It was just prior to the time to punch in at work when a coworker asked me, “Did you ever try Honker’s Ale?” I told him that I didn’t, although I knew it was made by Goose Island in Chicago. He continued, “It’s pretty good.” This was the same guy who told me that Dragon’s Milk was “pretty good” as well. Now that beer blew me away. As did Pere Jacques, a wonderful drinking experience in a bottle, also by Goose Island.
My wife and I were on our way home from shopping at the Louis Joliet Mall (or Louie Mall as it’s referred to locally) in the nearby city of the same name. Once we entered back in Morris, I hung a right and pulled into the lot and parked right in front of the highly acclaimed, world renowned Morris Beer Store to get review beverages. There was a hefty line at the checkout counter, so I just snuck around to the craft beer shelf and began my search.
I found the Goose Island section but had to slow down my scanning because some of the sixpacks were turned sideways to make more room for more beer down the line. Finally I struck upon it. Goose Island Honker’s Ale. I grabbed it and continued my search for a Saturday night candidate.
No exotic beers or Trappist Ales or expensive concoctions this time, just some good ol’, made in the USA beer. I assumed my position at the end of the line and began a banter with one of the employees about beer and past reviews. I was so engrossed in the conversation that I miscounted the bills I gave the young lady at the register and had to be snapped out of it to make things square.
Saturday was absolutely beautiful. The weather broke and we were hovering at about 70. I took the opportunity to assess winter interior damage in the Manly Garage. My kids had made it their automotive workshop during the cold months and they left it a mess. Discipline will meted out by a firm hand. I have to move back in soon.
Beer time finally rolled around and I was eager to dive into one of those Honkers. I was hoping for a good, slightly sweet, malty tasting quaff. Then I read the Honker’s label:
Inspired by visits to English country pubs, Honker’s Ale is the perfect blend of hops and malt. A smooth, drinkable English-Style Bitter for drinkers who want more from their beer.
What did I get myself into? I’ve never heard of English-style bitter before and I can guess only one thing… hops. Wait a minnit… That Red Seal Ale I had was probably along these lines, as well as the Black Dog Ale from before that. The curtain is whisked aside. A realization sets in. AHA! (With furrowed brow) So let’s see just how bitter this honker really is.
I grabbed a pint glass.
The beer poured with a nice reddish-orange color and a foamy head of about an inch. There wasn’t a lot of carbonation bubbles present but a representative group of a few still put on a good show. There was hardly any aroma, maybe a little bit of something but not enough to put a name to.
The first sip had a pretty good taste, a bit of sweet up front and a bit of bitter going down. The middle was a bit lacking in full flavor. Half way into the glass the hop tones started playing a little louder. The bitterness was subdued in that it didn’t remind me of a mouthful of rubber bands like an IPA would, but the hoppiness is pronounced at the swallow.
As the tasting continued my tongue became used to the incoming visitors. The bitterness was accepted like a favorite uncle who stays with you a couple of days, but doesn’t use deodorant. The overall flavor of the beer is mild. It’s not really a full bodied ale and it’s not a pale ale. It falls nicely on the ale side of the scale but still with the little spank of bitter at the end.
Personally, I never knew of a style of beer referred to as an English Bitter. Now I know. It’s the hops that give it the moniker obviously. The beer tasted good enough to put me in the mind of perhaps buying it again at another time in the future and recommending it to friends as “pretty good.” But at $8.49 for the sixer, it would be hard not to get something else with a little more taste and a little less bitter for the same price.
Taste: B- > A V6 that backfires when you get off the throttle.
Smoothness: B- > Garden loam with a bit of clay.
Drinkability: B- > Yes, I’ll have another but then that’s it.
Bang for the buck: C > A little steep for what you get.
Wifely comments: >(You wanna try some of this Honker’s Ale? They say on the label it’s an English-style bitter.)
Oh, so they admit it’s bitter. No thanks.