After being purchased by Anheuser Busch InBev, many beer aficionados expressed concern that Goose Island, a much-loved Chicago based brewery, would lose its identity in the transition from craft to corporate. What we're concerned with is the beer.
With the powerful backing of A-B, Goose Island recently rolled out a new national campaign expanding several of their most popular and heretofore difficult to acquire beers. Recently, we were lucky enough to sample some of the 2013 Bourbon County Stout, which is now being brewed in much larger quantities, and talk with representatives from Goose Island. We were pleased to hear that along with the Bourbon County beers (including coffee and cherry), the "Sisters" -- "Juliet" and "Lolita" would be joined by two new siblings, "Gillian" and "Halia."
The folks at Goose island sent us a few bottles so we could try them out. Here's what we thought.
The "Four Sisters" are wild ales, or sours. Each one spent time fermenting in wine barrels with wild and domesticated yeast. Though each beer is unique, they all have a bright, fruity tone that wine drinkers will recognize and enjoy. If you're into heavy stouts or porters this will be an abrupt departure.
We started off with "Halia" (7.5 percent ABV), one of the two new beers -- it's very light and crisp. Goose Island throws whole peaches into the mix and together with the white wine barrels makes for a champagne-like finish. It's very tart and you might pucker up a bit, but overall it goes down incredibly easy. The other fresh face, "Gillian" (9.5 percent ABV), is the big sister of the lot. There's a lot going on -- strawberries, honey, white pepper, and it all just fizzles on your tongue. The berry comes at you in a top-heavy aroma that then is kind of overwhelmed by a funkiness that all good sours have. It's the kind of beer you sip and enjoy.
Though lacking the hype surrounding their two younger siblings, the older "Sisters" still have a lot going on for them. Lolita (8.2 percent ABV) is the sweetest and most accessible, and reminds us of jam, thanks to the raspberries. Thick and fruity, like a Framboise, and aged in cabernet sauvignon barrels, this might be the one to give your wine-loving friend -- we did, and said friend drank half of the bottle. Very much a fan-favorite, Juliet (8 percent ABV) is dark and spicy and probably exhibits the strongest overall flavor. Aged in cabernet barrels, lots and lots of blackberries went into this beer and the combination makes for a saccharine quality. Of the four, this was definitely our favorite.
As of now, these beers aren't these easiest to come by, especially "Halia" and "Gillian," but be on the lookout.
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