I think this may be my first review of a non-Fulton & Wood beer from Goose Island, the venerable Chicago subsidiary of the Belgian brewing leviathan A-B InBev. Goose Island's annuals and seasonals don't get a whole lot of press – at least in the outlets that I read. Their Bourbon County beers and their sours seem to garner the vast majority of the hype with brews like 312 and Green Line getting the occasional mention which usually is about how they tasted better when they were brewed in Chicago
Ten or so years ago I'd buy Goose Island down in Chicagoland when I was heading to a gaming get-together down there. By the time they'd rid themselves of their last year-round lager, there was Metropolitan which quickly became my Chicago beer of choice. While I had tasted their sours and probably had the odd 312, it wasn't until I heard that they had brewed a (great) dunkel roggenbock
this past winter that I decided to actually seek out a Goose Island beer.
And then the brewery decided to introduce a pilsner into their year-round line-up with Four Star Pils
hitting Madison shelves back in February, if memory serves. I heard that Four Star was less traditional pilsner and more India Pale Lager with fruity/floral American hops replacing German varieties/Saaz. But I decided to find out for myself…
Four Star poured a lovely pale golden hue and was clear. I really, really wished that I'd had my pilsner glasses around because I got a nice big head that was a brilliant white. It was a little stiffer and less creamy than the ones I've gotten from the other pilsners I've had lately. Similarly, it was also a bit more effervescent than the other pilsners that have graced my glass lately as there was a goodly number of bubbles inside the beer itself. Yeah, this would have looked fantastic in a pilsner glass.
So far, so pils-like. Would it smell like an IPA?
It did and it didn't. The very first aroma my nose caught was that of bread – lightly toasted and not doughy and sweet. Well, there was a little malty sweetness but not very much. And then there were the hops which were very floral but not overpowering. I suppose that this is as good a time as any to mention that the beer I drank was bottled on 26 February. While not the freshest beer, it was certainly not past its prime. Having said this, I would be surprised if fresher 4 Star didn't have a more prominent hop smell to it.
One thing which I really liked about Four Star is that I tasted more carbonation than the other pilsners of my current run of reviews. It just had a very lively fizziness and a little bite too. Four Star also had a medium-light body which was just a tad heavier than those other pilsners. This came through as a wonderful light breadiness in the taste that was clean and toasty instead of sweet. On the hop front there was a big old school grassy flavor that I presume came from the Mt. Hood. But there were also hops nouveau in the form of Equinox and Meridian which contributed a modicum of floral flavor as well as a lot of tropical fruitiness.
Four Star finished more traditionally with grassy hop flavor and bitterness taking over for a very dry ending. Again, unlike the pilsners I've reviewed over the past week or so, Four Star stood out by leaving streaks of foam all over my glass.
I am ambivalent about beers like this, specifically blending grassy/herbal hops with those that have floral and fruit flavors. False Dichotomy
, the Two Brothers/Metropolitan collaboration went this route and was, to my taste, difficult to get my tongue around. While I don't think such pairings are unnatural, they simultaneously taste good and unappealingly incongruent. Perhaps I simply need to drink more of them to move beyond the gustatory dissonance.
Having said this, I think Four Star generally does a nice job of reconciling the various hop flavors. Perhaps this is because it is not as big of a beer as False Dichotomy. In addition to having less alcohol (it's 5.1% A.B.V.), it also has less hop intensity. Maybe my tongue can handle the contrasting flavors better when they are less stark.
In the end, I enjoyed Four Star quite a bit. It had a nice, clean toasty malt base which allowed the hop medley to strut its stuff. Arguably it is an IPL or American Nova-Pils with the floral and fruit flavors from the Meridian and Equinox hops. Anyone going into this thinking they're going to get a traditional Noble hop experience is going to be in for a surprise.
Junk food pairing: Pair Four Star Pils with Lay's Greektown Gyro potato chips. Dip them in tzatziki sauce should you have some.
Labels: Beer, Goose Island Beer Co., IPL, Pilsner