The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Chicagoist's "Beer of the Week": Goose Island "Imperial Brown Goose"

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Jan 3, 2007 5:00PM


Three days into the new year and already it's time for "BotW?" Well, duty does call. And, while folks everywhere are already breaking their resolutions, some of you probably within moments of the final strains of "Auld Lang Syne" fading into the ether, we made a couple of promises that we're certain to keep. Think "52 beers in 52 weeks" is doable?

Chicagoist does, and don't bet against us, either. Considering the amount of beer we taste, we should be able to reach that goal by the end of next week. There's no better way to kick it off than with a selection from Chicago's hometown brewery. A qualifier: we're not the most enthusiastic fans of brown ales. It's probably because we were weaned at fifteen a young age on that Newcastle teat, which is way too sweet for our palate. Over the years, we've settled on some better options, like Bell's Best Brown or Sam Smith's, but they aren't anything we'd immediately run toward.

With the limited availability of Goose Island's "Imperial Brown Goose" — only 180 cases were released in November — the alchemists of Fulton Street have upped the ante. Imperial Brown Goose is a blended, barrel-aged beer — a fitting selection for a brewery that leads the way in barrel aging. They've taken batches of their 2004 and 2005 Christmas ales, which already vary in flavor due to different hop combinations, and aged them in two different kinds of bourbon barrels — four-year-old Jim Beam casks and twelve-year-old Heaven Hill barrels. Then they blended the beer and bottled it in crowned 750-milliliter bottles, with the intent that buyers cellar the beer, like a wine.

It's like they read our mind.

It isn't such a crazy idea. Look to the increasing popularity of blended wines as proof of that, that specialty isn't just for meritage anymore. Also, blended scotches have long been the gateway to the rarefied air of single malts. We managed to get our hands on two bottles of Imperial Brown Goose. One we have in our in-wall bar at home, waiting for the inspiration to open it. The other we opened yesterday, for good luck in the coming year, along with our champagne (Joseph Perrrier brut, a change from our usual G.H. Mumm extra dry), black-eyed pea hummus, and some smoked camembert cheese (for pairing with the beer, not for luck). The blending experiment shows signs of succes. We can taste the sweetness of the beer's malt, but also pick up the dark sugars, vanilla, and spice notes of the bourbon barrel's charred oak, along with a lingering dry finish. The head on this beer is one that dissipates quickly, with near-nonexistent lacing on the glass. Although this beer is made for further aging, those of you who just have to drink it now will be quite content with the flavor and hearty 8 percent alcohol content.

Chicagoist is coming into the new year with a lot of focus and energy, and we ensure fans of the "BotW" series to apply a fair amount in this direction. We don't know what we'll be selecting on a week-to-week basis, but we do promise a hell of a ride along the way. A sip of Goose Island's "Imperial Brown Goose" is like being shot out of a cannon at the beginning of the journey, and it is Chicagoist's first "Beer of the Week" for 2007.