If you’re like us, you’ve probably been scrambling to find those final few taps still pouring Goose Island’s Fulton & Wood Old Town Yard Helles Lager. Have no fear Chicago, while production for Old Town Yard has ceased, Goose Island pub brewmaster Jared Rouben has a palate pleaser with Gold Smoke, a smoked helles lager.
Pouring with a golden to burnt yellow hue, this vibrant 5.2% abv helles lager is a perfect way to kickoff baseball festivities at the ballparks and get ready for a loooong season for both North and South siders alike. The best way to describe this beer is simply, clean and crisp. Gold Smoke appears with a slight straw haze and sports a frothy white head that dissipates somewhat quickly. Although that may have had something to do with my nosedive into the foam as I was taking in the malty aroma laced with slight hints of melanoidins and subtle peaks of hickory smoke.
And like nearly all of Rouben’s new beers he releases on Thursday’s at 6PM, Gold Smoke is incredibly well balanced and damn near perfectly executed for style and malt flavor with a light body and slightly grainy taste that is complemented by faint melanoidins and a subdued smoked ham backend. What I find most fascinating about Gold Smoke is Rouben’s decision to create a helles lager with pronounced, yet subtle smoky attributes that do not linger on the palate. I’m sure that Schlenkerla Rauch-o-philes would prefer a more aggressive smoke, but to Rouben’s credit, there isn’t a hoard of smoky bandits tearing down the pub walls these days.
With the bacon notes taking the backseat to the pilsner backbone and light honey malt undertones, Gold Smoke immediately shines as a clean, extremely drinkable helles lager for the rest of us. Coupled with a fantastic mouthfeel and Goose’s Island dedication to correct pouring temperature and carbonation, Gold Smoke is about as bright, crisp, and clean of a lager beer you can come by in Chicago. Head down to the Goose Island brewpub on Clybourn to pick up a few pints of Gold Smoke before I drink it all.