Craft Beer Scene Around Rockford: Honker’s Ale a solid ‘session’ British ale

By Michael Sears
President, Forest City Brewers

This week, I would like to highlight Goose Island’s Honker’s Ale.

As I stated in an earlier article, Goose Island is a longtime favorite brewery of mine. They are one of the pioneers in the brewpub industry, beginning as a single brewpub known as Clybourn, which opened in May 1988 in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. They expanded the brewery in 1995, and opened a second brewpub, Wrigleyville, in 1999.

In 2006, a large portion of the company was sold to Widmer Brothers, allowing Goose Island beers to be distributed all across the United States and the United Kingdom.

In 2011, Goose Island was purchased by Anheuser-Busch. Along with their portfolio of fine beers, they also make delicious sodas.

Honker’s Ale is an English-style bitter that was inspired by visits to the country pubs in England. It is a true session beer, with an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 4.3 percent, and an old favorite I’ve had many times and is available year round.

This beer is best enjoyed in an Imperial pint glass around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, but a Nonic or Becker-type pint glass works as well as the standard American pint.

The pour is an amber color, with a light frothy head of a creamy white, which quickly dissipates into a thin, splotchy head. The clarity is extremely clear, with ample carbonation.

The smell is of biscuit, earthy grain and slight toffee sweetness. A light floral bitterness scent from the hops and some fruitiness contributed from the yeast — very clean overall.

The first sip goes hand in hand with the aroma … biscuit malt and floral bitterness at the front that finishes with slight fruity and toffee sweetness with the bitterness and biscuit malt. A slight mineral presence is also in the finish. It has a smooth, soft and clean mouth feel, with medium body that is easy to drink with a hint of carbonation to keep it frothy. There is very little lacing left on the glass.

Honker’s Ale is a solid “session” British ale with a good blend of hops and malt that represents the style well. A smooth, drinkable English bitter for those who want more from their beer. I am happy in saying this classic ale hasn’t changed since the buyout; still the same ol’ tasty and refreshing Honker’s Ale.


Michael Sears is president of the Forest City Brewers. The Forest City Brewers is a homebrewing club dedicated to the art of finely crafted beer. The club meets the first Wednesday of each month at Thunder Bay Grille on East State Sreet. For more about Forest City Brewers, go to If you have comments or recommendations, please contact Mike at

From the April 16-22, 2014, issue

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