Profile by Tom Becham
I’d been anxious to try a Goose Island beer. Any Goose Island beer. Until recently, they’d been almost completely unavailable in Southern California. The recent acquisition of Goose Island by AB-InBev may have something to do with their offerings now showing up on local shelves.
In any case, a bottle of Sofie recently caught my eye. The label states the beer is 80% Belgian Style Ale, 20% Belgian Style Ale aged in wine barrels with citrus peel, and that the beer is bottle-conditioned. Okay, so I knew before opening to expect a little funkiness from wild yeast or other bugs, and perhaps some oak flavors imparted from the barrel, along with the citrus. Kind of an odd mix one doesn’t find too often.
Upon pouring, I realized the beer looked something midway between a Belgian blond and pale. Yellow, with gold highlights that disappear when backlit. Hazy from the unfiltered character. Nice, bubbly but short-lived head.
The Goose Island website states this is a saison, but I didn’t get that from appearance or aroma, and only slightly by flavor.
The aroma of this beer has much less yeasty funkiness going on than one would expect, though it was still present and noticeable. There was also a pineapple jam quality to the aroma, combining the citrus and other fruity esters from the yeast.
The taste is what is truly distinctive about Sofie. Goose Island again claims this beer to have a champagne-like quality. Perhaps it does with aging, but this relatively new bottle didn’t approach that kind of flavor, really. Instead what I got was a fruity but slight maltiness up front. At mid-palate, the oak tannins and vanilla kicked in, with a counterpoint provided by the wild yeast. The finish was a slight citrus bite combined with a slight sweetness. In all, the overall impression was that of a Belgian blonde ale mixed with an Orange Muscat dessert wine. Not quite what Goose Island claims – or, no doubt, intended – but still very nice and worth your money if you know what to expect.