The dreams of geniuses can sound like the ramblings of madmen. Such was the case with the Wright brothers, whose often-scoffed dream of piloting a motorized kite through the air with a man aboard became reality and changed the world forever.
Another Wright of the genius class, not related to Orville and Wilbur, was Frank Lloyd Wright, the renowned architect whose dreams often became reality. But one eluded him. In 1956, the architect proposed an incredible plan: A mile-high skyscraper to be built in Chicago. It would have been 528 stories tall and had it been built, it would still dwarf any standing building today.
It never became a reality. But Goose Island pays homage to this dream by releasing the first of its Imperial Series—The Illinois, the name by which this sky-piercing edifice would have been known.
The Imperial IPA was released with limited national distribution in late February. Clocking in at 9% ABV with 95 IBUs, the beer meets all the parameters of its style, at least by the numbers.
It pours with a deep, golden hue and sustains a solid foamy head. I did not notice an overwhelming hop presence in the aroma, despite the use of four different hops—Chinook, Cascade, Citra and Meridian. At first taste, it became obvious why. The malt backbone is strong (five different malt varieties were used), holding the hops character in its grasp until it hits your tongue. Even though there was a dry bitterness on the palate after it flowed down my esophagus, I still was wanting for more hops.
It’s advertised as a medium to full mouthfeel. To me, it was medium at best. I will give the brewers much credit for one aspect: I did not detect any alcohol burn in The Illinois, despite the 9% ABV.
Often, when I explain the range of craft beer flavors to one unfamiliar with it, I use IPAs as an example. Someone may say, “I don’t like IPAs,” but there is such a wide spectrum of flavors in that category, that such a statement is not valid unless they’ve tasted a variety ranging from maltier versions such as this beer, to the tongue burning hop bombs popularized by the U.S. West Coast craft breweries.
I think I would tag The Illinois as a “gateway Imperial IPA,” if there is such a thing. It’s solid, and I’d drink it again, but would not recommend it as a stellar example of what that style could be.
Brewery: Goose Island
City: Chicago, Ill.
Style: Imperial IPA