Beer Review 0520: Goose Island Sofie Farmhouse Ale

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Goose Island (Chicago, Illinois) recently began distribution here in North Carolina, and likely your neck of the woods, too. But here’s the rub: Goose Island is owned by ABInbev, the multinational brewing giant that produces Budweiser, Corona, and Stella Artois. With all those billions of dollars, ABInbev now produces many of Goose Island’s lower alcohol content beers themselves, and uses their massive distribution arm to get those bottles in as many markets as possible.

After seven months of sending NC their “classic” series of beers, Goose Island have finally began distributing their “vintage” line in the state, which are all offerings made at the Chicago brewery, not in an ABInbev-owned facility. Four beers in the vintage lineup have made their way to my neck of the woods, and I’ll be looking at one each Monday for the next four weeks. (Click this tag to see the other reviews from the vintage line: goose island vintage)

Celebrating 25 years in 2013, John Hall was the Goose 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. The sale to ABInbev happened in 2011, with 58% of the company being immediately sold, with the remaining 42% still slated to be purchased.

Sofie is a blended beer, containing 80% Belgian-style Ale and 20% Belgian-style Ale aged in wine barrels with orange peel. The beer is fermented with wild yeasts and comes in at 6.5% ABV (alcohol by volume) with just 20 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). Goose Island targets Champagne drinkers with this beer, and says it can hold up to five years of cellaring. Sofie is a year-round release, available in four-packs.

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This beer pours an average size, frothy and foamy head that is bright white in color and lasting. The beer is a pale straw color that is slightly cloudy; the bottle had yeast dregs, but they weren’t caked on the bottom. Even with the dregs poured in, the beer remained translucent, and there were no particles and sediment floating in the liquid. Lacing was decent, leaving behind patchy suds; no solid sheets.

On the nose, this is a beautifully balanced beer. There’s lots of grain, wheat, and bready notes that mix with doughy and earthen yeast and a touch of funk. You get the orange peel from the barrels as well as some oranges from the hops, as well as lemon and an herbal hit. It’s slightly vinous from the barrel aging. Very nice and inviting.

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The taste presents a ton of wheat and orange peel, which turns into a slightly tart lemon while keeping the baseline of grain. Sofie is bready and has just a hint of funky yeast to her; add in some sweet, fruity white wine character and a crispy, dry finish, and you’ve got quite an interesting combination of flavors. I found the beer to be light-bodied, with a thin, creamy, drying mouthfeel. Carbonation looked like it would be high (you can see bubbles zooming to the top of the beer throughout sipping) but it’s actually soft, adding to the almost silky mouthfeel.

What we have here is a very nice, refreshing, easy drinking beer with enough solid flavors to keep even the most experienced of palates interested. This is one of those rare beers that both experienced and non-experienced drinkers can enjoy and appreciate equally; two hearty thumbs-up from me, and I’m looking forward to enjoying more soon.

Goose Island Sofie Farmhouse Ale, 93 points. Price: $3.49 US for one 12 oz. bottle.

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