The View from the Center

Goose Island Brewing’s Sofie

6.5% ABV

2/25/2011

Chicago’s Goose Island has branched out considerably, now offering us lucky Midwesterners a number of takes on classic continental ales. Sofie is their saison brew, and it’s a truly remarkable expression of a style that’s not terribly common. Brewed with a blend of Belgians – 80% unflavored, the other twenty aged in wine barrels with orange peel, this ale is a stunner.
 
The color is pale summer-wheat orange-golden, not transparent. The heavy carbonation here demands a very delicate pour, a frothy head of champagne-like bubbles establishes quickly and remains at length. The lace is hardy; looks like the tub after emptying! A:2.3
 
The nose carries a trace of the orange, lemon zest creeps in and a light earthy/yeasty background is faintly present. You’ve been transported to a country farmhouse in the old world. N: 2.3
 
The first quaff offers that tart, slightly sour but not at all unpleasant zing you’d expect from a proper Belgian. Nice malt, gentle hoppiness. The sipping then reveals a sweetening citrus – imagine if you’d just peeled a carbonated Clementine with less sugars. The fruit lingers on the palate along with those wonderful bubbles – soda pop was never this satisfying. Orange to lemon to – little Mexican limes? A spice that’s almost peppery? Sublime stuff. T: 2.4
 
Nice finish, hangs around just long enough. Some macros might’ve once claimed it, but this is the champagne of beers. The alcohol isn’t terribly off the charts here, which makes for a fine spring drink. F: 2.3
 
(A NOTE ON SCORING: I know some beer sites go with a 5-point system; other critics go with the ‘100’ measure. I like the idea of a perfect ‘10’ – I’m an old guy who remembers Bo Derek once upon a time – so that’s what we’re shooting for. You’ll note I’m breaking the beer down in four categories now for a more complete explanation of my method: Appearance (A), Nose (N), Taste (T) and Finish (F). It’s an idea totally ripped off from the genius behind ‘The Whiskey Bible.’ Each category is worth one-quarter of the total score.)

Ed’s score: 9.3 out of 10.
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Ed Wenck

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