I had the opportunity to sit down with Goose Island Brewmaster Brett Porter to talk about the 2014 slate of Bourbon County Stout beers, in Beverly Hills of all places.
The answers to my questions posed that day will appear over on Food GPS in early November. For now, you get my tasting notes on the spin-offs and variants of the classic Stout that debuted over 20 years ago.
This year the BCS consists of the following: (with my tasting notes in italics)
Bourbon County Brand Stout – Original: A liquid as dark and dense as a black hole with thick foam the color of a bourbon barrel. The nose is an intense mix of charred oak, chocolate, vanilla, caramel and smoke. One sip has more flavor than your average case of beer.
One of the rare bourbon barrel beers that doesn’t scream bourbon. I like that the previous occupant of the barrel is an additional note here. And this year the alcoholic heat is much less. No need to wait for this one, it is ready now. Quite viscous with milk chocolate notes here.
Bourbon County Brand Stout Coffee: Everyday Goose Island smells the wonderful coffee roasting next to our brewery at Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea. This world class roaster puts the same passion and skill into their coffee as Goose Island does with its beer. This excellent stout is made with a different coffee from our friends next door each year. With the change in coffee comes a change in the flavor profile, making each release truly unique from the previous years.
The 2014 wasn’t ready yet but brewmaster Porter really liked the coffee choice from Intelligentsia for this year. But the 2013 really held up well. Big coffee nose with lots of unroasted bean notes to it
Bourbon County – Barleywine: Aged in the third-use barrels that were once home to Kentucky bourbon and then our renowned Bourbon County Stout, this traditional English-style barleywine possesses the subtlety of flavor that only comes from a barrel that’s gone through many seasons of ritual care. The intricacies of the previous barrel denizens – oak, charcoal, hints of tobacco and vanilla, and that signature bourbon heat – are all present in this beer. Hearty and complex, Bourbon County Brand Barleywine is a titan and a timeline; a bold, flavorful journey through the craft of barrel aging.
When left to warm up, this really showed off some complexity. Lovely garnet color, this beer spent 6 months in barrels that previously held BCS. Slick on the tongue with cola and cranberry fruit notes. A little Umami action as well.
Bourbon County – Vanilla Rye: First brewed for the legendary festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer in Chicago, drinkers enjoyed this Bourbon County Variant so much we bottled it the next year (2010). People flocked to stores to get their hands on a bottle and have this one of a kind barrel aged stout. Over the past few years we have heard our fans express their love for this version and we are extremely proud to bring it back in 2014. This year’s version features a little twist of aging the stout in Rye Whiskey Barrels with a mix of Mexican and Madagascar vanilla beans!
I so wish this one had been ready but I will really like to see how these flavors meld together.
Proprietors Bourbon County: Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout is meant to show our immense gratitude to our neighbors here in Chicago – the loyal and adventurous fans whose support helped bring Bourbon County Brand Stout to towering new heights. Each year this release will differ from the previous year; a special variant created for Chicago and unique to the year it was released. Whether your first sip is today or was from that first batch in 1992, thank you for lifting us up on your big shoulders and joining us every year to celebrate the original bourbon barrel aged stout.