Monday, December 9, 2013
By TOM ATWELL
When the Market at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester announced it was doing a beer tasting for Goose Island Brewery, I had to drop by.
Goose Island’s Matilda is a highly complex beer, somewhat reminiscent of a Oude Geuze style of lambic.
Goose Island began with a brew pub in 1988, opened a full-fledged brewery in 1995, and is now sold in almost 40 states. The National Distributors employee doing the pouring said Goose Island has been available in Maine for about a year.
The six beers available were Honker's Ale, 312 Urban Wheat Ale, India Pale Ale, Sofie, Matilda and Pere Jacques.
The Honker's, 312 and IPA were sold in 12-ounce bottles, while the other three Belgian-inspired beers came in 22-ounce bottles with a standard cap. Trying to go from lightest to heaviest, I tasted the Honker's Ale first -- although I found out later that the pourer was telling people to start with the 312.
Honker's has a lot of flavor despite being only 4.2 percent alcohol, and is a really good American representation of the English-style bitter. It was hoppy, but the hops were well-balanced by a good malt flavor and just a little bit of caramel. It has enough body to be a year-round beer, which it is, but it is a true session beer, so you could drink two or three of them on a hot summer afternoon and be happy.
The 312 was an American witbier, and would have fit the category of white beers that I tasted for last week's column. This is another low-alcohol beer -- also 4.2 percent -- dominated by the wheat and pouring a cloudy golden yellow. It is a little bit herbal, but not citrusy as a lot of the white beers last week, and it was just a little bit thin. I liked this beer, but both the Allagash White and the Hoegaarden would blow it away.
The Goose Island website describes the India Pale Ale as English-style, but I found it was English-style with a detour through the West Coast of the United States. It isn't as hoppy and bitter as many West Coast IPAs, and at 5.9 percent alcohol, it's lower in alcohol than most of them. But it is hoppier than most of the ones from England. It still has a strong malt background, but the hops definitely dominate.
The three ales in 22-ounce bottles are in what Goose Island calls its vintage collection. The bottles are dated, and the company says they can be aged for up to five years.
I really liked the Sofie ale a lot. Like the 312, it had a cloudy appearance, but there were a lot more things going on. Part of the beer is aged in wine barrels, the National Distributor's pourer said, when I commented that this beer was wine-like. It is a little sweet but tart at the same time, very clean on the palate, and fairly mild but complex, with a nice viscosity.
It is brewed with wild yeasts, but it does not have the sour Brett-yeast flavor that many wild-yeast beers have.
This is a beer that people are going to either love or hate. While I loved it, other people at the tasting either had other people finish it for them or simply dumped it. I think wine drinkers who are lukewarm about beer would really like this one, although at 6.5 percent alcohol, it is about half as strong as most wines.
Pere Jacques is an American version of a Belgian dubbel, with a great malty flavor and aroma and some dates, figs or other dried fruit along with it. At 8 percent alcohol, this is an absolute sipping beer, very well done.
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