After talking about it for weeks, my beer drinking buddies John, Karen, Anne and I finally got together for what I hope will be the first of many beer tastings. All four of us have become big fans of craft beer and we decided to start local with a tasting of four Goose Island Belgian Ales. Bottles of Matilda, Pere Jacques, Sofie and Fleur were procured and we all gathered on Karen’s back deck last night to sample and compare. The evening was warm and the beer was cold–a perfect combination.
I’ve enjoyed many a Matilda in the past few months and have tried Sofie and Fleur in the past as well, but I’ve had a hard time choosing one favorite over the other so I was very interested to try them side-by-side. After trying all four, Matilda (a Belgian Style Pale Ale) remains my favorite. It’s described by Goose Island as having a “spicy yeast flavor” that’s “dry and quenching” and since I tend not to like the malty brews, this fits. I also find Matilda is a good choice for drinking solo or with food.
My second favorite was the Sofie, a champagne colored Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale, crisp and refreshing with notes of citrus and vanilla. The flavor and it’s lower alcohol content make it a good choice for summer. Leffe Blonde is a current favorite of mine (always on tap at The Grafton!) and Sofie put me in mind of that.
Matilda, Pere Jacques, Sofie and Fleur
Anne favors IPAs in general and John and Karen both like their stouts, so the three of them picked Pere Jacques (a Belgian Style Abbey Ale) as their favorite. I was in the minority, putting this strong flavored beer, described by Goose Island as “malty” and comparable to a vintage port as my least favorite.
That leaves the Fleur, another Belgian Style Pale Ale. With it’s hibiscus flavor and distinct red color, it’s aptly named. Initially, this beer underwhelmed most of us, which came as a surprise to me and Karen since we’d shared a big bottle last week and really liked it. It dawned on us it might have been that we were drinking it with a farm box dinner and sure enough, pairing it with the cheese, sausage and crackers we had on hand improved our enjoyment of Fleur.
Missing from our taste test was the Juliet, Goose Island’s Belgian Style Sour Ale. I’m already looking forward to trying it; “fermented with wild yeasts and aged in cabernet barrels with blackberries, Juliet is a tart, fruity, complex ale. Notes of wood, tannin, dark fruit and spice…” Though I’ve never had a sour ale, I’ll be surprised if I don’t like it.