AS THE MOST conventional of Goose Island’s Vintage Ales by a considerable margin, Pere Jacques is almost easy to overlook. While other members of this Belgian-inspired series use wild yeast (Matilda, etc.), fruit adjuncts, or bold spices (Pepe Nero), Pere Jacques is a straightforward Dubbel-style ale. Yet Dubbels are often still complex despite their simpler formulas, and so Pere Jacques fits alongside its cohorts without need of grapefruit zest, port barrel aging, or suchlike.
Last year’s review of Pere Jacques was a little abbreviated, so this two-year vertical aims to pay these abbey-style fathers more contemplative respects. It’s also a timely visitation, since this fall the Vintage ales follow the footsteps (or flock migration?) of Goose Island’s Classic series in a nationwide rollout.
The pour is a beautiful auburn/orange with a respectable head, though it doesn’t last long. The nose shows a touch of earthy, slightly spicy Saaz hops that are mild on the palate as befits the style. Considerably less traditional is the presence of sugar in the aroma as well as the sheer density of the malt bill. Gobs of Special B in addition to wheat, rye, and caramel make for a sizeable and bready mouthfeel. Some nuance comes from the impression of baking spices (also coriander) and a bit of mineralic seasoning at the edges.
This results in a medium body a bit heavy for the style—even leaving a little sweet residue on the lips—though still nicely effervescent throughout. Some licorice and sweet fruits develop later on the palate to counter the earlier caramel focus. The 8.6% ABV is extremely well-masked until at room temperature and then still is only a small bump. The finish readily shows off its yeast, a pleasant strain that is welcome after the foregoing malt intensity. Yet overall there’s something a bit lacking here. More phenolic spiciness or stronger minerals would be useful for a stronger sign-off: as of now it’s tasty and companionable, just lacking for a little special zip.
Served: 12 oz bottled 6/8/13
One of the foremost attributes that makes abbey ales age so well is their great liveliness when young. This is often achieved via high carbonation and pronounced spiciness that stands up to the Dubbel’s rich maltiness. Considering the already pronounced malt character of a fresh Pere Jacques, an extra year was unlikely to work to its advantage.
Indeed, the 2012 version was altogether milder than its younger brother—smoother, yes, but not so much matured as subdued. There was also a bit of a soapy swell after the midpalate, though it thankfully was overtaken by stronger fruit impression like cherry and raisin (likely that Special B again), even more prominent here than in its younger peer. Molasses also was a stronger impression than caramel. Nearly all the flavors this Pere Jacques had to offer were pleasing aside from that soapiness, which we’ll consider a singular defect. But it is just not sufficiently balanced for long cellaring.
On the plus side, this means that a fresh vintage—less carbonated and fuller-bodied than its archetype—is already in peak form. Though the good father himself might protest, here’s once instance where patience is not a virtue and instant gratification can be had without guilt.
Served: 12 oz bottled 10/18/12