I tell ya. I ride the fence on ESB (Extra Special/Strong Bitter) more than any other beer style on the books. A beer friend of mine reminded me of my first ESB by Red Hook years ago. And I did quite enjoy it, many many times, as I do recall. But since then, I have been consistently underwhelmed by the style. To be frank, I have found them often unbalanced, lacking profile for my aroma hungry nose, and troubling to classify across the board. But I never give up, and I am always ready to be proven wrong and to rediscover a style. So when Goose Island's Harvest Ale came across my "desk", I knew I needed to give it another shot.
Now, despite what you might think of Goose Island and their "sell-out" to InBev, I do firmly believe in judging a beer on its character rather than where it comes from. It's the only way to be fair. If Miller-Coors made the greatest beer on planet Earth, I would say so. Although don't hold your breath on that one. And like it or not, Goose Island consistently makes very balanced, well made beers. So let's take a look:
Goose Island Harvest Ale, 5.5% ABV:While this bottle instructs me to drink this ESB in a Goose Island Willi Glass, I don't have one, so I split it between my trusty tulip glass and a Goose Island issue tasting glass. (I heartily promote the use of a tulip glass in tasting almost any beer, because it allows you to swirl and sniff up all of the aromas a beer has to offer.)
Copper color with subtle aromas of malt, spice, pepper, toffee, and sweet citrus hops. With a similar restraint in the palate and a fairly low ABV, this beer makes for an easy drinker. To that end, I would recommend pairing with simple dishes and nutty cheeses that won't overwhelm the flavor profile.
So, do I like ESB's? Well, the jury is still out, and will definitely require more research (darn.) But if you are looking for a easy going beer to drink on football days and bbq'ing with friends, then this just might be your style.
Until next time,
Keep trying new styles and as always, Drink Craft Beer!!!