51. Goose Island Honker’s Ale

It’s always interesting to experience American attempts to replicate classic British beer styles. This time we’ll be trying Chicago-based Goose Island Brewery’s interpretation of a Best Bitter.

I wasn’t entirely convinced by Goose Island’s IPA when I reviewed it a few weeks ago, finding it far too sweet and cloying. Let’s see how their endearingly-named Honker’s Ale compares.


Goose Island Honker’s Ale pours a lovely warm bronze colour with a generous off-white head, and there’s an enticingly fragrant malty aroma.

The beer is very full-bodied, and packed full of flavour: there are big biscuity malts, tart fruit and an intriguing marzipan note.

Unfortunately, that sweetness that plagued the IPA is back. Although Honker’s Ale isn’t quite as tooth-janglingly sugary as the IPA, it’s still too sweet. Bitter is named that way for a reason, and while there is a bitter finish here, it’s well hidden under a coating of sugar.

This is a genuinely good beer that’s let down by what seems to be a pandering to the American palate. That’s a real shame, because I’m sure that the kind of drinkers that would buy Goose Island’s beers have far more sophisticated tastes than mainstream beer swillers.

Maybe I’m wrong—Goose Island are currently owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, the giant international corporation responsible for Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona, after all—but I don’t think so.

Facts and Figures

Brewery: Goose Island Beer Co., Chicago, IL
Style: Best Bitters
Strength: 4.3% ABV
Found at: Bossman Wines, Lordship Lane, London SE22
Serving: 355ml Bottle

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