Beer Review 0361: Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale

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Goose Island recently began distribution here in North Carolina, so we’re taking a look at all three beers they’ve sent this way — this is the third beer; the first, India Pale Ale, scored 86 points, and the second, Honker’s Ale, earned 79 points.

Owned by ABInbev, the world’s largest brewer, Goose Island opened in Chicago, Illinois, in 1988. John Hall was the visionary, and he was inspired by the beers he had tasted in travels across the country. He started the brewery with the notion that drinkers wanted to see their beer being made, so Goose Island began life as a brewpub. In 1995, a dedicated facility was built with a bottling plant to keep up with demand.

Now, what you won’t find on the Goose Island website is that they sold 58% of the company to ABInbev in 2011, with the other 42% slated to be sold as well. The reason why North Carolina and many other states started getting Goose Island brews is because of ABInbev’s gigantic distribution arm…and, you’ll notice that they are brewing Goose Island’s classic lineup themselves. Think this comes from Chicago? Guess again. Try Baldwinsville, New York — it says so right on the label.

312 Urban Wheat Ale is inspired by the city of Chicago (area code 312) and is brewed with Cascade hops. This beer comes in at just 4.2% ABV (alcohol by volume), and has 18 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

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The pour ushered a small, frothy, and fast diminishing head. The color of the beer was pale straw yellow, with a cloudy body. Although clouded, the drink was still translucent and didn’t feature any significant particles or sediment. Before pouring, I turned the bottle upside down a couple of times to distribute the small yeast cake that was sitting on the bottom of the bottle. Lacing was good, leaving behind creamy sheets — much better than I anticipated.

On the nose, your typical Wheat Ale is living here — lots of grain with a dab of orange peel and a short suggestion of coriander. There’s not much else to be had. 312 is definitely one of the more “beery” smelling craft brews, with “beery” meaning “macro lager.”

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The taste follows a similar pattern. Tons of grain with a hint of orange peel and some lemon for a bit of variety. The finish is very clean, unoffensive and easy, with a lot of wheat and a minor fruity note. A low bitterness serves to prepare the palate for another sip. Light-bodied with a light texture, this is a beer itching for a hot summer day.

312 is your basic wheat beer that refreshes more than challenges. Flavor seekers, turn away; but if you want a decent, affordable, easy drink that quenches the thirst, you can drink plenty of this — just do it as cold as you can. More than twenty minutes in the glass, and you start to experience some off-flavors. Beer can be funky like that, sometimes.

Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale, 75 points. Price: $1.79 US for one twelve ounce bottle.

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