Goose Island just released two new sour beers from their barrel-aging program. Gillian & Halia carry hefty price tags, but the juice is worth the squeeze.
2.5 years ago Goose Island tricked AB-InBev into producing 312, Honkers, and India Pale Ale for them. Having the flagship beers out of the way allowed the Chicago brewery to expand their creative offerings. They produced 5x as much Bourbon County Stout in 2012 as they did in 2011, which was welcome news for people like me who couldn’t get it even though I live less than 2 miles from the brewery.
That was just the tip of the iceberg. The and Fulton & Wood Series was introduced to allow groups of brewers to create whatever they wanted and put it on tap across the city. And finally, with the addition of Gillian and Halia, Goose Island’s famed Vintage Collection is up to 9 different beers.
Both new beers have a great story to tell and contain a mountain of fruit sourced from Illinois and Michigan. Gillian is based on an amuse bouche made by the wife of one of the Goose Island brewers. I’ve never eaten something and thought, “I should turn this into a beer,” let alone possessed the know-how to make it happen. That’s why they’re the brewers, and I’m the consumer. Otherwise we’d all end up drinking Sloppy Joe flavored beer.
Gillian is an effervescent and slightly tart Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale partially aged in wine barrels with 10,000 pounds of strawberries. If my farmer’s market memory serves me correctly that’s almost 7000 quarts of strawberries. Ridiculous! It’s also aged with 4,000 pounds of honey and white pepper, the latter of which was truly the difference maker. It rounded out the beer to perfection. This isn’t some pansy fruit beer either. Gillian weighs in at 9.5% ABV.
Halia is also a Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale, but it’s aged in wine barrels with 12,000 pounds of fresh peaches from Michigan. That might not be the millions needed to satisfy the Presidents of the United States of America, but I’d say 32,000 peaches is quite a few. Halia was created in memory of a peach-loving friend of a Goose Island brewer. The name actually means “remembrance of a loved one” in Hawaiian.
Halia is champagne-like and the tartness created by the wild yeast melds perfectly with the sweetness of the ripe peaches. They dialed back the booze back to a still impressive 7.5% ABV. This might be the best of the ‘Sisters’ wild-fermented, wine barrel aged collection, but it’s stiff competition.
The one downside to the massive amount of fruit, experimentation, and time necessary to create these beers is that the meter keeps running. Gillian will cost you $30 and Halia clocks in at $23. Just like the other two sisters in the collection, Juliet (blackberries, $25) and Lolita (raspberries, $20), these come in 750 ml corked bottles. They develop for up to five years in the bottle so you can take some time to get over your sticker shock once you own them.