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Honker's Ale - Goose Island Beer Co.

Not Rated.
Honker's AleHonker's Ale

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

3,246 Ratings
very good

(view ratings)
Ratings: 3,246
Reviews: 1,024
rAvg: 3.66
pDev: 12.02%
Wants: 59
Gots: 259 | FT: 0
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)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 3,246 | Reviews: 1,024 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of hckyfn9999
4/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Pours a burnt-orange color with golden hues when held to light with a one finger white head that leaves a ring of lacing around the glass.

Smell is definitely citrus hops, a lot of grapefruit is present in the nose with a faint smell of malt as well.

Taste has is a nice blend of citrus and more malt than the smell would lead one to believe. I am getting an aftertaste that seems to taste of grapefruit as well as a pleasant bitterness.

Mouthfeel is a little more thin than one would like but I think that is part of what makes this beer extremely drinkable as it leaves the mouth feeling clean. I think this would make a great session beer and I will probably purchase this again.

hckyfn9999, Sep 10, 2006
Photo of davidshamoon
3.53/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

The only striking visual aspect of this amber-honey colored brew is the lacing its creamy head leaves behind -- guess that's the "bitter" half of the English Bitter style going to work. In terms of flavor, however, the bitterness is actually quite mild. The Honker's Ale produces a faint, buttery aroma that comes across as a sweeter air of butterscotch when drunk, and the flavor profile is grounded in woodiness (from the casks I imagine this brew is conditioned in). Of course, hops are present, too, but not in enough force to detract from the essential sweetness of this beer. Not my favorite ale, but pretty highly drinkable if you're having a meal.

davidshamoon, Sep 07, 2006
Photo of afinepilsner
3.9/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz brown bottle

Honker's Ale was amber in color with a large off-white head. The head had good retention and left sheets of lacing behind. The aroma had a nice mix of malt and hops. The taste was mostly hops all the way through to the bitter finish. The mouthfeel is good, light to medium in body with medium carbonation. A very drinkable brew. It would be good for a sesson beer.

afinepilsner, Sep 07, 2006
Photo of dherling
3.9/5  rDev +6.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured out of the bottle a slightly cloudy deep orange/copper color. The head was thick and white before it dissapeared quickly. The nose has some yeasty citrus going on, with some... woodyness? Definitly a light roasting in there. The beer itself isw dry and crisp, everything from the nose, plus some breadyness. The hops are more balanced here, not as strong as the nose. I could see myself drinking a bunch of these, too bad I only had the one.

dherling, Sep 01, 2006
Photo of Backer2004
4.1/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This is what I love about Chicago. Nice deep dish pizza with all the meats stuffed in, combined with a Honker's ale. Very smooth to drink, nice copper color with a bit of carbonation and very little head. Might not be for everyone and it may not be the best bitter, per se, but I really enjoyed this being a whole part of the "Chicago experience."

Backer2004, Aug 31, 2006
Photo of DaveFL1976
3.68/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

A honey-amber body with a thin but clingy head. The smell is nicely balanced between sweet malt and bittering hops. Not a whole lot of aroma hops here, but it is an English style ale. The taste is Englishy as well. A full, malty flavour up front makes way for a balanced hop bite at the end. But my taste buds tell me that it's an American hop bittering bite, rather than an English Fuggles one. Mouthfeel is nice. Medium body and low carbonation. Drinkability is good, but not spectacular.

DaveFL1976, Aug 21, 2006
Photo of pweis909
4.1/5  rDev +12%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

This beer is light amber to orange in color, with some initial haziness (chill haze?). It had a nice dense head that stayed lively through most of the experience.

There is a pleasant hop smell, not overpwering, lightly spicey. The smell promises just a bit of malty sweetness.

Taste includes hops, that touch of crystal malt, and the beer finishes with a pronounced cracker/biscuit flavor that went undetected in the aroma.

The body and balance of flavor and smells makes this one of the most drinkable beers I know.

pweis909, Aug 15, 2006
Photo of bort11
3.95/5  rDev +7.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

12 oz bottle poured into an Imperial pint glass, just like the bottle says to. Not much head, maybe a 1/4 inch, that quickley receced to a minimal lace. Color is a rich coppery brown color. Smell is well blended between the caramel malts and bitter hops. Taste does follow up nicely. Starts with the malt and finishes with the hops. I like that switch up. I was really surprised how well I liked the mouthfeel. It was medium bodied and the carbonation was perfect. It was very enjoyable to just hold it in the mouth. Very refreshing. I'm wanting to check out other Goose island beers based off of this one.

bort11, Aug 13, 2006
Photo of
3.73/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap, in Chicago. Clear deep gold color, modest white head. Aroma was malt and hops (pine?), and a hint of salt. Flavor was primarily hops (lemon and pine), but the malt balanced it very well. There was almost a huskiness at the finish. Mouthfeel was light, with moderate carbonation and a bit drying. Overall, a very refreshing beer, easy to drink and nicely balanced.

, Aug 09, 2006
Photo of carln26
3.73/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Bright copper color, very clear and topped by a light white head. The aroma is very fruity. Touches of pear, and apple with just the lightest hint of citrus. Mild caramel on the finish. The flavor reflects the aroma. Lots of pear and a hint of green apple. It has the light caramel/toffee character I expect, with a pleasant citrus bitterness on the finish. It has a mild, slightly slick mouth feel, and a nice drinkability. Fullers is still the benchmark for this style, but this does well.

carln26, Aug 05, 2006
Photo of JudgeRoughneck
4.43/5  rDev +21%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 5

Chances are, you've had a beer like this before, but you shouldn't mind having another. Under a big, lovely creamy head, we have here a simple, balanced ale with a light, smooth, and lively character that borders on lager territory. Nose is ripe with classic British ale esters, a dusting of spicy hop, and a whiff of crystal caramel goodness. Taste brings more of the same but hops play a suprisinly forward role. Kind of like a maltier version of Sam Adams Boston Lager. This is a bit over carbed to be true to style I think but still very drinkable.

JudgeRoughneck, Aug 04, 2006
Photo of beerphilosopher
3.23/5  rDev -11.7%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a nice amber color with a thinner off-white head. Nose is of hops, floral notes, and sweet malt. Palate is similar - hoppy, floral, and substantial malt character. Nicely balanced, I think. Mouthfeel is light/medium and finishes with a solid hop bitterness. I like this American bitter. I can get it on tap at Tres Hombres in Carbondale, so it definitely beats the BMC crap they have on tap. An enjoyable, simple beer. Good stuff.

beerphilosopher, Jul 29, 2006
Photo of jwc215
3.03/5  rDev -17.2%
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.

jwc215, Jul 18, 2006
Photo of Gaisgeil
4/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

I believe I've found myself a solid and extremely tasty staple beer. I've avoided this brew for a couple years thinking it would be a rather bland affair, as most 'flagship' beers often are from these larger brewers. I will admit that I was dead wrong.

This pours a slightly hazy amber in color with a tight foamy white head with good retention. Nose is slightly biscuity/malty, quite fresh and inviting. Taste isn't overpowering, but there is a good bit happening here! Biscuity malt with fruity esters. A nice bitterness that balances the whole affair out nice. Mouthfeel is slightly creamy but quite light. Drinkability is very high, flavorful, but easy drinking. This is just a great solid beer. I think I'll have a couple of these on hand at all times. Nice!


Gaisgeil, Jul 18, 2006
Photo of rokoch27
3.7/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I can't wait to visit Chicago someday and see a bartender pull one of these off draft. A great flagship beer, it really brings to mind the pub setting and asks for a full session. Pours a thing amber with those tiny bubbles rising from the bottom. Is this an ale or lager? The white head holds for a bit and releases a well-balanced aroma, seemingly right on for the style. Light in your mouth, it isn't the most complex of beers, but that is exactly what it was meant to be. This isn't the kind of beer you will really search out as unique, but if I live on the lake, then it would be a perfect staple. Three cheers Goose Island!

rokoch27, Jul 17, 2006
Photo of blitz134
3.93/5  rDev +7.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

I've been looking forward to this tasting. This beer was my first craft beer a couple of years back and I'm sure my preferences have changed substantially since then.

Clear caramel colored body, lots of carbonation bubbles rise to the surface to support an off-white head. Initially this was about 1" thick but held at 1/2" for quite a while. Nice lacing grips the glass on the way down.

Bread and biscuit malts really come through in the aroma as expected. Herbal and grassy hops work in nicely as well. A touch of caramelization is evident towards the end of a whiff.

Nice biscuit character to start with and then the crispness from the carbonation is evident. Finishes earthy and herbal with a strong dark bread maltiness like a bitter should. Flavor lingers for a bit with a fair amount of bitterness. Good mouthfeel for the style, nearing medium body.

A nicely done ESB that seems true to the style. I can see why the hops were a bit over the top when I first had this a while back; I don't think I was quite accustomed to the English style hop yet.

blitz134, Jul 03, 2006
Photo of mdagnew
4.03/5  rDev +10.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

355ml bottle bought from The Vineyard, Belfast...

Poured a light coppery orange colour... Slightly off white head poured quite small then faded to thin layer... very light carbonation rises slowly to the surface... very little lacing...

Aroma - Biscuity malts, juicy fruits (oranges, apples, pears), some light toffee notes, nutty hints, light toasted breadiness, spicy notes, light hop bitterness...

Taste – Nice big juicy / fruity hop bitterness, toasted biscuity malts, fruity (oranges, grapefruits), very light nutty / toffee sweetness, peppery hints, light spiciness...

Feel - Quite sharp and dry.. Light bodied. Thirst quenching and extremely drinkable... a good session beer...

Overall - A very good beer.... Recommended...

mdagnew, Jun 26, 2006
Photo of soulgrowl
3.63/5  rDev -0.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Appearance: Orange-teak body with a big, thick, ivory head. Fair retention and sticky, speckled lacing.

Smell: Lots of piney hops and buttery caramel malts. Simple and subdued, but good.

Taste: Rich malts with a slightly tannic quality and leafy, resiny hops.

Mouthfeel: Smooth and medium-bodied with slightly tingly carbonation and a very crisp finish.

Drinkability: It may lack depth, but it does go down easy. Probably a good match for bangers and mash.

soulgrowl, Jun 24, 2006
Photo of MeLikeBeer
3.2/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Comes to me served in an pint glass with a reddish-amber hue.
Light foam head. Medium carbonation.

Smells like citrus and grains. Also grassy aromas hit my nostrils.

Tastes smooth- sweet caramels and hops, sweet fruits and light hops make this a highly drinkable beer. Great malty flavors as well.

Nicely balanced. While not my favorite, I'll look for it on tap.

MeLikeBeer, Jun 23, 2006
Photo of bigman147
4/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

Appearance:Amber with slight haze. Minimal lacing and a small head with little retention. Looked like a glass of iced tea

Aroma: Smells even more like sweet tea than it looks. Lemony citrus notes with some herbal grassy character. Very pleasant as I could get past whether I was drinking iced tea or beer

Taste: The bitterness is much milder and more balanced than I expected from an English Bitter. Maybe it was the beer talking but it seriously felt like I was drinking tea. Good herbal bitterness with some malt.

Mouthfeel: Sharp carbonation notes that are not overpowering and work very well in this beer. Slight alcohol note that solidifiies that this is a beer not a tea.

As far as drinkablility, it is amazing. I could session with this on a warm summer day. It leaves you wanting to have more. This was a pleasant surprise as I wasn't sure what to expect.

bigman147, Jun 23, 2006
Photo of znarf
3.5/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Our yearly party beer! Good enough that a beer snob will drink it with enough normality for the masses. Pour light copper with citrus aroma. The hops are noticeable, not overpowering. My favorite for a while until my hop habit became an obsession. I recommended this beer for a mix of advocates and armature beer drinkers. Few will be disappointed by the taste.

znarf, Jun 21, 2006
Photo of ultralarry2006
3.53/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Serving was from tap. Left a two finger head with good retention, and some lacing. Body was a hazy orange amber.

Smell - lemony hops and toasty, biscuity malts.

Taste - like the smell. Mild citric hops and toasty, bicuity malts.

Mouthfeel - full, smooth, low carbonation.

Drinkability - taste is decent, goes down well, very sessionable.

ultralarry2006, Jun 18, 2006
Photo of bignick
4/5  rDev +9.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

On tap @ Peculier Pub in Manhattan 6/9/06. Served in a pint.

Nice session beer here. This is an English style, but it is decidedly American in execution. The hop profile is floral and citrusy, and the maltiness provides a nice sweetness. I like it, and would drink it by the six-pack if available in Mass.

bignick, Jun 13, 2006
Photo of CJStout
4.1/5  rDev +12%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4.5

Pale copper, crystal clear color. White, diminishing head with some lace. Nicely balanced light taste - hops are noticable, malt as well, neither dominate. Carbonation is a little too pronounced. Very enjoyable session brew. Excellent gateway beer for Macro quaffers.

CJStout, Jun 07, 2006
Photo of Cresant
4.33/5  rDev +18.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 5

Poured dated (5/1/06) into pint glass. Weak head faded quickly to a filmy collar. Some sticky lace. Amber color with chill haze.

Smells of sweet tea. Earthy. Grains.

Tastes of "a perfect blend of hops and malt" as stated on the bottle. (I noted this before I read the fine print on the bottle, but I agree!) faint fruit and bread. Lacks nothing.

Moderate body with a faint alcohol prickle in the tongue. Nice amount (but not too much) of carbonation for a English Bitter.

This would be an very easy one to drink more than recommended!

Cresant, May 31, 2006
Honker's Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
83 out of 100 based on 3,246 ratings.