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Goose Island's 'Sisters' Line Grows To Four

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Oct 25, 2013 7:10PM

The new beers in Goose Island's wild-fermented fruit ales line: Halia (left) and Gillian. (Photo credit: Chicagoist/Chuck Sudo)

Sure, Goose Island lost a few customers after being bought by Anheuser-Busch/InBev two years ago. That just means more beer for those who stuck around. Production of the brewery’s flagship beers at A-B’s facilities across the country has allowed Goose Island to focus on expanding their other beer lines like the “Fulton and Wood” experimental series their Belgian-style ales and the Bourbon County Stout line.

Now Goose Island has added two beers to their famed “Sisters” series of wild-fermented, wine barrel-aged fruit ales. Halia and Gillian join Juliet, Lolita and Madam Rose and are welcome additions to the series. (Although Madame Rose hasn't been seen since 2011.)

Senior brewer Keith Gabbert created the recipe for Gillian in 2009, although back then it was called Scully and wasn’t barrel aged. Inspired by a strawberry and white pepper sorbet Gabbert’s wife served at catering functions, Gillian is first fermented in stainless steel and some of the batch is then transferred to red wine barrels with between 40 and 50 pounds of unsterilized strawberries and Brettanomyces bruxellensis yeast culture. Two months after entering the barrels Goose Island adds honey, white pepper and champagne yeast to the mix. Three months later Gillian is ready for drinking and what you’ll find on the palate are the earthy notes of a farmhouse ale along with hints of bright spice from the pepper and a light layer of sweetness and color from the strawberries and honey.

Tasty as Gillian is, Halia is the better of the two new offerings. A wonderfully sour farmhouse ale, brewer and head cellar man Brian Taylor created the beer in honor of a friend who passed away from cancer three years ago. (Translated from Hawaiian, Halia means “in remembrance of a loved one.”)

Taylor added peaches to the base recipe for Sofie and added extra amounts of wheat malt to aid its transformation once the beer touched the oak barrels used to age Juliet. After primary fermentation in stainless steel, Taylor added Michigan white peaches and Brettanomyces claussenii yeast culture, transferred the mix to sauvignon blanc and chardonnay barrels and let it age for close to a year.

Halia has an effervescence that tickles the palate not unlike champagne, pours a soft hazy straw color and the peaches come through loud and clear among all that tartness.

Both Halia and Gillian can be enjoyed immediately but they can also be cellared for up to five years as the live yeast allows for further fermentation in the bottle. But do expect your wallet to take a hit: Gillian can cost up to $30 a bottle.

For more detailed profiles of these beers check out Philip Montoro's review of Gillian in the Reader and Karl Klockars' review of Halia at Time Out Chicago.