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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User Reviews
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Reviews: 1,115 | Ratings: 3,876
Photo of jaypaul522
3.94/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Pours a golden color, with a nice malt and hop blend of flavors. Taste is very smooth and strong - this is good tasting ale. The body is medium, and drinkability is excellent. Good beer with a meal.

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

Pours clear copper color with a 1-2 finger foamy beige colored head that faded slowly and left decent spotty lacing.

Smells of toasted grains, light yeast, floral hops, caramel, light lemon zest and cardboard. Earthy notes come out along with some citrus and blend in well with the malt base. Smells nice but very basic and nothing really jumps out - it's a very even smelling brew with equal parts hops and malts.

Tastes very much like it smells with sweet malt, caramel, toasted grains, yeast, floral hops, lemon zest, tea leaf, a little grapefruit bunch of earthy notes. Some more pronounced fruity flavors come out but can't get past the malt base, so like the aroma it's a very even tasting with equal parts hops and just a little stronger malt sweetness.

Mouthfeel is light and almost smooth, with mild carbonation, a hint of bitterness and a malty/grainy sweetness that trails off with toffee or caramel and a semi-dry feel.

Overall it's a good basic beer and seems to fit the English Bitter style quite well.

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Photo of Obake21
3.94/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

First review:

L = Nice clear amber
S = You can smell the hops up front, but the malt comes through nicely.
T = Enough malt to balance out the hops. Very nice especially since I am not such a hop fan. I liked this one a lot.
F = Pretty dry. Not too much of an aftertaste. Should go well with a meal.

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Photo of Ciocanelu
3.65/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Clear copper color with a bit of beige head. Aroma has some sweet malts, honey and sweet orange. Taste starts really balanced, malty, fruity with a touch of caramel. It gets bitter towards the finish making for an overall really balanced taste profile. Medium body with crisp carbonation. Quite tasty for the low ABV but also very drinkable.

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Photo of beersareonme
4.43/5  rDev +18.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

For a straight up ale, this is a winner through & through. Superb taste, tingle and depth. My personal preference with this one... the colder the better. Tried on tap @ Sociable in Brantford ON.

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Photo of moofthedog
3.89/5  rDev +4.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Bought on clearance at target (A six pack for 4 bucks!) Bottle date of aug 2015.

Appearance: Nice amber color. Lacing isn't too serious but that's ok.
Aroma: Hops hit the nose rather hard. Some malty-sweetness comes through but I mostly get hops.
Taste: This is where I was pleasantly surprised. Malty sweetness hits the tongue, balanced out rather well with the bitterness of the hops. But not too bitter at 30 IBU's. Biscuity, caramel-y.
Mouthfeel: The maltiness is great when it's in your mouth, but leaves kind of dry for me. This is kind of a bummer because I enjoy the maltiness sticking around a bit. Moderate carbonation, obviously not too watery.

Overall: Better than expected. If it was on tap, I'd definitely give it a shot. It could be improved greatly by reducing the dryness in my opinion.

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Photo of stevoj
2.83/5  rDev -24.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

On tap while going through Chicago. Clear dark amber with small off white head. Aroma is subdued due to very cold serving temps. Taste is nutty, caramel , toffee . No finish.

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Photo of davidperez
3.9/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Served in a nonic pint, it pours a dark, golden orange, clear. A one-inch nice slightly tanned head with very good retention, that fades out leaving a thin layer of foam.

Not very aromatic, but you get malty tones and a little bit of citric, herbal hoppiness, caramel, and hints of diacetyl.

The taste is bitter upfront, but quickly the malty sweetness comes in to balance the flavor. Caramel, and a little bit herbal/spicy. The aftertaste holds a mix of both bitterness and sweetness.

Overall this is a very nice beer, you should give it a try.

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Photo of jeffdr123
3.69/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Sweet, fruity beer with enough hops and malt to keep it interesting. Just an English bitter should be. And pretty. A lovely copper with lots of lacing. Mary Lou likes the aftertaste better than most beers. Had it on tap at Bogey's in Venice.

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Photo of JPNesker
3.92/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Mad decent macro spin on a trad English bitter. Pours fresh from the can. What my GF calls the "Goosy" Hop (as in particular to GI brews) leads to a full on malt bomb finish in yer mouth. Gotta say -- Pleasantly Surprised

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Photo of Mike_Aguirre
4.27/5  rDev +14.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Pours deep copper with a slightly tanned foam head, filtered. Aroma is of malts, caramel, some molasses and very little earthy hops. Taste is clean, refreshing, malty and slightly bitter, no hops. Nice beer.

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Photo of Haydn-Juby
4.25/5  rDev +13.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

L: An extremely clear deep amber color. One finger of creamy looking dense head. Lacing was okay. Retention was great.

S: Mild nose of slightly floral hops, mild bready yeastiness, faint touch of caramel.

T: The epitome of balance. The malt is sweet and reminiscent of caramel and fresh bread. The hops come through to tie everything together and are floral and spicey. Maybe a bit of citrus as well. Fairly clean and ester profile is minimal. Pleasantly sweet.

F: Carbonation seems to be on the lower end, which would be appropriate given that it's an English style. Body is creamy and moderately thick. It's not too filling, however.

O: a really great session beer. While it's easy drinking, it still has enough complexity to keep me wanting to comeback for more. Highly recommend to someone who believes Americans can't make great English styles!

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Photo of wanderingspirit
4.31/5  rDev +15.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Very satisfying, sessional beer, a good example of an English bitter with caramel, light toffee balanced by a slight hop. Not enough of this style here and this is a go to when I desire a bitter.

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Photo of CalebM
3.96/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

The bottled on date has been smudged off, but it's relatively new stock from the store I go to. Poured into a pub glass on 12/18/15 (that's warm season here in Florida). First English Bitter ever, so here goes!

Look: Copper color, smallish head.
Smell: Freshly baked light bread--like the kind you dip in soup. Malty, wheaty, tiniest bit of herbs. Someone on here said "figs"--I believe you, but I'll have to train my nose for that one.
Taste: Upfront is the malt and wheatiness from the nose. Very mild--the hops make a pretty casual appearance near the end.
Feel: Low carbonation done right. To me, the mouthfeel pulls together the flavors very well. You gulp one sip down and let your mouth water for sec.

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Photo of Catracho5
3.52/5  rDev -5.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

12 ounce bottle poured into a pint glass

A: Pours a honey orange with a white head, no head retention, slight lacing, lots of carbonation, beer is clear, looks very thin.

A: Biscuits, bread, malts, slight caramel, not getting any hop notes at all, smells like a lager.

T: Like the nose, it's biscuits, bread, malts, hint of hops at the front, quickly fades into the other notes, it's definitely easy to drink, aftertaste is of biscuits, bread, slight honey, it's okay.

M: Light bodied, dry finish.

O: I did not really want to like this beer because it's owned by AB but it's good, missing some hop notes but the bottle is six months old, it's very easy to drink, balanced, not popping with flavor, a middle of the road beer to me, doesn't impress but doesn't disappoint.

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Photo of Myotus
3.55/5  rDev -4.8%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 3.75

Poured from a 12oz bottle (bottled on 03Jun15) into a nonic pint glass. Consumed on 12Nov15.
LOOK: Pours with a half finger's worth of white foam that shrivels down into a line after 35 seconds. Copper in color. Rising bubbles are small in size and so scare in quantity, that I can easily count them as they rise. There is an abundance of tiny white particles floating around in the brew. Lacing is thin and very subtle.
SMELL: Mild aromas of biscuits and caramel meet with subtle aromas of toasted malts, plums, figs, raisins, pale malts and earthy hops along with hints of bitter hops.
TASTE: Mild biscuits and caramel flavors enter initially and are immediately followed by subtle bitter hop flavors. Mild flavors of toasted malts, plums, raisins, figs, and floral hops (didn't detect those in the smell) enter next. Earthy hops enter lastly as all previous flavors persist except for bitter hop flavors, which grow to mild.
FEEL: Medium-bodied and highly carbonated. Goes down rough. Finishes with a moderate dryness.
NOTE: This is very drinkable. Not the best thing out there, but not the worst. I wouldn't mind cracking open a 6 pack while hanging out with friends.

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Photo of ordybill
4.1/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12 OZ bottle into a pint glass. Appearance- a crystal clear light copper color with a medium white head. Aroma- full of malt with some fruit in the background. Taste- a really good blend of caramel and malt with hops giving it a nice full flavor. Another really good offering from Goose Island.

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Photo of D-HopSupreme
3.47/5  rDev -7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

Pours a nice amber body with an off-white head from a 473mL can. The scent is moderately strong in citrus hops with a slight sugary sweetness that I can't quite place. The taste then follows with complete contrast, having some bready tones, some whiskey notes, a few smokey flairs and complete absence of the original citrus scent. The feel is fairly smooth, but honestly I'm too caught off guard by the taste to really notice it, and if anything it is a bit too light in finishing for a bitter. Overall enjoyable, but not exactly something I'd spring for on a regular basis.

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Photo of TheBierdimpfe
3.71/5  rDev -0.5%
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 +3.8%
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 +10.5%
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 +4.3%
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 -6.2%
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 +12.9%
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 -15.5%
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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Honker's Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
3.73 out of 5 based on 3,876 ratings.
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