Honker's Ale | Goose Island Beer Co.

1,115 Reviews
Honker's AleHonker's Ale

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

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

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Reviews: 1,115 | Ratings: 3,875
Photo of Sammy
3.55/5  rDev -4.8%
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.

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Photo of kylehay2004
3.75/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

A: two finger thick head on a clear copper body.

S: brown sugar, subtle tropical fruitiness and some caramel malts. mildly sweet overall.

T: toasted caramel malts, burnt toast with earthy and biscuity hops. Very mildly bitter.

M: medium body and moderate carbonation.

Overall: very drinkable and nicely on par for the style.

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Photo of UCLABrewN84
3.7/5  rDev -0.8%
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.

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Photo of StonedTrippin
3.75/5  rDev +0.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

as advertised, a good mix of malt and hops. pours redish amber in color, with a fizzy and frothy white head of large bubbles, good retention, mostly clear. the nose is way more malt than hops, english in nature, maybe some caramunich as well, got that sweet drivey punch to it. flavor is much more balanced, with the sweeter hops being easily and geniously tamed by hefty floral and citric hop additions. not too lemony or anything, but there is a mild acidity to the hops which cuts the sugars perfectly. long harmonious finish, kind of fresh baked pretzely malt on the final note, and definite red malt trails. the carbonation is quite excited, but it gives this brew a lot of life. body is medium to drink, but feels a little heavier once its down in the stomach. maybe a tough six pack to get through, but as one or two i think its just right for this time of year. it didnt knock my socks off, but its a nice full flavored beer worthy of a spot in my fridge.

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Photo of Knapp85
3.5/5  rDev -6.2%
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.

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Photo of metter98
3.68/5  rDev -1.3%
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.

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Photo of BEERchitect
3.53/5  rDev -5.4%
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.

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Photo of biboergosum
4/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

An American pint (I think) at the GI airport lounge while in layover purgatory at O'Hare.

This beer appears a clear, medium bronzed amber hue, with two fingers of puffy, tightly foamy, and rather bubbly ecru head, which renders a wall of pockmarked limestone lace around the glass as it evenly settles.

It smells of crisply biscuity grain, a stoic caramel malt, a touch of warm butter, fleshy citrus, and tangy leafy, earthy hops. The taste is more biscuity caramel malt, a certain dry graininess, perky orange and lemon citrus notes, a minor hard water flintiness, and floral, somewhat weedy hops.

The carbonation is moderate, just a pleasantly lilting frothiness for the most part, the body a decent medium weight, well smooth, and somewhat airily creamy. It finishes fairly off-dry, that robust maltiness ticking along on all cylinders, with the leafy citrus bitterness kicking it up a notch as well.

Enjoyable and very drinkable, especially with its full flavour and low ABV - I could see putting back a number of these, were I in a place and time to do so. Quite the bang-on bitter - right malt, right hops, right on.

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Photo of brentk56
4.13/5  rDev +10.7%
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

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Photo of kojevergas
3.48/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.5

Served on-draught into a hefeweissbier glass at Buffalo Wild Wings in Mall of American, Minneapolis, Minnesota. Reviewed from notes. Expectations were high given Goose Island's reputation.

A: Pours a one finger head of fair cream, good thickness, and pretty good retention. Colour is a transparent textbook copper.

Sm: Cream, caramel, light hops (chinook?), and malted barley.

T: Malted barley foundation, very light caramel, and light cream. a bit imbalanced. Pretty simple and rather boring. Strangely built. I do enjoy it, though. The malt is extremely well handled. There's a milky cream note on the side that complements the profile nicely.

Mf: Extraordinarily smooth and wet. Quite crisp in a smack-your-lips fashion. Really the best aspect of this beer.

Dr: Pairs extremely well with food due to its slick mouthfeel and high drinkability. It's expensive, but I'd have on draught at a better price. It hides its ABV well.

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Photo of Phyl21ca
3.5/5  rDev -6.2%
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.

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Photo of LXIXME
3.55/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Big light brown head slowly settles into a nice lacing above a clear bright caramel bronze colored beer.

Lightly sweetened roasted caramel grain malts aroma with just a hint of some hops coming through.

Lightly roasted caramel grain malts taste with just a bit of sweetness.

A lighter dryish aftertaste with just a bit of the sweet caramel taste sticking around with this medium bodied beer.

This beer reminds me more of Amber Bock than anything else I can think of, and that's not altogether the worst thing that could happen.

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Photo of zeff80
3.87/5  rDev +3.8%
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.

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Photo of Thorpe429
4.1/5  rDev +9.9%
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!

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Photo of mothman
3.8/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

Poured into Sam Adams Sensory Glass.

Pours a 1 and 1/2 finger head. Kind of fizzy and off-white. Color is a golden copper; pretty much clear.

Aroma is of carmel, musky hops, and some bready notes.

The taste is very balanced. Nice earthy hops mixed with bready and carmel malts. There is also some kind of zest in the background.

Mouthfeel starts out bitter on the palate then it gets more smooth and easier to drink. Leaves a very dry aftertaste. Low carbonation in the glass.

Overall, this is a very easy to drink beer. Another sessionable beer from GI. However this isn't anything too special about it (not saying that's a bad thing).

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Photo of oberon
3.88/5  rDev +4%
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.

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Photo of superspak
3.9/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

12 ounce bottle into pint glass, bottled on 12/3/2013. Pours lightly hazy/cloudy copper amber color with a 2 finger fairly dense off white head with good retention, that reduces to a small cap that lingers. Light spotty foamy lacing clings on the glass, with some light streaming carbonation. Aromas of caramel, toast, biscuit, orange zest, herbal, grass, pepper, light pear/apple, and herbal/yeast earthiness. Very nice aromas with good balance of malt, hop, and yeast ester notes; with good strength. Taste of caramel, toast, biscuit, orange zest, herbal, grass, pepper, light pear/apple, and toast/yeast earthiness. Good amount of earthy herbal/pepper bitterness on the finish; with lingering notes of caramel, toast, biscuit, orange zest, herbal, grass, pepper, and toast/yeast earthiness on the finish for a good bit. Very nice balance of malt, hop, and light-moderate yeast flavors; with good robustness and zero cloying flavors after the finish. Medium carbontion and light-medium bodied; with a smooth, crisp, and slightly bready mouthfeel that is nice. Alcohol is well hidden with minimal warming present after the finish as expected of 4.2%. Overall this is a very nice English bitter style. All around good robustness and balance of malt, hop, and light-moderate yeast ester flavors; and very smooth and crisp to drink. A very enjoyable offering.

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Photo of jlindros
4.05/5  rDev +8.6%
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.

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Photo of chinchill
3.6/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

12 ounce bottle from Fort Collins, CO was served chilled in a snifter.

Appearance - Poured sparkling clear, dark amber in color, with a fine, creamy bone-colored head. The head had disappointing retention. Good lacing on the sides of the glass.

Smell: About equal mix of malts and hops; A bit floral with hints of brown sugar.

Taste: Like a relatively bitter, earthy and hoppy amber ale: i.e., mildly bitter and true to style. Well balanced. A trace of ripe fruit. Aftertaste is unusually durable for an ale of this style and strength.

Mouthfeel: Near medium bodied, with good lively moderate carbonation. A bit crisp with a semi-dry finish.

O: Respectably flavorful and interesting, and with just 4.3% ABV, this is a good session ale.

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Photo of TheManiacalOne
3.8/5  rDev +1.9%
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.

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Photo of mactrail
3.58/5  rDev -4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.5

Clear amber with a brownish tint. Very nice creamy head and a fine carbonation on the tongue. Some roast malt with a buttery hint, and a little scratch of nutshells. Pleasant nutty aroma.

Some fruity hops with a touch of bitterness, but it's not very hoppy. The delightful creamy mouthfeel is the best feature, but it's quite drinkable overall. A warm, modestly malty taste but not very bitter. From the bottle at Elephant & Castle in Washington, DC.

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Photo of Rifugium
3.8/5  rDev +1.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

First had: on tap at Miller's Pub, Chicago, IL

A good, straightforward, no nonsense local ESB from Chicago town. Even though this is good anywhere you have it, it was noticeably better when I had it at the brewery's pub. It's worth going there to try it. That, and Wrigleyville is such an awesome place to drink.

Pours a slightly cloudy amber with a nice white head. Big bready malt aroma. Malts in the taste, caramel, with some breadiness and good earthiness. Very well balanced by crisp hops. Nice medium mouthfeel, and very easily drinkable. Great Chicago staple.

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Photo of ChainGangGuy
3.91/5  rDev +4.8%
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.

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.18/5  rDev +12.1%
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.

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Photo of mdaschaf
3.88/5  rDev +4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Had on tap at the Baysox game.

A: Honker's was a clear amber color with a one finger off-white head that had moderate retention and spotty lacing.

S: Not a ton going on, but some biscuity malt and a little bit of citrus and orange peel.

T: Pretty mild fruit flavors with more biscuit/bready malt. More orange flavor and a slight tropical citrus flavor.

M: On the lighter side of medium bodied with medium carbonation.

O: A solid beer, easy drinking for sure. Was happy to get it at a minor league game as opposed to having to get a macro lager.

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Honker's Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
3.73 out of 5 based on 3,875 ratings.
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