What to Drink This Weekend: Goose Island Sofie

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Photo Robert Caputo

I don’t take beer seasonality all that seriously. Sure, malty amber ales are generally more palatable when it’s cold out, and thick toasty stouts should probably never see a beach. But despite the brewing industry’s seasonal marketing cycle—spring ales, summer ales, pumpkin ales—I’m pretty happy with most lighter styles year-round. Although now I will totally contradict myself because I’m finding saisons perfectly suited to the sauna that is NYC this summer. And I swear I don’t only drink pricey beers with really twee labels. Mike assigned this one. Swear.

Saisons, or farmhouse ales, might be the original purposefully warm-weather beer. Something about Wallonian farmers brewing them in winter to have on hand once summer came around to get them through the harvest, as brewing and aging beer in pre-electricity August would’ve yielded fairly grody results (beer yeast does funny things in warm weather). Easily one of the best American saison interpretations is Goose Island’s Sofie, a light, spicy golden ale with a hint of citrus like the style’s gold standard, Saison Dupont. It’s a bit drier, though, with milder carbonation. Wild yeast give the beer this awesome pucker akin to a mild sour ale and a stint in wine barrels kicks in some oak (Goose Island was an early player in the buzzy art of barrel aging beer). It’s almost more like some rogue Champagne or white wine than a beer.

In 2010 the massive Belgium/Brazilian conglomerate InBev—who in 2008 swallowed up Anheuser-Busch, officially making America’s most iconic beer an import—purchased 58% of Goose Island. It could’ve been the craft beer kiss-of-death. But the suits have actually done a laudable job maintaining Goose Island’s high standards, and thankfully not much has changed in terms of the beer. No weird aluminum bottles. Or lime extracts. And Sofie still tastes incredible in 95-degree New York.

Maybe there’s something to seasonality in lighter beer. Sometimes. But those farmers weren’t privy to the glories of electric refrigeration, or arguably the finest appliance, the air conditioner. So come fall Sofie will probably taste just as good, and you should have no trouble finding it year-round at spots like American, Bierkraft and Brouwerij Lane. Because if there’s one thing being cousins with Budweiser is good for, it’s distribution.