Beer Review 0526: Goose Island Matilda Belgian-Style Pale 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.

Matilda is a Belgian-Style Pale Ale brewed with Super Styrian, Styrian Golding, and Sazz hops, and malted with 2-Row, Caramel, and candy sugar. The beer is 7% ABV (alcohol by volume) and only 26 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

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The pour produced a small, frothy and fizzy head that disappeared quickly. Color of the beer is golden-orange, and the body is very clear despite the bottle saying “contains live yeast.” I didn’t see any particles or sediment floating around, and the lacing was very minimal, leaving only a few sudsy bubbles stuck to the glass. Fairly typical for the style.

The aroma is nicely balanced, perhaps a bit too balanced; there’s sweet caramel malt up front, backed by a bready yeast with a dash of orange and herbal hops. There’s a slight spiciness here — but it doesn’t match the sweetness, which is dominant. As it warms, a bit of clove and bitter orange peel comes out. Pleasant.

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On the palate, Matilda is initially very sweet, bringing forth candied orange peel dipped in sugar and caramel. As it opens up, bready malt, still sweet, takes over before a touch of funk from the yeast cleans the palate and turns things somewhat musty. The finish is very dry, white wine-like, with bits of orange peel, light caramel, and a mild bitterness. This beer is medium-bodied, with a medium, foamy mouthfeel.

I was quite unimpressed with this beer, unfortunately. It’s decent enough, but very dry, and the alcohol seems to be a bit high for the flavors it contains. Filed away in the “decent, but not memorable” department. Glad I had it, but probably won’t return.

Goose Island Matilda Belgian-Style Pale Ale, 80 points. Price: $3.49 US for one 12 oz. bottle.

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