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Rating: 4.3/5 (9 votes cast)

Beer Profile

  • Brewery: Goose Island Beer Company
  • Website:
  • Country: United States
  • State: Illinois
  • Style: English Bitter (ESB) / Pale Ale
  • Malts:
  • Hops:
  • ABV:
  • IBUs:
  • Tasting Notes:
  • Preferred Glass:
  • Food Pairing:
  • PHM Grade: A

Goose Island Honker’s Ale

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If any beer has to be dubbed Goose Island’s “flagship” brew, Honker’s Ale takes the cake in my opinion. Perhaps it’s not quite as widely respected as their India Pale Ale…but then again, just about every American craft brewery makes an IPA of some sort; not many are resting their laurels on a classic English bitter.

I’ve always admired Goose Island for their commitment to traditional English ale styles. And what they’ve created in Honker’s Ale is the definition of an instant classic. I poured yet another glass this afternoon alongside my lunch of grilled cheese, and it’s never tasted better. I’m not sure how long it took them to perfect the balance in this beer, but it really is, well…perfect. Caramel, roasted, and even some wheat malt coexist beautifully alongside Styrian Golding hops, and at any given point during a sip they’re all right there on your tongue. Nutty and earthy would be apt descriptions. Certainly the hop presence is enough to warrant it being called a “bitter”, and the smooth woodiness of Golding is upfront in the smell and taste. But 30 IBUs is hardly going to tie your tongue in knots. This beer isn’t about punching you in the face with flavor, it’s about pure satisfaction, glass after glass after glass. Having a beautiful reddish-gold color, mild carbonation, frothy head, and low ABV helps; but it’s the incredible smoothness and balance of flavors that really have to be tasted to believe. My glass has been empty for about 5 minutes, and already I’m regretting not having a couple more bottles waiting in the fridge. It seriously never gets old.

Apparently, English ales are a singular experience when casked and served in the traditional “real ale” style. I’m unsure whether Goose Island does this with any of their beers, but I plan on going to the brewpub sometime in the near future to find out. I can’t imagine Honker’s tasting any better than it already does…but I’m open to the possibility. Nevertheless, this is a go-to beer in pretty much any situation.

ABV: 4.2%

Grade: A

Goose Island Honker's Ale, 4.3 out of 5 based on 9 ratings
  1. Solid beer, solid grade, whole-heartedly agree!

    Tom — April 15th, 2010, 1:04 PM
  2. Well done. This is a true go-to beer with a variety of flavors and complexity. Perfect for any situation. I could go on and on.

    Matt — April 15th, 2010, 1:19 PM
  3. For being a Chicago-ish resident, I’m ashamed to say how few of Goose Island’s fine brews I’ve had. I guess this one is going onto the list as well.

    Michael — April 15th, 2010, 1:41 PM
  4. Wow, ya’ll pounced on this post like nobody’s business. I will add that Honker’s Ale is an absolutely stellar addition when making cheese fondue. Simply marvelous.

    Taylor — April 15th, 2010, 1:43 PM
  5. Michael,
    Jewel – 11.99/ 12 pack. almost always at that price.

    Matt — April 15th, 2010, 1:49 PM
  6. Yet another quality that makes this beer great…the price!

    Noel — April 15th, 2010, 1:57 PM
  7. Its 80 degrees. In my office. I want one, or six…

    Michael — April 15th, 2010, 3:02 PM
  8. it’s about time this was reviewed. what a staple.

    Nate — April 15th, 2010, 11:22 PM
  9. oh, and i’m not sure if Goose does do the cask thing but it surely will be better on cask. and that’s about the only thing that will make it better than it already is. Anyone know places in chicago that do casks? Map Room for sure. not positive about the hop leaf. San Diego there are five locations within a mile of my house. spoiled? yes indeed.

    Nate — April 15th, 2010, 11:25 PM
  10. Five within a mile, you say? Wow…sounds like beer heaven…

    Noel — April 16th, 2010, 9:37 AM
  11. Nate, that is reason for some routine bicycle rides if you ask me.

    Matt — April 16th, 2010, 9:53 AM
  12. Just checked the website…Goose Island has beers on cask at the Clybourn brewpub. Anybody up for a trip next week?

    Noel — April 16th, 2010, 11:09 AM
  13. Count me in!!!

    Tom — April 16th, 2010, 11:22 AM
  14. i want in.

    nate — April 16th, 2010, 5:23 PM
  15. I will definitely be leaving with a growler of casked IPA…

    Taylor — April 17th, 2010, 6:40 AM
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