finish with a crisp. I’m not a fan — 70 points.

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