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Honker's Ale | Goose Island Beer Co.

1,095 Reviews
For Trade:
Honker's AleHonker's Ale

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

Style: English Bitter

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 4.30%

Availability: Year-round

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

Added by BeerAdvocate on 08-08-2001

User Reviews
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Reviews: 1,095 | Ratings: 3,786
Photo of TheBierdimpfe
3.71/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Hazy amber color with floating detritus and a low amount of activity. Weak white half a finger head that lasts no more than 5 minutes, with moderate amount of legs.

Aromas of caramel, butterscotch, and bread. Flavors of sweet grains, lemon, caramel, ginger, herbal and floral spices. Bready, roasted and grassy feel. Pleasant sweetness with a nice sharp feel.

Smooth medium to full body with a perfect amount of zesty carbonation. Light to medium strength finish of short length, ending with a sweet smoky caramel feel and faint grassy noble spices.

Overall good quality craft. Tasty flavors that are well balanced. Good freshness and nicely bodied.

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Photo of BethanyB
3.87/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Look: A classic, elegant look to this one: Clear, light copper with a medium, creamy off-white head leaving just a touch of lace.

Smell: Pale, yeasty malt with some light caramel notes are typical of the style, but not overly alluring. Some orchard fruits and spicy Saaz-like hops seem out of place, but aren't off-putting.

Taste: A rich, round combination of toasted caramel and grainy malt is thoroughly enjoyable on its own, but a medium serving of spicy hops brings balancing mild bitterness and even more interest. For a session beer, this is certainly a complex flavor profile, but the aftertaste remains smooth and clean.

Mouthfeel: Strong carbonation adds to a dry finish, and while this creates a crisp, refreshing quality, it's not typical of the English Bitter style, and distracts somewhat from the maltiness. The medium body, however, is able to support the diverse flavors.

Overall: With some minor exceptions, this is a pretty good example of an English Bitter, particularly when it comes to the complexity of the malt. More importantly, great taste combined with great drinkability makes this a definite crowd pleaser.

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Photo of The-Adjunct-Hippie
4.12/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

I remember trying this beer for the first time – it was my first introduction into craft beer. I had no idea what I was getting into, and thought it was grotesque because it was so bitter. 7 years later I revisit this beer.

Appearance : Pours a honey cider colored body, 60% opaque. The head is creamy and large, measuring about 3 fingers, and leaving generous lace as it recedes down the glass. (4.25)

Aroma : Lots of biscuit malts, a dash of honey, and quite a bit of caramel sweetness. The hop aroma is actually pretty faint in this one, which is okay by me, but is piney in nature. There are some melon rinds and juicy tropical notes as well. Mostly caramel and honey and biscuit sweetness going on here. (4)

Taste : For a bitter this isn’t overpowering or offensive. The malts are very prominent here, yielding caramel, cracker, biscuit, and toasted grain. A pleasant hop bitterness shoves the malt forward, eventually making an appearance on the back end. (4)

Feel : The feel is divine. Rich and creamy, smooth, pleasantly carbonated, and easy to drink. It dries on the palate and invites another gulp. (4.5)

Overall : It’s hard to fault Goose Island’s Honker’s Ale for anything really. It’s a great bitter and has a fabulous malt backbone to compliment the resinous hop. I think it’s the best ESB I’ve had yet. (4.25)

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Photo of Biggiekrock627
3.89/5  rDev +4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had this beer on tap in a pint glass while at United Club in Chicago during a flight delay. Pours a golden color with thin white head. I still enjoy Goose Island....even post merger.....as their beers are generally well balanced and this is no exception. Balance of hop driven smells and aroma at first with a caramel and toasted nut taste to balance it out.

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Photo of HoppyBastard
3.5/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

Poured from a 12 ounce bottle into a Shaker pint glass, "best by" date 4-20-15.

APPEARANCE: pours a clear amber color with less than one-finger off-white head that slowly dissipated until a thin, unbroken layer of small bubbles remained, there is significant lacing on the glass, well carbonated.

SMELL: there is not much going on here, faint caramel and bread.

TASTE: the taste follows the nose, this is a malt forward beer, initially sweet caramel then some bread and a mild metallic hop profile.

PALATE: lighter body, slightly higher carbonation.

OVERALL: this is an inoffensive but unspectacular beer, it's in the shallow end of the pool for craft beer, a safe beer to serve to guests, would have a basic appeal to anyone who likes beer but I would not seek this one out.

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Photo of PorterPro125
4.21/5  rDev +12.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Serving Type: 500 mL Draught in Goose Island Nonic

A- Pours clear honey amber colour with a healthy 1 finger head. Good retention and lacing.

S- Sweet Caramel malts with a lemony hop zest.

T- Toffee/Caramel malts with some pumpkin pie spices (?).

M- Low Carbonation (much like the great English-made Bitters. Light-Medium Body.

O- Great example of the English Bitter style. Extremely easy drinking and a tasty malt-forward option in a world that seems saturated with hoppy brews.

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Photo of fscottkey
3.15/5  rDev -15.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3

A: [4.25] Very transparent dark honey colored beer. The beer pours out with a nice full finger of white head. The head is white and fluffy and leaves big arcs of lacing on the glass. The ABV is listed at 4.3%. The born on date is easily readable on the neck label (05/05/15)

S: [3.00] Pumpkin spice? I can't nail down a specific smell. Some bread character. Maybe crackers.

T: [3.25] Toffee, caramel. Some Christmas spices.

M: [2.75] Low carbonation (a little too low). A bit of a watery consistency.

O: [3.00] This would be a nice Christmas beer. Other than that I am not sure what they are going for here. I think the carbonation is too low. The aroma is fairly weak. The taste is ok, but as I said it seems to fit Xmas more than anything,

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Photo of DenisKolkin
3.67/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

473 ml can served cold into a St. Pauli Girl mug. Purchased at the Beer Store for $2.95 CDN, comparable to Canadian craft prices. Looks like the AB InBev marketing giant is finally infiltrating the local craft scene.

Appearance - Pours a very clear, pale bronze color and topped by just over a finger of off-white head. Plenty of effervescent bubbles are present in prolonging the moderate head retention. Minimal if any lacing at all left behind.

Smell - Nose floral and slightly citrus hop bill, backed by some steadfast crackery notes. Quite aromatic all things considered. Smells a little more like and EPA, but that's semantics at this point.

Taste - Quite light, some mild bitterness up front transitioning to a smooth roasted malt flavor. Some residual bitterness at the end. Hops are there, but in a hard to define flavor, it's not tropical, not earthy or dank, not herbal, but yet they are still there. Seems a touch watery.

Mouthfeel - Smooth and ridiculously easy to drink,, appropriate carbonation too.

Overall - Just lacking a bit in flavor, the hops are too hard to describe and in the end the flavor is just a touch diluted. It's easy to see this being something that you could drink all day and enjoy though, so I'm glad I tried it, but probably wouldn't repeat this purchase.

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Photo of rjd722
3.74/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

On tap, nice deep golden-amber color with a decent head that leaves lacing. Not getting too much from the aroma, maybe a little citrus? Very clean mouthfeel and slight bitterness. Light caramel malts, solid ale.

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Photo of Antg8989
3.31/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 3 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Look: Pours a deep gold with a thin head that diminishes quickly.
Aroma: Sweet, Caramel malts with hints of citrus.
Taste: Malts are more crackery than the aroma would suggest.
Feel: Light-medium bodied. Medium-high carbonation.
Overall: The flavor is lacking compared to what the aroma suggests. I found it to be relatively bland tasting, although it seems to be an easy beer to knock a couple down.

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Photo of JLaw55
4/5  rDev +7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Not usually a fan of ESB's but this was nice. It was fairly balanced and enjoyable. Easy drinking, something you could throw a few back of. Could be a nice fall beer. The only downside was that the hops, while present and nicely bitter, they tasted almost stale. This is something I have noticed with the other ESB's I have tried, and my just be part of the style.

Would Drink Again: Yes
Would Purchase Again: Yes

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Photo of Getalegup
3.75/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Really a decent ESB. Nice light malt flavor balanced with mild bitterness and some sweetness. Light carbonation that doesn't intrude. Golden color and thin lacing. Better than I expected.

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Photo of BeerDawgs
3.56/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

L - Amber with clarity, 1 finger of head and lots of lacing left all over the glass

S - Malty with some citrus notes. But not much aroma

T - Malty, refreshing, some subtle citrus notes.

F - light bodied and medium carbonation

O - It hits the style right, but I am just not a fan of ESB's.

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Photo of SparkieDog
3.9/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

The aroma is the classic British hop smell that sets up anticipation of a fine UK bitter. It is not the dominant hop fragrance us Americans push forward in our ales. Instead, it is subtle by comparison. So, when you drink this, sit up straight, mind your manners, and speak in full sentences using proper grammar.

The color is almost copper in color and sets an expectation of maltiness, but like the hops, this too is subtle -- almost too subtle, to the point that I thought it was missing from the beer.

Similarly, the "feel" of the beer dissipates quickly and leaves you with a slight echo of resin from the hops.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised a Chicago microbrewery could pull off a British bitter this nice.

Good night for now, and may all your beers be fantastic.

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Photo of akdo
4.13/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Look: The body is light copper. The head is half of a finger and as time goesby, it recedes to a thin film with a small hole.

Smell: Given the bitter nose, it is watered down coffee and some herbs.

Taste: The palate is more interesting than the nose. The brief sweetness on the front-end is akin to that of honey. Then, it shifts quickly to notes of coffee along with nuts and finishes with a bitter grassy taste.

Feel: The beer had a creamy feeling in that a few liquid stays in your mouth. Moreover, despite the low ABV, this beer dries your mouth, which is not a bad thing.

Overall: It's an enjoyable session beer given its light bitterness. The latter is not aggressive, but just bitter and tasty enough. The best part was the grassy notes on the end, which made it stood out from the light beers my friends and I had at a bar.

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Photo of Taybeh
3.83/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

From a single into a Spieglau IPA glass, Pours a very slightly hazy light copper, and about one inch of puffy, off-white head, that sticks around a bit. Fairly good lacing. Nose is very promising -- bready and biscuity, some toast, some sweet toffee and some light floral/earthy hops. Actually, the toffee is a little dominant, and there is some kind of fruity sweetness that pairs...maybe dates and oranges, or something jammy and a little rich.

Tasting, this isn't quite as lovely as the nose, but still nice: front is easy and inviting, with biscuit, bread and toffee, then a little gentle leafy floral hoppiness, and a little sweet orange and sweet nuttiness too. Finishes with the toffee still lingering and some very faint prickly citric hops, that provide a nice gentle easy-going bitterness. Mouthful: very nice body (esp considering the abv), low carbonation, kind of sits on the tongue a bit flatly...dry at the end.

I don't get a chance to drink enough bitters these days, so it is hard to honestly consider how this stacks up...it's a little too toffee-sweet to be ideal for me, and it doesn't have as much of the fruit and nutty notes that I like best in the style; still, I quite enjoyed it, and it makes for a nice change of pace. Takes me back to Chicago days long ago!

Final Grade: 3.8, a solid B+. Honkers Ale is not a bad little bitter; not at all. This is a nicely-crafted session ale that is flavourful and balanced, making it an excellent gateway craft beer. Neither the biscuity, sweet malt flavours nor the grassy, earthy hop notes manage to overpower the other - but together they provide more than enough oomph to make this into a satisfying, one-after-another sort of beer that can placate beer drinkers of every stripe.

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Photo of breardon1776
4.16/5  rDev +11.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

Reddish amber color. Nice head and fantastic lacing. Aroma is light and filled with bread, wheat and malt. Flavor is earthy hops. a certain sweetness to it. a slight bitter bite. slight mineral taste. overall a great beet, woouldn't drinking a few.

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Photo of Thebrewman
3.69/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from my home kegerator into a Goose Island pint glass. Pours a mild amber color with a nice lacing that remains until the end. A small amount of lemon scent on the nose. Taste is slightly bitter, but not overly hoppy. A well balanced session beer I"ll definitely enjoy during the upcoming football season.

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Photo of mmmbeer89
4.09/5  rDev +9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

i don't think i've ever had another beer that quite tastes like this one. it had an interesting flavor kind of on the sweet side. i enjoyed it and would buy it again.

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Photo of ctylinebeer
3.21/5  rDev -14.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 2.5

12 oz. bottle poured into a nonic glass

L - dark amber; thick foam dome with large bubbles.

S - fruity malts, like dried raisins. Some floral hops there also

T - bland bitter taste. Not a whole lot other than water and a sour bitter after taste

F - smooth and light beer, very easy to gulp down

O - did not like this beer very much. I do like ESBs but this one is just okay. Sorry Goose.....

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Photo of Svingjo
3.32/5  rDev -11.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.25

Pours a rich bronze colour with a thick tan head with large bubbles that dissipates quickly. There is a caramel maltiness along with an orangy citrus hop smell. The taste taste is on the light side with bready malts, brown sugar and orange rind. There is a bit of hoppy bitterness that quickly disappears. The mouthfeel is a bit thin and watery with minimal carbonation. An okay beer but nothing that made it stand out.

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Photo of flipper2gv
3.84/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

This one does look damn good. It has a nice amber color with a strong tan, creamy looking head. Retention is very strong for a beer of this abv. The lacing on the head is also quite impressive.

This is a very light smelling beer. There is some light biscuit malt, light caramel malt and that's about it. Maybe a little bit of fruity hops in the back, but nothing much. But, what is there seems interesting.

This is typical bitter, this is a style I enjoy very much. Right use of mineral rich water is clearly apparent. There is a nice balance of biscuit, toasty, caramel and piny notes. Very well done. Some light fruits too.

Extremely creamy, never sticky, perfect summer beer.

A very solid offering from a underappreciated genre. This was a real treat on a sunny saturday afternoon. Highly recommended.

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Photo of thehyperduck
3.8/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

341 mL bottle from a 12-pack picked up at The Beer Store; bottled Jun 9 2015 and served slightly chilled. This is now being brewed and bottled by Labatt in Montreal for the eastern Canadian market.

Pours a hazy, reddish copper-amber colour, replete with streams of effervescent bubbles streaming to the surface, whereupon they reinforce the one inch of puffy, frothy, off-white coloured head that is situated there. Excellent retention; it fades slowly, leaving behind gobs of lace as it is reduced to a lumpy, foamy cap and collar. This is a beautiful-looking beer. On the nose, I am getting notes of bready wheat, toasted biscuit, sponge toffee and a few whiffs of grassy, floral hops. Lightly fruity, too, with suggestions of plum or apricot.

This is a well-balanced English-style ale that is fairly straightforward in construction, but remains wonderfully drinkable. The malt-dominant first half of the profile features biscuity, bready malts and toffee sweetness with just a hint of nutty flavour. Candied orange provides a segue into the more hop-forward finish - leafy and grassy; the hops impart an earthy, restrained bitterness that hangs on into the aftertaste, along with a touch of wheaty malt sweetness. Light-bodied, with subtle carbonation that barely agitates the palate, producing a soft, smooth mouthfeel. This one drinks like a dream... if I were camping, 12 of these over the course of an evening would be within the realm of possibility.

Final Grade: 3.8, a solid B+. Honkers Ale is not a bad little bitter; not at all. This is a nicely-crafted session ale that is flavourful and balanced, making it an excellent gateway craft beer. Neither the biscuity, sweet malt flavours nor the grassy, earthy hop notes manage to overpower the other - but together they provide more than enough oomph to make this into a satisfying, one-after-another sort of beer that can placate beer drinkers of every stripe. A welcome, if belated addition to the Ontario retail scene.

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Photo of DrMullet
3.74/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Clear amber pour. Mild bready/caramel malt flavor up front. Not too bitter on the aftertaste.
A little lite for a bitter but very drinkable. I would have it again.

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Photo of bwood06
3.84/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

A - clear orangish amber in color with a rich frothy head that dissipate moderately fast. heavy carbonation. 3.5/5

S - biscuit, buttery, toasted white bread, piney hops. very grainy. 3.75/5

T - grapefruit up front with some white bread afterward. pine resin. tartness. peppery spiciness. 4/5

M - somewhat heavy and thick. carbonation not as prominent as expected based on visual. 3.75/5

O - not the typical bitter but a good offering nonetheless. 3.75/5

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Honker's Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
84 out of 100 based on 1,095 ratings.