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Honker's Ale - Goose Island Beer Co.

Honker's AleHonker's Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

2,699 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 2699
Reviews: 999
rAvg: 3.69
pDev: 11.65%

Brewed by:
Goose Island Beer Co. visit their website
Illinois, United States

Style | ABV
English Bitter |  4.30% ABV

Availability: Year-round

Notes/Commercial Description:
Golden sunset color, fruity hop aroma, biscuity malt flavor, soft body.

(Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 08-08-2001)
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Ratings: 2,699 | Reviews: 999 | Show All Ratings:
Photo of Sammy

Ontario (Canada)

3.55/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Pours a nice white head, light orange. Medium and soft moutheel. lagerish ale. Tad of lace left.Smarty hopped, acidic bite and overcarbonated.Bit of yeast and malt and hops in the aroma, bit of C hop and a little fruity and spicey. Drying aftertaste.

Serving type: bottle

10-06-2006 02:40:43 | More by Sammy
Photo of UCLABrewN84


3.68/5  rDev -0.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

On tap at the BevMo Holiday Beerfest held at Golden Road Brewing in Los Angeles, CA.

Pours a clear orange with a foamy tan head that settles to a film on top of the beer. Foamy streaks of lace form around the glass on the drink down. Smell is of malt, caramel, citrus fruit, and citrus zest. Taste is much the same with a mild hop bitterness on the palate with each sip. This beer has a good level of carbonation with a crisp mouthfeel. Overall, this is a pretty beer but I think it smells better than it tastes.

Serving type: on-tap

12-02-2012 07:27:48 | More by UCLABrewN84
Photo of BuckeyeNation


4.22/5  rDev +14.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I had this tonight at Mondo's in Iowa City. It was served way too cold and in a frosted glass. So, I let it warm a little....

Medium gold with a creamy bone white head. The cap faded to a broken film and deposited a good bit of intricate lace on the pint glass. Very nice for a bar pour. The nose wasn't too impressive, but to be fair, I did most of my aroma assessment when the beer was still fairly cold.

It's amazing how with some beers the aroma and the flavor don't match up with respect to quality. This was one of those cases because Honker's Ale was delicious. Perfectly hopped with a flavor of candied grapefruit peel, it was wonderful from the first cool sip to the last room temperature one. The hops were so much in the foreground that it seemed more like an IPA than a pale ale. Not much malt, but that's perfectly fine with me.

The medium body and the creamy mouthfeel was the icing on the cake. It also stood up very well to a spicy Buffalo chicken pizza. I haven't heard Goose Island mentioned in the same breath as a lot of the other quality U.S. microbreweries, but Honker's Ale (on-tap anyway) is very good beer.

Serving type: on-tap

01-25-2004 06:26:22 | More by BuckeyeNation
Photo of mikesgroove

South Carolina

4/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Picked this one up when I was in Ohio and brought it back down with me along with pretty much the rest of the lineup. I had forgotten they were in the fridge, and when I cleaned it out the other day I found this. Enjoyed it with dinner last night. The twelve ounce bottle was served slightly chilled and poured into a pint glass.

Appearance - Poured a nice dark amber color, with some nice reddish tints to it as well. Good two inch plus head of frothy white foam that hung around for a good few minutes before finally settling down into a thin film across the top that lasted throughout the session. Good side glass lacing and some nice carbonation throughout the glass.

Smell - The aroma was nice and malty. Pleasing aroma of caramel and nuts that blended in with an earthy and bitter hoppiness. Some nice light undertones of candy like sweetness as well mixing down and covering the grain like base.

Taste - The flavor was damn good I have to say. Crisp, and rich with a good dry and bitter finish, Started out with a good rush of caramel and morphed into a kind of wet hay like flavor which drew out some cereal and bready malts giving the middle a sort of biscuit like flavor. Nice hint of some slight fruit in there, maybe a touch of grapes as well.

Mouthfeel - Very nice medium bodied ale. Good carbonation and a fuller then expected feel to it. No thinness of lack of body here, this was very tight and a fine ale.

Drinkability - An outstanding session ale. Good semi sweet, semi bitter profile seamlessly melded into the malted base. I could have had another and another and another. Really a solid all night brew.

Overall this was one of my first experiences with the style and I have to say I am very impressed. I would still prefer my IPA's however this was very nice indeed. I would have no issue at all trying this again any day!

Serving type: bottle

06-13-2008 22:59:36 | More by mikesgroove
Photo of brentk56

North Carolina

4.13/5  rDev +11.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance: Pours a clear amber color with a frothy head that leaves shards of lace and displays great retention

Smell: Nicely balanced between the biscuity malt and the orange citrusy hops

Taste: Malt forward on the front end, with a nice biscuity flavor that is joined, mid-palate, but an orange citrusy hop profile that has a hint of grapefruit; after the swallow, the malt and hops nicely balance one another and both flavors can be easily discerned

Mouthfeel: Medium body with moderate carbonation

Drinkability: More of an American take on an English bitter (these hops are clearly American), this is just a very satisfying session ale

Thanks, Wadsey, for the opportunity

Serving type: bottle

02-26-2009 01:52:23 | More by brentk56
Photo of Phyl21ca

Quebec (Canada)

3.5/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bottle: Poured a cloudy dark beige color ale with a medium foamy head with good retention and some good lacing. Aroma of dry malt with some English hops. Taste is also dominated by some malt presence with a dry finish from what I believe are English hops. Body was quite full with some good carbonation. A bit too dry for my liking but very enjoyable nonetheless.

Serving type: bottle

08-23-2007 19:31:40 | More by Phyl21ca
Photo of BEERchitect


3.53/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

With true British gentleman demeanor, Goose Island captures the regal balance of plump malt, refined earthen flavor, and exquisite hop bitterness that makes English bitters so appealing.

This extra special bitter pours with a bright copper or chestnut coloration without any hint of haze. The beer builds a creamy off white head that shows tremendous staying power and lacing segments that exceeds its understated initial head formation.

Starting caramel, but weaving in the aromas of peanuts, butterscotch, mild toast, and freshly kilned barley the beer's plump character begins to make headway. Decorated with the broad spicy character of freshly mulled grasses, soft pine, and an overall earthy character, the beer's delicate balance is on proper display.

Deliciously juicy with the toffeeish caramel and nutty overtones that comes together with the taste of Cracker Jacks candy with medium sweetness and an overall hearty malt starchness. Superbly balanced with the grassy and earthy notes that are brought over from the aromas. Slight and nondescript fruit flavors of apples and peaches accent the sweetness with built-in finesse and complexity. As the beers malt sweetness waives and the moderate earthy hop flavors develop into a broad woody bitterness, the beer closes with a crisp, elegant, and elevated balance.

Medium bodied, the understated character of the beer continues as the beers supple early creaminess develops past a semi-starchy mid palate and into a dry malt-accented finish with the soft resin character of hops, minty warmth of alcohol, and fleeting malt textures.

Stately and elegant, Honker's ale speaks to British brewing traditions as well as any could expect. With restrained bitterness and ample malt character, the balance on display can only be improved with true cask condition effect.

Serving type: bottle

08-11-2005 16:16:06 | More by BEERchitect
Photo of Thorpe429


4.1/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Reviewed from notes.

Poured into a tulip glass. Color is amber with a nice off white head. Starts at 1.5 fingers of head and then falls down throughout. A good bit of spotty lacing. Nose is nice with a bit of caramel and nutty malt as well as some nice floral and citrus hops.

The taste is quite nice with a good dose of nutty malt with a slightly-sweet caramel and toffee taste. Good floral hops throughout. Feel is moderately light; nice body and good carbonation. Drinkability on this one is quite nice. I love that I can get this in DC, but please come to VA!

Serving type: bottle

11-12-2010 22:45:35 | More by Thorpe429
Photo of metter98

New York

3.7/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Poured amber in color with a nice head. The head died down considerably within a few minutes, but the remnants covered the top for the whole time. Lots of carbonation in this one.
S: Not very aromatic but hints of malt and hops are evident.
T: Malty flavors of caramel and toffee dominate your taste buds.
M: The beer feels smooth - a bit on the light side in terms of body with some bitterness in the taste. There is good balance between the malt and hops and the aftertaste is more malty than bitter.
D: The taste is very refreshing; this is a very easy beer to drink multiple servings of.

Serving type: bottle

03-16-2010 23:11:28 | More by metter98
Photo of ChainGangGuy


3.93/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

16 ounce pint - $5.25 at Taco Mac in Kennesaw, Georgia.

Appearance: Served up a rich, copper-colored body with a half-inch of smooth, off-white foam. Good lacing, too.

Smell: Pale maltiness with a notable note of toast. Additionally, some fruitiness, herbal hops, and some implied sweetness in the taste.

Taste: Pale malts, then, a light toastiness joined with a crust of caramelized sugars for a touch of sweetness. Some fruitiness present giving off a bit of dehydrated apple and even, maybe, a little bergamot. Herbal, spicy hops with ample bitterness. Leisurely drying, light finish with a carry over of some of the bitterness.

Mouthfeel: Medium-light body. Medium carbonation.

Overall: A likable, refreshing little ale.

Serving type: on-tap

12-25-2012 15:40:05 | More by ChainGangGuy
Photo of oberon

North Carolina

3.9/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I drank this alot back in the day and was dumbfounded to see it on tap at a local restaurant here in Greensboro,what..how..when?Anyways poured into a standard pint glass a clear copper/amber with a thinner but well sustained head atop.Aromas of nutty malt with light caramel sweetness,there is a subtle leafy hop note as well.True to style it's malt driven with a mix of nutty and sweet biscuit malt with underlying leafy hops that show up more in the finish.An easy drinking bitter that I used to drink alot of back in Michigan,Iam still trying to find out how it got here in North Carolina.

Serving type: on-tap

12-28-2012 23:51:07 | More by oberon
Photo of TMoney2591


3.73/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Served in a Dogfish Head shaped pint glass.

That's not quite the label I expected to see on a beer called Honkers. ...Despite my mind being in the gutter, the beer itself pours a clear light-russet amber topped by a finger of lightly dirty white foam. The nose comprises mild toffee, light biscuit, flowers, and a relatively wide touch of grapefruit. The taste emphasizes the flowers and grapefruit, whilst relegating the biscuit to the background and expelling the toffee pretty much entirely. A vague sweetness also bubbles up every now and again, though it never lingers for very long. The body straddles the line between discord and rhy--I mean heavy light and light medium, with a light moderate carbonation and a generally wet feel. Overall, a very nice bitter, something easily drinkable and generally enjoyable.

Serving type: bottle

04-14-2011 23:45:38 | More by TMoney2591
Photo of biboergosum

Alberta (Canada)

4/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

An American pint while in layover purgatory at O'Hare.

This beer appears a clear medium amber hue, with two fingers of tight foamy ecru head, which renders a wall of limestone painted lace around the glass as it evenly settles. It smells of crisp biscuit grain, some mild citrus, and tangy leafy, earthy hops. The taste is more biscuit grain, some lesser caramel sweetness, and floral, citrus hops. The carbonation is moderate, the body medium weight, smooth and somewhat airily creamy. It finishes off-dry, with the leafy citrus kicking up a bit.

Enjoyable and quite drinkable, this is a quite the bang-on bitter - right malt, right hops, right on.

Serving type: on-tap

09-28-2011 20:37:28 | More by biboergosum
Photo of feloniousmonk


4.45/5  rDev +20.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

The color is a rosey amber/bronze, and the head is disappointingly short and small. Aroma explodes with hops and suggestions of fruit, with notes of grapefruit, pears, peach, apricot, melons, ...or am I just rambling? It's a tasty blizzard of hops, no matter how flung my imagination! Medium body, soft texture, a wonderful play on the tongue, a whirlwind of hop liveliness. Malt is a perfect match, holding it all together. Refreshing, delicious taste, some toasty, caramel notes showing up in the middle. Is it a pale ale, or more of an amber? Feels like a flavorful version of English bitter, for it would make an excellent session beer for those who don't compromise on taste. This is a delicious American ale, and one that does nothing but incite happiness!

Serving type: bottle

02-06-2003 15:14:55 | More by feloniousmonk
Photo of TheManiacalOne

Rhode Island

3.83/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz. bottle into a US tumbler pint glass.

A: The beer is a coppery brown color, with a short off-white head that fades quickly and leaves a spotty lace on the glass.

S: The aroma is full of caramel, light malts, nuts, some spice and some pale hops.

T: The taste is decently balanced with a pale hops bitterness up front followed quickly by semi-sweet flavors of caramel, citrus, nuts & spices and a hearty malt character. The after-taste is slightly bitter.

M: Crisp and smooth, medium body, medium carbonation, finish is clean and dry.

D: Tasty, goes down easily, not too filling, mild kick, good representation of style, this is a nice beer to drink a lot of if you want a mild but flavorful beer with some substance.

Serving type: bottle

08-14-2008 02:39:36 | More by TheManiacalOne
Photo of russpowell


3.73/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

BBD of Aug 12 06, so its fresh:

Pours amber to caramel with a 2 fingers offwhite head. Good head retention & not much lacing

Smell: Slight fruittyness & pepper

Taste: Fruitty & caramel notes. Later, a slight peppery bitterness. Finished slightly bitter (piney) fruitty & crisp

MF: Light with good carbonation

Drinks pretty good, but there wasn't enough flavor to really make me think "I should buy this the next time I see it!" Hopefully I can find it on draft sometime

Serving type: bottle

05-22-2006 03:51:43 | More by russpowell
Photo of WesWes

New York

3.78/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

The beer pours a dark golden color with a thick frothy offwhite head that slowly fades to lacing. The aroma is good. It has a nice balanced scent that boasts of pale, crystal, and roasted malts along with a mild bitter hop aroma. The taste is decent. It has a weak, but easily drinkable malt flavor that goes down quick and finishes bitter. It's smooth, but not as malty as I expected. The mouthfeel is fine. It is a medium bodied beer with good carbonation. This is a good drinking bitter. It's light and hopped well. It's nothing special, but I like it.

Serving type: bottle

03-14-2006 02:20:03 | More by WesWes
Photo of drabmuh


4.05/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

Beer served in a snifter. Beer is orange and forms a thin white head that leaves a lot of lacing on the glass. Carbonation is low in the glass, can barely tell its carbonated at all.

Aroma is strongly citrus and sweet. Interesting, almost smells like candy.

This beer is silky smooth, nice palate feeling to it, very refreshing. The forward of the beer is pretty malty sweet and there is some bitterness but not nearly enough to be called a bitter. I think the drinkability is really high and mouthfeel is good. Its a good beer but I wanted more bitter.

Serving type: on-tap

04-08-2010 19:25:22 | More by drabmuh
Photo of zeff80


3.88/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

A - Poured out an orange/amber color with a wghite, one-finger head. Left some lace.

S - It smelled of hops and grasses. Also, a slihgtly malty nose.

T - It tasted of spices, malt and some good hops. Slightly bitter, not overpowering.

M - It was crisp and dry. A medium-bodied beer.

D - Overall, I really enjoy the Honker's Ale. However, it is more reminiscent of an IPA than an English Bitter.

Serving type: bottle

04-07-2007 18:51:04 | More by zeff80
Photo of jlindros


4.05/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Acquired this little one as an extra from AgentZero. Goose Island makes quite a few good beers, and I've never even heard of this one, but a nice light ale seems like a good way to start things.

A: Pours with a nice large 2 finger head that slowly dies back, popping the bubbles like popcorn. It's got a bright copper orange color that is pretty clear but not completely. Lots of bubbles rise from the bottom helping to retain the nice head that has stayed on the top despite all the popping bubbles.

N: The nose on this is pretty nice, a little fruity surprisingly, lots of nice malts, almost red ale like, touch of toasted aromas, almost creamy scent finishes it off. Nosing this deeply the aromas seem to blend and disappear quickly.

T: Starts with more toasted malts, very toasty tasting, some light fruits, very crisp tasting with not much for hops but some British style hops are present. It definitely has an English pub style beer with light bitter hops. Some toasted fruits that almost give a pumpkin pie taste, but not really sweet and not much pumpkin taste but it does remind me of that.

M: Semi thick, pretty consistent, good carbonation.

F: Finishes a little more bitter and pretty dry leaving your mouth ready for more. Slight spiciness on the hops and fruity tastes.

Final thoughts: A pretty good American take on an English bitter pub style beer. This is a perfect session beer. Lots of toasted malt aromas and taste, some bittering UK hops, slight fruit-ish flavors. I could easily pound down a few of these at a bar.

Serving type: bottle

09-12-2009 02:19:20 | More by jlindros
Photo of Knapp85


3.5/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

This beer poured out as a deep looking amber color with a cream colored head on top. The smell was biscuity with some hops on the nose too. The taste of the beer was malty, dry, bitter in the finish. The mouthfeel was dry, medium bodied, lower carbonation. Overall this beer was pretty good, I was able to pick up on some of the English notes but I think that the hops may have been too "Americanized". Worth trying regardless.

Serving type: bottle

04-26-2012 03:08:58 | More by Knapp85
Photo of jwc215


3.03/5  rDev -17.9%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

12 oz. bottle
Best when consumed by 11/22/06
Poured amber with a two inch white head that settled to a lasting one inch head.
The smell was hoppy. Clean.
In the taste, the bitter hops dominated the malt. The hop presence, without enough malt to balance it out, was a bit unusual for the style. It says on the label that it is based on beer from English pubs, but it is different than English bitters that I've had. Besides the hops, salt was noticeable. Some floral and citrus flavors were mixed in.
The salt and hops left the mouth a bit dry, but it went down fairly smoothly. It could have used a bit more body.
Overall, it's not bad, but not something I would order in Chicago most likely. It needs more malt and less salt (or at least a covering-up of the salt).
My brother was good enough to bring back a 6-pack of this for me from a recent business trip.

Serving type: bottle

07-18-2006 20:13:11 | More by jwc215
Photo of BlackHaddock

United Kingdom (England)

3.15/5  rDev -14.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 3

Brown 35.5cl bottle, red backed front label, black rear label telling me to drink it before 07-2007, so I did. The rear label also told me to pour it into an imperial pint glass, so I did that too. Bought in Tanner's, Bridgnorth, Shropshire.

Almost cloudy, not the sparkling bitter look I was expecting, dull copper in colour, the small white head just vanished before my eyes leaving a wispy floating scum of a covering.

Malts in the aroma, sweet esters of caramel too.

Fizzy, it made me burp. Fairly bitter, none of the sweet aroma comes out in the taste, the malts are still there, but not as prominent as they were in the smell. As the beer warmed up, I enjoyed it more and the maltiness re-asserts its self.

Not a huge mouthfeel from this beer, almost watery, but that would be unfair, there is a lingering metalic feel which I don't like though.

Glad I tried it, got to see what you chaps over the pond are drinking haven't I? This isn't a typical English Bitter by any stretch of the imagination, but I would like to try it on tap one day, just to see what it's like served in a bar.

Serving type: bottle

04-06-2007 14:48:15 | More by BlackHaddock
Photo of RblWthACoz


3.9/5  rDev +5.7%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a clear amber with a nice creme head. Nose is a bready sweet. Flavor has a smooth sweet tone as well. Smooth, but one dimensional really. Feel has a nice carbonation and the liquid body is decent enough. No mass complexities here, but still nice enough to drink.

Serving type: bottle

06-26-2008 09:59:33 | More by RblWthACoz
Photo of WVbeergeek


3.95/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Nice amber tone with a pleasant off white cream colored foamy head leaves speckled lace behing, not a bad look. Aroma: Interesting mix of earthy hop blend somewhat herbal quality with a caramel malt sweetness dancing in there as well. Taste: Perfect balance the hop profile takes on a piney edge that just works with the sharp sweetness of the malts nice solid flagship ale from Goose Island. Mouthfeel: Light to medium in body standard amount of carbonation very smooth. Drinkability: It's the quintessential American pale ale with great hop flavor and balance creating alot of drinkability.

Serving type: bottle

01-16-2004 23:58:32 | More by WVbeergeek
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Honker's Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
83 out of 100 based on 2,699 ratings.