Fans of Goose Island Beer Co.’s bourbon-barrel aged original Bourbon County Brand Stout and other twists on stouts have some new treats awaiting them this Black Friday.
The Chicago-based brewery, acquired by Anheuser-Busch a decade ago, releases a lineup of aged beers annually and this year’s releases include some potentially sweet surprises. Of course, there’s the flagship Bourbon County Stout, which weighs in at about 14% alcohol by volume, which is aged in for eight to 14 months in barrels from Heaven Hill, Wild Turkey and Buffalo Trace distilleries.
Bourbon County Stout, which typically sells for $13 or more, is usually the most easily found at beer retailers nationwide upon release each November. It serves as the base for the other imperial stouts in the lineup, one of which stands out, based on its description: the Bourbon County Classic Cola Stout. Goose Island’s brewers used ingredients such as lime, orange zest and orange juice, coriander, cassia bark, nutmeg, brown sugar, and vanilla to create the cola character.
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“Cola is such a familiar flavor. Our biggest challenge was getting all of the ingredients to taste like cola, not nine individual things,” said Jason Krasowski, who teamed with fellow Goose Island brewer Paul Cade on the beer, in a statement.
“In the end, this BCS variant has all the depth and complexity that you might expect from blending nine ingredients into our beautiful BCS base, while, surprisingly, being as refreshing as your favorite cola brand! We hope you enjoy drinking it as much as we enjoyed making it,” they said.
Also coming from Goose Island, based on brewery-provided notes:
- Bourbon County Cherry Wood Stout (14.3% ABV): Honeycomb-shaped cherry wood chips were used in the finishing process to achieve fruity, cherry and toffee flavors.
- Bourbon County Reserve 150 Stout (15.6% ABV): Expect notes of chocolate, vanilla, coconut, molasses, almond, berry and oak in this stout, aged for one year in Old Forester’s 150th Anniversary Bourbon Barrels.
- Bourbon County Double Barrel Toasted Barrel Stout (16% ABV): Aged one year in Elijah Craig’s Small Batch Bourbon Barrels, then one more in Elijah Craig Toasted Bourbon Barrels, this stout has a deeper intensity with flavors of toasted marshmallow and a fruity, oaky finish.
- Bourbon County Reserve Blanton’s Stout (15.4% ABV): After 18 months of aging in Blanton’s Original Single Barrel Bourbon barrels, this stout has rich dark chocolate and oak notes, with hints of clove, nutmeg, and cinnamon.
- Bourbon County Fourteen Stout (TBD ABV; awaiting final bottling details): Rye adds to this stout’s spicy character. For a sweet balance, brewers also used cassia bark, cocoa nibs, panela sugar, and coconut water. (Available in Chicago only.)
- Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout (TBD ABV; awaiting final bottling details): This beer, inspired by strawberry ice cream bars and strawberry shortcake, is made with strawberries, vanilla and coconut.
“This year, Bourbon County Stout fans are sure to be excited by some of the more unique flavor profiles we created with innovative techniques, like Bourbon County Cherry Wood Stout,” said Keith Gabbett, Goose Island’s senior innovation manager, in a statement.
Beyond Goose Island’s own pronouncements, there’s certainly reason to be optimistic about the quality of the 2021 releases, says Josh Noel, who is also the author of “Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out: Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch, and How Craft Beer Became Big Business.”
That’s because the beers from 2020 were so good, he said in the Chicago Tribune. “A handful of last year’s Bourbon County beers had no right to work – they were meant to evoke caramel apple or were made with tea – but they did work, mostly because, like any great thing we eat or drink, they showed balance and nuance,” he said.
Follow Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.