Goose Island Sofie: You say Sofie, I say Sophie

Next up, Goose Island Sofie:

Sophie Sofie

Around beerbecue HQ, and at other households across the land with kids in the throes of gum vs. tooth warfare, the name Sofie isn’t usually associated with Goose Island’s Farmhouse-style ale. Here, thoughts turn to the much-hyped, $25 teething toy: Sophie the Giraffe. Yes, $25. Most likely, as babies, you and I were handed a spatula to chew on (or some other such household item) but only as a backup to having rum rubbed on our gums.

But apparently the little monsters love Sophie’s velvety texture, handily-chewable appendages, and squeezable squeakability. Unfortunately, as your child bludgeons your head with Sophie while you carry them to the car, the rhythmic squeaking sounds distinctly like well-deserved giraffe laughter for shelling out $25 for a glorified doggy chew toy.

We got our Sophie second-hand. Good thing. While 2.0 periodically enjoys the squeak as she pummels Sophie against the ground, her preferred comfort item is a 99 cent unopened tube of grape ChapStick. She carries it everywhere. She beats the hell out of Lego men with it for 15 minutes at a time. She chews on it. She even holds it while playing with other toys. Hell, she’s taking a nap with it as I type.

Seen here clutching the chapstick while beating the fridge with a basting brush.

Seen here clutching the chapstick while beating the fridge with a basting brush.

Sofie is a Belgian Style Farmhouse ale fermented with wild yeasts and aged in wine barrels with orange peel. It pours a slightly hazy straw with some orange highlights. It’s got a nice, whipped-looking, white head that eventually recedes to leave a ring and a Pangean supercontinent patch of head in the middle. It smells great…like a flower arrangement that’s one day away from starting to look and smell janky, along with some candied orange peel and a pineapple so ripe that the Haybag would ask me if it’s OK to still eat (of course it is, dammit). The taste follows the fruit in the nose, with the addition of some peppery spice, more orange, and a little vinous quality. The finish, while I wouldn’t call it sweet and flabby, is definitely not as dry and snappy as I’d like from a saison. By the end of the glass, it’s a little heavy-handed. But maybe that’s to be expected with lower carbonation and the wine barrel aging.

The Haybag: Great, now all I can taste is rotten flowers. Thanks. Why’d you give me a rotting flower beer?

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Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale: The 312 (mis)representin’ by way of the 315

Next up, Goose Island’s 312 Urban Wheat:

Beerbecue doesn’t like to harshen the mellow by getting all uptight about beer style guidelines, but I don’t know what in the name of Conway Twitty this beer is. And the label is about as useless as hen crap on a pump handle. It claims to represent the 312 (Chicago), but it’s made in the 315 (Anheuser-Busch plant in Baldwinsville, NY). And it says it’s an Urban Wheat Ale (because apparently wheat ales are now classified by population density), but I don’t know what the hell that means.

On closer inspection of Goose Island’s website, I learn that the wheat they speak of is torrefied wheat. My only previous encounter with torrefied wheat has been with the sugary, puffed-wheat cereal peddled by a frog named Dig’em, who is so whacked out on high fructose corn syrup that he literally flies about giving impressionable youths high-fives for cajoling their parents into buying Honey Smacks. Although, he still beats Cliffy the Clown:

Damn, Cliffy, you scary.

But apparently torrefied wheat is a common adjunct used for improved head retention and body. And because it’s heated, puffed, and pregelatinized, that means it’s cocked, locked, and ready to rock the mash. Also, it can apparently be used in lieu of raw wheat.

So, since 312 doesn’t use any wheat malt, it’s probably not a Hefe or an American Wheat. Maybe since torrefied wheat can be used in lieu of raw wheat, it’s a boring version of a Belgian-style Wit or Wheat (sans any spicyness or yummies like orange peel, coriander, or interesting yeast). Or maybe it’s not a “wheat beer” at all, and it’s actually a freaking English-Style Summer Ale, as it was judged at the GABF. Aaargh! The lies! I never would have bought a 6 pack of English-Style Summer Ale! Although maybe you can’t blame them…you try marketing an English-Style Summer Ale year-round in Chicago.

It pours a hazy straw color, with a head that shows promise (after all, it is a “wheat beer”). Alas, the head dwindles quickly. More lies! The smell is very faint: Slight wheatiness, a hint of lemon, and a bit of grassiness. The taste is quite faint as well: Scant citrus and maybe an ever-so-slight spiciness. The finish is clean with a barely-there bitterness. The carbonation is adequate, but 312 isn’t creamy as you would often expect when you plunk down coin for a “wheat beer”. And when it warms and the carbonation wanes, more sweetness comes out along with some pineapple flavor.

Overall, it’s an unobtrusive, but unremarkable, beer. I resent it for its lies and for exposing my public school education’s failure to prepare me with enough adjectives to express “light” with adequate elegant variance.

The Haybag: I am unimpressed by this beer. You’re fired for picking it out.