The first beer I ever had from Goose Island was the Honker’s Ale. Because of this (and because of the distinctive goose head tap handle), I tend to think of the Honker’s Ale as Goose Island’s calling card. Realistically, I think more people actually prefer the 312, but, well, lots of people like wheat beers.
If you’re ever watching a show or a movie filmed in England, populated by English actors or written by English authors, during which the characters take themselves to a pub, they will often ask for a pint of bitters. This beer is an example of what they’d receive (or what you’d receive were you to wander into an English pub and order a pint of bitters – I suspect that if you did that Stateside, most bartenders would just look at you funny).
Let me say at this point that for a beer referred to as “bitters,” this is not a particularly bitter beer – compared to the hops extravanganzas so prominent in American brewing right now, this stuff is positively malty. The scent is medium malts (caramel, biscuit, that sort of thing) with a touch of a hoppy bitterness floating on top – the bitterness is noticeable, but only if you’re looking for it. Otherwise, malts.
Taste-wise, this is a nice mishmash of malts (which sort of remind me of Oktoberfest malt profiles) with a little bit of sweetness and some slightly bitter herbal/grassy hops. The hops are sharp – they feel biting on the tongue moreso than they provide any sort of bitter flavor. The aftertaste is faint and lightly bitter, gone in a few seconds.
Body-wise, this is medium, with what my notes incomprehensibly describe as a “slight hint of caramelly sort of something in the body if that makes sense to anyone but me.”* To translate as best I can, the body feels overall fairly light, but there’s a hint of something that seems thicker and which also reminds me of the texture of liquid caramel (like a caramel sauce). This is all simultaneous, making the body of the beer one of its most interesting qualities in my book. I’m pretty much incapable of describing it in a not-nonsensical way.
It’s a nicely balanced ale, very easy to drink. The fact that it’s fairly low in alcohol also makes it a great session beer – it’s totally within reason to be able to throw back three of these during the course of an evening and not be too far gone. (I think, anyway. I haven’t actually tried drinking three of these in one sitting.)
*not that this makes all that much sense to even me at this point. Note to self: take moar bettar notes!