It has not been unnoticed that so far I have not mentioned beer at all in this journal, a mistake that I shall now improve. While cask ale shall be the main focus of drinking in the Bag of Nails, I shall also be stocking a very wide range of world beers. It is only fitting that the first one that I mention is also one of the first really good American craft beers that I came across. Five or six years ago, while working for Bath Ales, as an assistant manager, we had a music night booked for the evening, called the Chicago Music Explosion. This consisted of three or four rock/funk bands containing various hirsute Chicagoans, and the tour was organised and lead by an Englishman called Ben 'Shakey' Ruth. These bands needed somewhere to stay after the gig, and my manager, Paul, knowing that I lived in a big house asked if I could put any of them up for the night. Having seen Spinal Tap, I was very hesitant. Shakey finally bribed me to permit nine hairy, smelly Americans and one Lancastrian to stay across our house with a six pack of this beer, Goose Island's IPA.
Goose Island IPA is from the Goose Island Brewery in Chicago, and they have been brewing for nearly twenty five years now. Being American it comes in the standard funny sized bottle, which is 12 fluid ounces. No, not our fluid ounces, but ones of their own invention, which are nearly the same volume as ours, but not. After all they do have to prove that they are not like the British really. So anyway, 12 American fluid ounces translates as 12.49 Imperial fluid ounces or 354.88 ml. (or nearly two thirds of a proper pint.)
Coming in at 5.9% this craft beer is strong by British standards, but is par for the course in it's own country. It is bottle conditioned, and to pour it getting the correct head of over an inch without some of the yeast slipping into the glass can sometimes be quite tricky. Because of this I often drink it a little hazy, but I really don't actually mind this as much as maybe some people think I ought. (But of course if I'm serving it to you in the Bag then I will serve a perfect drink every time without question, m'lud.)
Goose Island describe the colour of the beer as 'Bourbon' which is a nicer way of calling it light orange :).
This beer has a big, full flavour, which you begin to experience straight away upon sipping. As you would expect with an American IPA, hops play a large part in the taste. But along with the hops you do have a fuller fruit like taste, and also a clear hint of citrus. There are quite a lot of individual flavour forming one composite which is very pleasing indeed. There is a floral hint and or course malts in there too ('pales malts' they unhelpfully embellish on their web page,) but just enough to counter the natural astringency of the hops, and so this beer would never be described as overly bitter. In fact without being cloying at all, I would say that it was more on the side of sweet than bitter. You are never close to experience the sucking in of cheeks which does happen with some American craft beers.
This is a beer that tastes a lot better in it's own glass. So if you do find it in a pub and they pour it into a pint glass,and try to charge you four fifty for it, send it back and tell them that I told you too.
This is actually a beer that I can drink all night long, but I would recommend caution before doing this, as you really don't notice the alcohol content, and getting carried away and falling on your arse can be a real possibility.
This beer is mostly imported by James Clay, although I suspect that it shall be much more widely available due to a recent deal with some evil purveyors of 'UniFizz'.. I do hope that they allow the brewers to retain their craft beer integrity, Else I'll be buying a plane ticket, an eyepatch, a false moustache and a chainsaw. (like that one in Doom.)
Just time to thank Shakey Ruth for introducing me to this wonderful beer. After that first night, he bagsied the floorspace underneath the pool table, and came to stay again quite a few times more. He leads a band called The Convulsions, and you should always get to their gigs if you get an opportunity. But take your drinks of off the bar if you do. They're not safe when he's around.