Brew City: What’s Great (and Infuriating) About Bourbon County Stout

Our weekly beer columnist offers a rare rant — and a taste test of some extraordinary brews.

Bourbon County Stout: Rantings and a Reminder
I haven’t been entirely pleased with the way Goose Island has handled Bourbon County in the last year or so. Bad batches aside – because those can happen from time to time – I wasn’t thrilled that some smaller businesses seemed to get shut out of the rarer 2015 varietals in favor of big chain stores, or when those same chain stores recently got more than their share of the rerelease of Bourbon County “Rare.” (I was even less happy to hear from a friend who found two bottles for sale in a smaller store for the ridiculous price of $99.99 each.) I’m done with my rant.

All this nonsense is rooted in the fact that Bourbon County Stout is an amazing beer. Last week, I pulled out 2010 (which I didn’t realize I had), 2012 and 2013 single bottles of standard Bourbon County Stout to see how they’re holding up.

  • 2010 Bourbon County Stout: Prevalent dark chocolate bitterness made me think the bottle was past its prime. It was still good, but nowhere near as balanced and decadent as the other two.
  • 2012 Bourbon County Stout: Much richer than the 2010. No bitterness here, just boozy goodness.
  • 2013 Bourbon County Stout: Three years has to be the optimal cellaring age. The 2013 was rich, smooth, just a little boozy and extremely well balanced.

Tasting the three reminded me just how good Bourbon County Stout is, and how a vertical tasting is an outstanding beer history lesson.


Barley Pop of the Week
I’ve probably mentioned beers from Boston’s Trillium Brewing too much in this column, but they’ve kind of earned the praise. My Boston brother Pat sent me a few Trillium Congress Street Double Dry Hopped IPAs last week. The hazy orange brew has a hint of bitterness and is big on juicy hop goodness. Simply put, it’s fantastic. In my decidedly uneducated opinion, Trillium is producing some of the best IPAs on the planet.


Quick Taps
Bell’s Hopslam Ale ships this week to Wisconsin. I’ve discovered plenty of really good IPAs in my travels, but Hopslam holds a special place in my heart (for no tangible reason, I just like it a lot).

The event isn’t until January 31, but be sure to snag tickets for the New Brewers Beer Dinner at ABV Social (11200 W. Burleigh St., Wauwatosa). It’s a great chance to try some of the new local breweries including Good City, Third Space, Black Husky, Raised Grain and Enlightened.

Milwaukee Magazine’s restaurant critic has a great take on the food at Like Minds and where it’s headed now that chef/owner Justin Aprahamian is out of the mix.

What a partnership between Anheuser-Busch InBev and Keurig means is unclear, but it’s certainly intriguing. Maybe the world will soon be able to brew Busch Light at home.


Events Brewing
Tuesday, Jan. 10: Veteran’s Brewing heads to The Malt Shoppe (813 N. Mayfair Rd., Tosa) to pour samples and offer special pricing on six-packs.

Wednesday, Jan. 11: Upland Brewing is one of the better crafters of sours out there. The Indiana brewery is bringing a few of them to the “mostly sour” tap takeover at Ray’s Growler Gallery (8930 W. North Ave., Tosa) starting at 5 p.m. Sours aren’t the only beers on tap, the menu also includes One Eyed Elmer Rum Barrel-Aged Porter.

Wednesday, Jan. 11: The Milwaukee Beer Society takes a field trip to Third Space Brewing (1505 W. St. Paul Ave.) from 6 to 9 p.m. to meet with founders Kevin Wright and Andy Gehl. The cost is just $10.

Thursday, Jan. 12: The gloves come off for Battle of the Breweries II at Draft & Vessel (4417 N. Oakland Ave.). Central Waters takes on Tyranena in a blind tasting to determine a winner. The real winner is the beer fan, because for $35 you get seven samples of each.

Saturday, Jan. 14: Try samples from MobCraft at Discount Liquor Waukesha (919 N. Barstow Ave.) from noon to 2 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 14: MobCraft heads to Discount Liquor Milwaukee (5031 W. Oklahoma Ave.) from 3 to 5 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 14: Hop bombs are the subject of the weekly sampling at both Three Cellars locations (7133 S. 76th St., Franklin; N72 W13400 Lund Lane, Menomonee Falls) from 1 to 4 p.m.

Saturday, Jan. 14: Mug Club members at The Fermentorium (7481 Hwy 60, Cedarburg) are rewarded with a mid-winter party at 6 p.m. Free food and a bomber exchange (priced between $8 and $12) are part of the festivities.

Sunday, Jan. 15: The monthly bottle share at The Malt Shoppe focuses on beers with double digit ABVs and starts at 5:30 p.m. So, bring two small bottles or one big bottle of a unique beer that clocks in at 10% or above. Also, bring some cheese, crackers, sausage or any other snack. You’ll need a base for this one.



Dan Murphy has been reviewing bars for Milwaukee Magazine for roughly 20 years. He’s been doing his own independent research in them for a few years more.