I’m a fan of Goose Island‘s Belgian-style ales—”the ladies,” Sofie, Matilda, Gillian, Lolita, Juliet—straight off the shelf. Generally, they’re expressive and lovely, wonderful to pair with food or drink alone. But leave these beers to cellar for years and they transform in complex ways, in some cases, becoming almost unrecognizable from their younger selves. (Goose Island’s brewmaster Brett Porter agrees.) As warm weather dreams breezed through my head this week, I pulled three 2010-2011 Goose Island Belgians from our cellar to see how a Brett-spiked Belgian pale ale (Matilda), a saison (Sofie) and a Belgian pale ale with hibiscus and kombucha (Fleur) would fare this spring.
If you’ve had Matilda fresh from the tap or bottle, you may wonder if you’re even drinking the same beer five years later. She reads almost like a dubbel now, with caramel and raisin aromas leading the charge. The super smooth sip is a cohesive package of toffee, dark fruit (especially black-red cherry), with a late milk chocolate note. Yes, I swear this is Matilda I’m talking about.
One of my favorite Goose Island beers got funky after four years in our cellar. Honeydew, green grapes and light green apple tartness fill the nose, hinting at the still-bright sip to come. Pink peppercorn spice has quieted down over the years, letting developed funk come to the fore. Sofie tastes aged but not old; carbonation is surprisingly zippy and fruit-lined tartness wraps the swallow up cleanly.
This vintage was Fleur’s last bottling, so I was glad to see she’s still drinking well. Aromas are no longer floral; they’re now vinous, like sniffing a light pinot noir. The sip is tart and unified, with a touch of banana that’s not unpleasant, all of it lifted by still-strong carbonation. The hibiscus and kombucha (fermented tea) aren’t perceptible anymore; instead, it’s all about what the yeast has done over time. If you’re hanging on to one of these bottles, you’re in for a treat.