Chicago's favorite brewery offers a classic Belgian-style ale
The Pere Jacques beer from Goose Island.
Goose Island Brewing Co. of Chicago has been a big name in craft beer since 1988, when it began as a humble brewpub. In 2011, when it was already one of the biggest and most prestigious craft breweries in the country, Goose Island was acquired by A-B InBev. Though many feared the makers of Budweiser would change the craft culture and product, more than a year later the beer is still the same, and — thanks to the distribution power of the macrobrewers — will soon be available in all 50 states. One of several Belgian-style offerings from the company is Pere Jacques, an Abbey Dubbel.
Poured from a 12-ounce bottle into a Trappist glass, Pere Jacques has the appearance of a typical dark Belgian ale, much like Chimay Blue. The nose presents a bouquet of sweet malts, figs, dates, prunes, and toffee. Despite such a sugar-coated nose, the taste of is delightfully balanced — a near perfect rendition of the style. A bit of heat is present from the alcohol — it rings in at 8.7 percent ABV — but it never distracts from the rich quality. Though the mouthfeel is slightly sticky, it never becomes so so extreme that it distracts from the enjoyable drinking experience.
Pere Jacques took the gold medal at the 2011 Great American Beer Festival, and is still a great ode to its style. As suggested on the bottle, it is suitable for aging up to five years. Pick up a four-pack to try one fresh, and then store the others away to try in a next year or two. Toast to craft brewing, and the hope that even though Goose Island is now part of a big conglomerate, the quality product will remain true.
— Danya Henninger, The Drink Nation
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Friday Brew Review – Pere Jacques 2009
Tonight, despite my blood oath, I went back to Beacon Hill Wine & Gourmet to pick up my weekly syrup. No, not sizzurp! You know, beer! The sweet ambrosia with which the gods wined socialized and made merry! The GOOD STUFF.
Anyways, I hung my head and marched into the very store that I had sworn off a mere two months ago. I wasn’t happy about this decision, but I was in a time crunch and thus forfeited my foolish pride. Which, quite frankly, was really hard for me. Some days, foolish pride is the only ace I have up my sleeve.
To my delight, this second trip to Beacon Hill Wine & Gourmet was actually enjoyable. Whereas the cashier during the first excursion was a pretentious dongle hell bent on insulting me and then taking my cash, this second adventure saw a helpful young lady rocking the register. Truthfully, she talked and smiled as though she had been pounding Jolt Cola all damn day. But maybe that made her all the more eager to help me. I don’t know. All I do know is that thanks to a caffeine-riddled bloodstream of one female clerk, Beacon Hill Wine & Gourmet have officially been taken off of my shit list. Kudos.
With the assistance of the aforementioned caffeine-junkie, I snagged a bottle of Pere Jacques 2009. I was first drawn to this ale by its understated and classy looking label. Living in an era in which the docile masses clamor for cold-activated labels, I was drawn to the simplicity of Pere Jacques. Other than the name, year, and brief description of the product, all that adorned the heavy-paper label was the brewery’s official seal. Yes, I could tell right away that Goose Island had sold me on one of their brews.
Having never even heard of the brewery, I hit up the Goose Island website. Their story, from what I can tell, isn’t dissimilar to that of Sam Adams — at some point in the 1980’s, Chicago-based beer-lover John Hall decided that he was fed up with the (lack of) choices available to the American public. He embarked upon a craft-beer journey with rapid expansion in the 1990’s, the Goose Island crew became a well-established enterprise.
Ok, ok, great — so it’s beer made by people that like beer. That’s encouraging, but I still had no clue what the fuck a Pere Jacques was. Honestly, it sounds like a French explorer, a sexual maneuver only possible on honeymoons, or some combination of the two. Remembering that I had bought the bottle simply because of it’s fancy visage, I checked its side and found the following
Abbey Ale inspired by visits to Belgium. 8% alcohol by volume, 650mL — 1 Pint 6 FL OZ. Develops in the bottle for up to five years. Contains live yeast. A sediment may form.
I poured the stuff into a wine glass. I’m not sure if that’s the proper technique (in fact, I’m fairly certain that it isn’t), but it just felt right. Again, not to harp on this thought, but the beer just exuded a classy aura and I wanted to do right by it. In the glass, Pere Jacques 2009 glimmered all sorts of wonderful caramel hues. Yes, the liquid was as appealing as its container. Knowing that it looked good, I wanted to know if it actually tasted good.
Sniffing at the mouth of the ill-fitting glass, I detected up a distinct fruitiness. I still can’t decide whether what my nose detected was more apple or pear, but it was definitely something had to be picked from a tree. Even with all the sweetness, a wonder-scent of alcohol still made its way through — not as pungent as hard liquor, but just enough to remind the drinker that this was not a beverage to shrug off.
Ok, so let’s get to the taste (Thank the Maker!) — Pere Jacques 2009 is fucking awesome. That fruity aroma is definitely present in the flavor, helping to push this ale into some distinctly tart territories. With that being said, there is also a strong undercurrent of sweetness, an almost caramel theme during the drinking process (wow, what a pretentious description). Honestly, this beer is astoundingly well-rounded. The slightly elevated alcohol content zings my mouth, and Pere Jacques reminds me that a beer can make one feel more alive.
Goddamn, this ale is just out of this world. I don’t do this often, but I mean it…
Beer Review – Goose Island Sofie
I know I know. Yet another Saison/Farmhouse Ale review. I just can’t get away from this stuff!
I’d never heard of Goose Island Beer Company till I dropped by the Alemonger’s house to watch some Monday Night Football. As luck would have it, the Chicago Bears were playing the Green Bay Packers in Chicago, which is also the home of Goose Island Beer Company. Sofie is part of their Vintage Ales series of Belgian style beers which includes two Pale Ales (Matilda and Fleure), an Abbey Ale (Pere Jacques), and the Sofie Farmhouse Ale.
- Appearance: Very cloudy. Pale yellow. Thick, creamy head which lingers for a long time and leaves quite a bit of lacing as it slowly subsides. Looks like a lemon meringue pie parfait. A very pretty pour!
- Aroma: Yeast. Citrus, especially lemon peel and grapefruit.
- Taste: Well carbonated. Quite tart. I know I’ve said this before about Saisons, but it reminds me of really good champagne, because of it’s long, dry finish. It coats, soothes, relieves…
I really enjoyed this beer. If I had to rank it against the other Saisons that I sampled this past summer, I would place it second to the Saison Dupont, and right before the Stone Saison du Buff and the Great Divide Colette. I give this beer an A. Sadly, Goose Island beers are currently unavailable in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The Alemonger picked this one up at State Line Liquors in Elkton, MD. All I can say is… ROAD TRIP!
Review: Goose Island Beer Dinner At Urban Belly
Lamb and brandy dumplings, paired with Juliet
Sweet and spicy crispy sweetbreads, paired with Juliet.
Duck and Foie Gras dumplings, paired with Juliet.
Short ribs, paired with Naughty Goose
Scallion fried rice, paired with Naughty Goose.
Asian Bolognese with udon, ground pork and Chinese black bean, paired with Matilda.
Strawberry rhubarb pie, paired with Pere Jacques.
The best beer and wine dinners are collaborative efforts where chef and winemaker/brewmaster get to know each other and their creations intimately. Even so, the number of these dinners we've attended where every pairing worked perfectly can be counted on one hand.
We're adding last night's Goose Island beer dinner at Urban Belly to that very short list. Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall told a sold-out house that he's had every dish on the Urban Belly menu twice over, while chef Bill Kim expressed his desire to host a beer dinner with Goose Island for years, dating back to his days at Le Lan. For this dinner, Hall and Kim didn't try to expand past what they already did well. The only item on the four-course menu that customers cannot already order at Urban Belly was Mindy Segal's rhubarb pie. Each course met its match with a selection from Goose Island's Reserve line of beers and the Heritage selection, Naughty Goose.
This was also one of a handful of dinners where most of the attendees left without feeling like they committed a cardinal sin. Too often at these events either the pours or the food are too much for one to bear. Kim struck the right notes in making the first two courses communal, whetting the guests' collective appetite for an amazing udon with ground pork and Chinese black bean. Meanwhile the pours meted out by Goose Island's PJ McNulty and company were manageable and not intended to get diners drunk.
Hall sits on the board of Slow Food Chicago and has been preaching the gospel of pairing food and beer long before Matilda made that a reality for Goose Island. The brewery is hosting other beer dinners, including a sure-to-sell-out event at the Bristol on June 2, where chefs Chris Pandel and John Manion will be brewing their own beer exclusively for the dinner.
The Beer Snob's Beer Reviews
Chicago, IL, March 2, 2010 . . .The long anticipated release of Goose Island Beer Company’s Matilda on the West Coast is now official, announced the Chicago brewer today. A staple in Midwestern US beer markets since it launched there in 2005, Matilda will now be made available to craft beer drinkers in Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Colorado and New Mexico. The beer begins shipping today and is scheduled to hit shelves of better grocery stores and beer specialty shops throughout the Western US by the beginning of March 2010. Matilda will also be available on draught at restaurants and high-end pubs throughout the West.
Since 2005, Matilda has garnered accolades from food and beer critics around the world, medaling in both the prestigious World Beer Cup and Great American Beer Festival. With an alcohol by volume of 7% and a shelf life of 5 years, the finished product is true to Belgium’s tradition of brewing with spicy yeasts. Harkening rich aromas such as coriander and allspice, Matilda is brewed with a rare yeast strain that also lends a slightly fruity flavor.
Brewmaster Greg Hall developed Matilda for seasoned craft beer and wine drinkers to enjoy at the dining table or for casual socializing at the bar. Like others in the Goose Island lineup, such as Bourbon County Stout and Pere Jacques, the flavor of Matilda evolves as it ages and continues to develop over time. Due to the complex flavor of these ales, and like a fine wine, a 2006 bottle of Matilda will have a slightly different taste and character than a 2010 bottle of Matilda.
A personal favorite for Hall, Matilda, he says, is evidence that American brewers are shaking things up in the Belgian Ale category. “Matilda is proving that American craft brewers are making Belgian Ales better than Belgian breweries,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that Matilda has made its way into people’s list of favorites by bumping a Belgian off their list. It’s also versatile enough to appeal to the Western palate and appetite for exquisite beer pairings, and I’m proud this Chicago favorite Belgian Ale is heading west.”
Matilda is a natural favorite among beer drinkers who enjoy Belgian Blonde Ales, Tripels, and Abbey Ales. Its spicy yeast flavors pair well with fresh mussels and contrast with rich meats such as pork belly. Cheeses for pairing include soft ripened cheeses like Camembert and washed rind cheeses such as Winnimere. Wine drinkers who enjoy Chardonnay, Champagne, and Sauternes may also find Matilda especially appealing.
Nick's Beer Blog
Name: Southern Tier 2X Steam
Style: California Common
I have to say that I've never encountered a California Common-style quite like Southern Tier's 2X Steam. Why is that, you ask? Because much like Leinenkugel's Uber-Oktoberfest, it's stronger interpretation of a beer style that is generally lower in terms of ABV level.
Much like the Big Eddy series, the 2X line-up consists of stronger offerings by Southern Tier. Needless to say I've never had an ”Imperial California Common” before so this will be interesting to try out.
2X Steam pours a darker orange color with a slight haze. The head has a thin, soapy appearance with some decent lacing. There is also no visible carbontion activity.
The aroma has very bready and yeasty characteristics up front, which isn't too surprising. I'm also getting some mild floral hop, roasted barley and pale malt notes in here as well
The flavor also doesn't deviate from the nose except for one key difference: The booziness. The booziness in the flavor is strong enough to the point where it tastes like rubbing alcohol! This to me, totally offsets any other flavors present.
The body is very light weight and with no carbonation, so it's a pretty easy to drink. provided that you don't take the flavor into consideration.
If you haven't already figured it out yet, I'm not really a fan of this beer. It's too boozy for it's own good and is probably my least favorite beer from Southern Tier. I love the brewery but I don't like this beer.
Nick's Beer Blog
Name: Schell's Snowstorm (2013 Edition)
Style: Belgian Ale
During the late months of the year, August Schell Brewing Company releases their annual Snowstorm beer and what's unique about this beer is that it's a different style each year. Back in 2011 it was a Scotch Ale, in 2012 a Biere de Garde and now this year it's a Golden Belgian-Style Ale.
Snowstorm (2013) pours a clear golden yellow color with a fizzy head which is quick to fade away. There is no lacing to be seen here and amount of carbonation is fairly high.
The aroma has a strong clove scent to it along with some pepper, spices, yeasts, bubblegum and pale malt notes.
The taste is a bit maltier with some bubblegum, yeasts, cloves, pale malts and a mild caramel sweetness.
The palate is moderately weighted with some stronger carbonation. It's kind of crisp but this would be better if the carbonation was more subdued.
Even though the 2011 edition of Snowstorm is still my favorite, this is still pretty good and a solid Belgian-Style Golden ale overall. I would say this is worth picking up a sixer because even if it isn't perfect, it's still a great winter seasonal!
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Bell's Cherry Stout Review
Name: Bell's Cherry Stout
Since we are in the dead of winter, Bell's Brewery has released their winter seasonals and lucky for me I have them in my possession. The first one I'm gonna take a look at is their Cherry Stout. I have had one other cherry stout which was from New Glarus as part of their Thumbprint Series, so let's take a look shall we?
The beer pours a pitch black color with a reddish-brown head and no lacing.
The nose has a nice cherry tartness with some chocolate, licorice, roasted barley & malt notes to round things out. Almost reminds me of a chocolate covered cherry!
The flavor starts out with tart cherries with notes of dark chocolate, roasted barley and floral hops. The aftertaste is quite roasty, perhaps a little too much so.
The palate has a rather thick body and a syrupy texture. The carbonation is mild but it doesn't go particularly well with the overall body.
It's an interesting concept, but the flavor, while not terrible, is too roasty & imbalanced for my liking and the palate doesn't feel right. Needless to say, I wouldn't go out of my way to try it again if there are better options available.
Bell's Cherry Stout - 6.5/10
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Goose Island Beer Garden Millennium Park
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Learn more about upcoming beers, discover upcoming beer events & more.
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