Prepare Yourself for the 2022 Goose Island Bourbon County Stouts

Black Friday is a few months away, but the Chicago brewery is giving barrel-aged beer fans across the country an early glimpse into the 2022 variants.

It’s summer now, but stout season is coming. And that reaches its crescendo on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, with big parties all over Milwaukee and the biggest national drop of barrel-aged goodness, Goose Island’s Bourbon County series. 

Here are some details on what to expect from Goose Island’s Nov. 25 release, which the brewery is calling the 30th anniversary of the first Bourbon County Brand Stout. (There is some debate about that.

The 2022 Bourbon County release consists of seven variants, many of which will hit bottle shops around the country. It includes the return of the popular Bourbon County Coffee Stout, which has been absent since 2017, and a barrel-aged English-style barleywine, which hasn’t been in the lineup since 2018.

Likely Hits

Goose Island Bourbon County Stout

Description: An imperial stout aged and blended from bourbon barrels hailing from Heaven Hill, Four Roses, Wild Turkey and Buffalo Trace. Flavors of vanilla, dark chocolate, toffee, molasses, almond and dried fruit. 14.4% ABV.
Expectations: The standard variant rarely disappoints and is generally a safe bet when it comes to Bourbon County.

Goose Island Bourbon County Two-Year Barleywine Reserve

Description: English-style barleywine aged in 14-year, 16-year and 17-year-old barrels from Old Fitzgerald’s Bottled-In-Bond Decanter Series. Intricate flavors of rich malt layered with notes of toffee, cherry, vanilla, fig and almond. 17% ABV.
Expectations: Barleywine fans should be happy at the return of the style to the lineup. Goose Island is making sure it counts by aging it in some serious barrels. I’m guessing this will be one of this year’s hits.

Goose Island Bourbon County 30th Anniversary Reserve Stout

Description: Stout aged in a blend of Jim Beam barrels from their Small Batch Bourbon Collection. Expect dark chocolate, vanilla, cherry and almond flavors. 14.4% ABV.
Expectations: Another good bet at one of Goose Island’s 2022 barrel-aged successes. It should be interesting to do a side-by-side tasting with the standard Goose Island Bourbon County Stout to gauge the flavor differences.

Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout

Description: Made with a clean and sweet coffee blend from Intelligentsia Coffee called Turihamwe. Rich chocolate, coffee and caramel flavors. Undetermined ABV.
Expectations: Goose Island has a pretty good track record with Bourbon County Coffee Stout (barring 2015, when a few variants developed “off” flavors due to the presence of an unwanted bacteria) and its return will likely be met with much rejoicing.

Here’s Where Things Get Interesting

Goose Island Bourbon County Biscotti Stout

Description: The idea for this variant comes from Jill Cerone, a people manager at Goose Island. It was crafted to bring out flavors of anise, marzipan, cocoa and buttered toffee. Undetermined ABV.
Expectations: Honestly, the flavors mentioned here by Goose Island aren’t too far outside of the norm. I’m betting that this one turns out well.

Goose Island Bourbon County Sir Isaac’s Stout

Description: Members of Goose Island’s e-commerce team came up with this recipe based on Fig Newton cookies. The brewery put 10,000 pounds of Black Mission figs into this beer to create flavors of dried fruit, honey, molasses and citrus. Undetermined ABV.
Expectations: Fig and dark fruit flavor are nothing new in beer. It should be interesting to see how much of the subtle fruit comes through after spending time in a barrel. If it does indeed taste like a Fig Newton, then I’m all in.

Goose Island Bourbon County Proprietor’s Stout

Description: Inspired by a jungle bird cocktail, this experiment combines banana, coconut, lime and pineapple. “Prop,” as this annual variant is known, is released only in the Chicago area. Undetermined ABV.
Expectations: This is a gamble for sure. The pineapple and lime additions are definite curveballs, especially if they overwhelm the flavor. But, I’ve doubted the use of citrus before in the Bourbon County lineup, and 2018 Bourbon County Midnight Orange Stout was a pleasant surprise. My prediction is that this year’s Prop will be a love/hate kind of deal.

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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.