Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Goose Island Beer Company - Halia

Last year, one of the most prominent breweries in Chicago, Goose Island, was purchased by the corporation who must not be named (AKA Anheuser Busch InBev). At the time, I was really disappointed. And in a way, it still disappoints me. It's supposed to be us (craft breweries) against them (the giant beer corporations that sell horse piss with clever marketing). But (so far...) it turns out that everything wasn't so terrible about this acquisition. By selling the brand to You Know Who, it enabled Goose Island to move their mass production beers (like Honker's Ale, 312 Urban Wheat and their India Pale Ale) to other facilities, leaving them space to focus on more interesting beers in their own facility. This also allows them the room to make a larger quantity of their special release beers, which means that beers like Halia, one of Goose Islands famed "sisters" beers, are now showing up in San Diego. Score!

Halia is part of the Four Sisters series of beers that Goose Island makes (the others being Juliet, Lolita and Gillian). These beers are all fruit beers, with Halia being aged in white wine barrels with peaches and Brettanomyces. If I could have picked one of the sister beers to try, it probably would have been Halia, and that's just what happened to show up first out here.

Halia shows up in one of the most elegant looking bottles you will ever see and pours a slightly hazed straw color with a one finger white head that fizzes away like 7-Up. It disappears pretty quickly, leaving behind a white ring around the surface and some clingy lace trickling down the glass with each sip. Light brett notes are immediately evident in the smell, along with some golden delicious apple, spicy yeast, light oak, sweet white wine, leather and just a touch of underripe white peach. This beer smells special.

The taste opens up with some of the light brett notes I was picking up in the smell. It's not a full on funk bomb, but you can definitely taste that brett. This couples with some sweeter peach and juicy green apple flavors, which actually turns out to be a great pairing. Then some white wine, lemon and underripe pear flavors show up and take us through the finish. The beer is crisp without feeling cider-y and nearly perfectly carbonated. The sweetness in the flavor is broken up just enough by the carbonation without the beer ever feeling too fizzy.

Overall, this beer just works. I wouldn't put this in the upper echelon of sour/farmhouse beers just yet, but if you gave this a few years (I probably should have, but didn't have the patience), this could really develop into something special. I still don't agree with Goose Island selling out to the dark side, but if beers like this keep coming my way, I just might forget about it.

Final Grade: A-

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 131

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