Goose Island Brewery, located in the great city of Chicago, cannot properly be called a microbrewery, because it is just too popular. But in terms of craft beer, and very special, interesting beers, it certainly acts like a microbrewery. Goose Island began as a brasserie (brewpub in American terms) in Chicago (in the Lincoln Park neighborhood) in 1988, called Clybourn after the train stop. Like all things Chicago, and the city itself, Goose Island is an unassuming brewery with some extremely special, delightful qualities. Carl Sandburg may have called Chicago the city of broad shoulders in honor of its working-class roots, but these days, Chicago is a secret mecca for gourmets and beer lovers.
Goose Island is a very, very large production, selling beer internationally. I am disappointed to hear that it will be bought out soon by Anheuser-Busch, that megalomaniacal enemy of craft beer everywhere. Goose Island produces some very special beers, and I also find it interesting that they make root beer and soda (!) along with their beer. From such a large operation, I would expect mass-produced, bad beers, but in reality, the brewery puts out some very special beverages. One such is Juliet. Goose Island Juliet (8.0% ABV) is in the Lambic tradition, which means it is a Belgian-style ale that is fermented with wild, local, environmental yeast. What makes this ale particularly special is that it is aged in wine barrels, and fermented with fresh blackberries.
Bottle: This is one elegant, classy bottle! Long and contoured like a Burgundy wine bottle, with brown glass to protect the contents from the sun, the label truly resembles a wine label. It is pale white, with the name Juliet in a light purple, script font. There is a cork, just like a wine bottle.
Pour: Like a red wine, this luscious beer pours a purple-amber, with hints of pink. There is moderate haze, and low carbonation, producing the thinnest of heads that quickly dissipates, leaving little to no lacing — this is characteristic of a Lambic.
Aroma: The aroma is breathtaking. A strong bouquet of tart raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries hits the nose first. The wine barrels impart a definitely-recognizable wine-oak element, as well as some mild earthiness. Because of the wild yeast, there is a barnyard funk that is light but present, which adds an exciting, wild element to the bouquet.
Flavor: The predominant flavor is fruit, especially berries and dark currants. This gives way to a natural, wild sour element that is pleasing and exotic. Then, the oak of the aging barrels hits your taste buds with woody earthiness. A hint of dry red wine massages your tongue, finishing with a resurgence of the sourness.
Mouthfeel: Like most high-quality Lambic beer, the mouthfeel is tart, crisp, and refreshing, with low carbonation and a strong sour palate.
Structure: The structure is thin but very well balanced. This beer is aged in wine barrels, and I have no doubt but that it could be bottle-aged for a few more years by the consumer in a cool cellar.
Food Pairing: Such a complex, structured beer would stand up to strongly-flavored French cuisine, such as magret de canard with a red wine reduction sauce, or even a hearty, earthy, peasant cassoulet.
Overall Rating Out of 5 Possible Beer Mugs: