What do you do when your favourite hockey player gets traded to your most-hated rival team? That’s how many craft-beer fans feel when a respected craft brewery is bought by one of the big corporate brewers—a trend that has been on the increase lately. A mixture of emotions is natural.
That is how I feel about Goose Island Brewing (among others) these days. Goose Island started as a single brewpub in 1988 and opened a full brewery in 1995. The company quickly became one of the most respected craft breweries in the US, especially for its IPA and specialty beers, including Matilda and Sofie.
However, Goose Island was purchased by Anheuser-Busch in 2010, a move that has seen its distribution increase significantly—including recently to Alberta. I had a chance to experience the Goose IPA once or twice in the past when travelling and recall it was a well-brewed, drinkable East Coast-style IPA. East Coast IPAs are a bit fuller in body, a bit sweeter and not quite as strongly citrusy in their hop profile as the more famous (yet younger) West Coast style.
So naturally I had to try a bottle when it hit Alberta. Would it have changed due to its new overlords?
The Goose Island IPA pours pale orange with a tight white head and decent lacing. It has a bit of haze, which is surprising. The aroma gives off a soft grassy and pine-hop aroma, with some sweet toffee malt, bits of honey and pine to complement.
The front of the sip starts with a nice biscuit and toffee malt, some honey and light fruitiness to accent. The hops build slowly, creating a strong pine flavour. The bitterness doesn’t get too big, staying in line with the malt base but becoming more prominent near the back. The linger is big pine and resin. The bitterness would seem bigger, but the finish has a noted sweetness to it. The caramel and toffee doesn’t dissipate and instead makes their way through the beer, creating a sense of balance.
Goose IPA used to be a guidepost for East Coast IPA. By today’s standards it might seem a bit boring and not bitter enough, but for its time it was a substantial beer. It had been a long time since I had one, so I can’t fully trust my memory, but it seems largely the same. Brewing standards remain high and it nicely balances malt and hops.
Mostly it is a nice-tasting beer. I wouldn’t necessarily grab one everyday, but I can appreciate the quality and respect that Goose Island is still trying to do what it has always done, even with its new bosses counting the beans. V
Goose Island Goose IPA
$22.50 for six-pack
Jason Foster is the creator of onbeer.org, a website devoted to news and views on beer from the prairies and beyond.