Mike Grabowski, June 17, 2013

I love this craze of mix-and-match six packs that’s sweeping our nation’s slingers of craft booze. It’s like Build-A-Bear Workshops for deviants. I peel my cardboard sampler box open and go to work on the Rubik’s Cube of bottles laid out before me. I’m not going to tell you the amount of time I typically spend constructing my ultimate six packs, because it’s embarrassing and frankly none of your business, but just know that when I put it on the checkout counter, the clerk knows they’re dealing with a pro.

Yesterday afternoon the artistic bug bit me, so I swung by my local specialty grocer to dominate their cooler of magic once again. I struck quick and filled the bottom two slots of my six pack with two solid IPAs for structural integrity -- Founder’s All Day and a Great Lakes Commodore Perry. I got a bit frivolous in the middle and went with a Capital Brewery Island Wheat and an Abita’s Purple Haze. That left me with two open spots, but one quickly filled when I noticed a lone wolf Lagunitas Sucks.

With one last hole to methodically fill, the chill of the walk-in started to affect me, so I hurriedly scanned for anything worth drinking. And that’s what led me to my first Goose Island’s Matilda.

I have no valid excuse for never trying one before. I live in the Chicago suburbs, and you can buy the stuff in some gas stations. It’s readily available. I can only believe that the price point of Matilda, which puts it on par with a good IPA, always steered me towards an alternative. But on first sniff and sip, I realized I’d been missing out.

Matilda is a strong Belgian Pale Ale. When you pop the cap and put it to your nose, you get a good idea of what you’ll get. The Belgian yeast gives it a distinct, formidable tang, which immediately defines its class, but there’s enough complexity in the softer notes to give it some personality. You smell fruit and flower and a hint of spice. It’s got a little cinnamon-apple thing going on in deeper breaths.

And while I hadn’t drank a Matilda before, I knew of it and knew a bit about its game. The sly devils at Goose Island named it delicately, but like the object of a Shakespearean sonnet, it packs a punch. At 7% ABV, you’re wise to tap dance with Matilda. 

This much I knew this past December when my company threw a Christmas party at a local deep dish joint. Everyone was feeling that holiday spirit and winding down from a stressful year, but it was Monday, and it’s not wise to get too thirsty at work functions, so I refrained. But that didn’t stop one of my co-workers. I watched in appreciation as three glasses of Matilda’s cloudy, copper snake coiled down his throat. But like a champ, he was perfectly behaved, and there was no (obvious) reason for me to tell you this story.

But I should point out that months passed from this perfectly lame work party until my first taste of Matilda, and in between, there was a seasonal change or two. That highlights the beer’s versatility. It’s got enough substance and taste for the heartier months, but is crisp and light enough to enjoy in favorable temps.

All-in-all, I found enough to like in my first tasting to strongly consider Matilda for future go-arounds. It’s a beer worthy enough to be bought in bulk on the nights I don’t have the time or energy to devote to creating a variety pack. It’s a strong choice to set down on the counter. Best of all, it’s local to me and always on the shelf. 

Goose Island Matilda

appearance = 3.4/5
Pours a strong, ropy copper. Minimal head. Stray pieces of sediment. 

smell = 4.2/5
Strong Belgian yeast. Spice. Soft, sweet undertones. 

taste = 4/5

Pepper. Apple. Fruit/floral notes.

mouthfeel = 3/5
Smooth, silky. Mild Carbonation. Deceptive for it’s strength. 

overall = 3.7

A worthy choice, but better options available at the price point.