It’s almost that wonderful time of the year when Chicagoland staple Goose Island Beer Company unleashes its highly acclaimed Bourbon County Brand Stout. Year after year, Goose Island announces new variants to the impressive lineup, and the release captures the collective attention of craft drinkers across the country. And honestly, BCBS is worthy of that attention—it’s uniformly excellent every single year.
But for my money, it isn’t the best beer in Goose Island’s stable of brews. That honor belongs to Halia, a farmhouse ale aged in wine barrels on whole peaches.
Halia can be just as hard to get hold of, or maybe harder, than BCBS, but if you have the opportunity you absolutely need to snap this one up. It pours from an understated, wine-like bottle to reveal a slightly hazy golden body. The aroma is incredible—I could spend hours leaning over the glass. Halia smells like tart and juicy peaches with plenty of wine barrel aroma to go along with the fruit.
The flavor follows right along with the aroma, but it’s even more complex. Halia is led by sour tartness, followed by a wave of sweet peach and spicy Belgian notes. That interplay between sour, sweet, and spicy is what makes Halia so special, and a little wine-barrel-character thrown in doesn’t hurt either. Like BCBS, Halia pulls no punches, dropping haymakers of flavor one after another. It’s a bold beer that manages to highlight each component with no singular aspect outshining another.
To find a beer with this many unique flavors presented so strongly while staying in balance—that’s exceedingly rare. And that’s why I put Halia above even the vaunted BCBS among Goose Island offerings.