Goose Island showed off this year's batch of Bourbon County Stout at a preview tasting at the amazing Goose Island Barrel Warehouse just west of downtown Chicago. Here's what I thought of them.
Goose Island is clearly proud of the eight Bourbon County Stouts being released this year on Black Friday (Nov. 29), and they should be. It’s a solid group, with a few that stand slightly above the rest.
Bourbon County Double Barrel Stout
Spending one year in 11-year-old Elijah Craig and another in 12-year-old Elijah Craig barrels does some amazing things to a stout. This is pretty straightforward in a slightly sweet and boozy way. There’s some heat in this one for sure, but it’s just enough to enjoy. I think it’s the best of the bunch. Bad news, though: It’s extremely rare and will likely be the toughest to find.
Reserve Rye Bourbon County Stout
Rittenhouse Rye barrels add a touch of spice, but there’s more going on here. This is another smooth option, with less sweetness than most and a hint of dark chocolate at the end. There’s also an intriguing tobacco thing going on here that earns points in my book.
2-Year Reserve Bourbon County Stout
I guess I prefer the variants with a little less sweetness. Two years spent in Knob Creek barrels give the beer a distinct bourbon aroma. The dark chocolate flavor here is very subtle.
Bourbon County Café de Olla Stout
Last year’s Midnight Orange, which expertly combined chocolate and orange, was a surprise hit for me. Café de Olla is reminiscent, but made with Intelligentsia coffee. The aroma is big on dark coffee but with occasional wafts of orange zest. It’s a little on the sweet side but has a whole lot of flavor depth.
Can’t Go Wrong
Bourbon County Mon Chéri Stout
I’m not always the biggest fan of fruit in stout. Mon Chéri has a strong cherry aroma (adding 20,000 pounds of Balaton and Montmorency cherries will apparently do that), but the flavor isn’t over the top and thankfully avoids delving into cough syrup territory. The use of oats softens the flavor some and gives it hint of nut.
Bourbon County Stout
Old reliable. Brewmaster Keith Gabbett loves the complex mouthfeel of this year’s BCS, and it’s hard to argue. A slight bourbon heat mixes well with prevalent dark chocolate flavor and hints of coffee and vanilla.
Good for the Sweet Tooth
Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout
This rich stout is made with pecans, coconut, cocoa and vanilla. The sweetness of the coconut comes through in a big way with a fair amount of flavor from the toasted pecans. “Prop” is sweeter than the rest, and the Chicago-only variant will clearly be a popular choice amount craft beer fans.
Bourbon County Wheatwine
Wheatwines really aren’t my thing, but this one is extremely well made. It’s aged in Larceny wheated bourbon casks which give it a nice smooth hint of bourbon flavor underneath toffee and caramel sweetness. There’s a reason this variant won at the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beers in 2018.