The setup: 4 beers, 2 from Missouri, 2 from Illinois (UPDATE: Berghoff is actually a Wisconsin brewery, at the time of the purchase and now I consider it a Chicago beer), which state is brewing at a higher level
The participants: O’Malley’s Irish Cream Ale, Schlafly Raspberry Hefeweizen, Berghoff Pale Ale, Goose Island Harvest Ale
O’Malley’s Irish Cream Ale poured nicely into my pint glass leaving a nearly perfect head. When settled it had a nice gold look, kind of cloudy, more yellow than pale ale (hence the name pale ale) and less cloudy than wheat. It didn’t have the bite that a regular pale ale has, you know, like a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. The bitterness of pale ale isn’t present in O’Malley’s, it has just a touch of sweetness and no bitter bite. I’m not saying this is a great thing but it’s not bad either. Also, I didn’t notice a very hoppy smell from the O’Malley’s, but cream ales aren’t known for their hoppiness. Since, I really enjoy hops this is more of a strike against cream ales than against this particular beer. The taste was pretty light and didn’t really distinguish itself, much like a lager. It got better as I got near the end, but that could have been me just anticipating the Schlafly. Overall, it’s a pretty drinkable beer, but only one or two at a sitting and maybe only to be drank at O’Malley’s.
Next comes the hyped up super challenger Schlafly Raspberry Hefeweizen. I gave my Schlafly glass a quick rinse and poured the fruity nectar. It poured a little on the pink side with not much head and real cloudy. I’m not sure that this is the freshest beer in the land at this late date, it’s supposed to be an early summer seasonal. The taste was good, the raspberry didn’t knock you out, like McCoy’s raspberry does, it was much more subtle. I knew it was a raspberry flavor but it still tasted like beer should taste which is a good thing. It wasn’t overly sweet, in fact, toward the end, it could have been more sweet, it left a bit of a bitter raspberry taste in my mouth, much like when you grab a raspberry from a stand at a farmer’s market. With all the hype I’ve built up around this beer I feel a little like the Red Sox must feel after 6 months of JD Drew’s services (if you’re not a baseball fan, the Red Sox don’t feel good at all about JD Drew). If you’re in KC go to the 75th Street Brewery and have the Raspberry Wheat it’s much better, but Schlafly’s is better than McCoy’s raspberry offering.
Next up is the first challenger from Illinois, Berghoff Pale Ale. Of the four beers in this challenge, this is the one I’ve had before, but only at O’Hare. This beer pours just like ole trusty Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, a nice light amber color and a nice looking head that looks like a fluffy cloud. Berghoff has a nice hoppy smell which fades a little after the pour. The taste; mediocre, not the standard pale ale taste, maybe a little bit sweet with a honey flavor. It’s pretty light also, much like the cream ale or a lager would be. I definitely like it and I look forward to having more.
Last and certainly not least comes the big dog of the four, the goose on the loose, the fall’s balls, Autumn’s vice, Goose Island Harvest Ale. The beer pours coppery with a khaki head (or as I call it the reverse red-head). The smell of hops filled the kitchen, it smells much like an APA, real hoppy, I can tell I’m going to love it, I may have to dip my balls in it. Oh man, does it taste good! The hops aren’t overly bitterfying (f… it, I know it’s not a word, you know it’s not a word, but I like it and it stays in!) and provide a whole world of flavor, it kind of tastes like fall should, if that makes sense. This beer has jumped the line, it’s definitely my favorite fall beer that I’ve had this year (sorry Leinies, Sam Adams, Boulevard and O’Fallon).
I declare the winner of the border war between Missouri and Illinois…ILLINOIS! Berghoff was better than either of the Missouri offerings and Goose Island was better than anything I’ve had from anywhere in 2 months. Run, don’t walk, to your neighborhood liquor store and pick up a sixer of Goose Island Harvest Ale.
Note: If interested in some background on the search for these beers check out the blog on our MySpace page.