Beer Review: King Henry [Goose Island Beer Company]

King Henry [Goose Island Beer Company]

King Henry
Brewery: Goose Island Beer Company (Chicago, Illinois)
Style: English Barleywine
ABV: 13.4%

I had a pretty good Christmas last year, especially when it came to beer. I received a four-pack of one of my all-time favorite beers, Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout, as a gift (review to come later), as well as Goose Island’s new and exclusive King Henry. The latter was a very limited release, with its bottles selling out quickly all over the city. Goose Island has a knack for delivering unbelievably delicious bourbon-aged beers, and everyone wanted to get a taste of their latest.

The 2011 release of King Henry utilized barrels that were formerly used for Bourbon County Rare, and its final ABV clocks in at an impressive 13.4%. This barleywine is not for the faint of heart.

When poured into a glass, King Henry has a dark brown (nearly black) appearance. Its aroma brings notes of vanilla with a major bourbon kick. The bourbon is the first thing that is noticed upon tasting, and then hints of vanilla and caramel start pushing through. Ultimately, this culminates in a sweet aftertaste not unlike brown sugar.

King Henry is a remarkably smooth barleywine that any beer aficionado will love. It is a doozy, but it easily ranks as one of Goose Island’s best. King Henry will surely be hard to find in the very near future, so if you are in the Chicagoland area you should really make it a point to seek it out. This is one of the best beers I have had in a while.


Pepe Nero [Goose Island Brewery]

Pepe Nero [Goose Island Brewery]

Pepe Nero
Brewery: Goose Island (Chicago, Illinois)
Style: Saison / Farmhouse Ale
ABV: 6.0%

Pepe Nero is one of Goose Island’s latest beers, and it is one I was initially intrigued about due to its use of black peppercorns in the brewing process. Labeled as a “Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale” by the brewery, this is certainly a unique beer unlikely any other that I have had.

When poured into a glass, the beer has a dark color similar to a cola. Its spicy smell gives hints of what’s to come. It is hard to place all of the different tastes that come out of Pepe Nero. It is spicy, a tad sweet, and definitely roasty. The peppercorn is transparent at first, but it quickly takes over and leaves a lingering presence on the tongue.

This is really a funky beer that has a lot going on at once. While certainly interesting and worth trying, I wouldn’t say Pepe Nero is one of Goose Island’s best offerings. The peppercorn gives it a nice kick, but it doesn’t propel the beer to the next level of quality. If you like peppery tastes and are willing to give an experiment like this a try, it might be in your best interest to pick up a bomber of this. Pepe Nero is good, and I am glad I tried it, but I will likely pass on it in the future in lieu of some of the brewery’s more superior brews.


Mild Winter [Goose Island Brewery]

Goose Island - Mild Winter [rye beer]

Goose Island Mild Winter
Brewery: Goose Island Brewery [Chicago, IL]
Style: Rye Beer
ABV: 5.6%

Mild Winter is Chicago brewery Goose Island’s main winter brew. As a resident of Chicago, I have had many of GI’s beers, most of which have been quite good. This seasonal offering is no exception.

The Mild Winter’s claim to fame is its use of rye as a main ingredient, and this sets it apart from most other seasonal ales. This beer is also more, well, mild than others released around this time. While many companies focus on stouts and/or beers loaded with holiday spices, Goose Island labels this one as an “American Mild Ale.” While I am rather fond of darker beers, this is a welcome change of pace during these cold months.

When poured into a glass, Mild Winter has a toffee appearance. Its taste brings roasted malts to the forefront, with rye obviously noteable as well. It goes down smooth — it would be easy to have a few of these in one sitting.

I like this beer; it is the right balance of not-too-strong and not-too-light. If you’re looking for a good brew for these last few cold months of the season but don’t want to go for the traditional stout, you could do worse than Goose Island’s Mild Winter.