I have two people to thank for this Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout I am about to review ,so I want to get that addressed first, and also why its taken me so long to try this very special beer!
First, I’d like to thank Sally from either Goose Island or whoever promotes their beer for a sample. That was way back in November 2008! I was going to try the beer, but then I started reading more and more online about how this beer gets even better with age! What to do?
Here I had a 2008 bottle of Bourbon County Brand Stout, but then I wanted to hang on to it until say 2013 – I’d never cellared a beer before, so the novelty factor of doing it was quite high.
Having only one bottle and no place nearby to get another, it was going to be a now or later situation – not both. What to do? Also, how would I compare? If I only had one bottle I could only have an ‘experimental group’ and not a ‘control group’ to compare the beer’s taste over time. (Is that right science-nerds?) Anyway, I needed two samples!
The second person I’d like to thank is Michael over at Thank Heaven for Beer. I was explaining to him my situation how I wanted to try this beer now, but I also wanted to save it for later. He offered to hook me up with a second sample which solved my problem! Now, I’m able to have one now, and provided we all still exist in 2013, I’ll have the other one then!
So, thanks Mike and Sally for making this happen for me!
On with the beer!
The Goose Island Bourbon County Stout is really a different brew than anything I ever tried before. I can tell this even before taking my first sip! Looking at the plain-jane label, the first thing I notice is that this massive Imperial stout weighs in at 13% ABV. For a beer, that’s seriously strong.
Pouring this beer, it looks like black ink. The label describes it as ‘dark and dense as a black hole’ and I would fully agree. This stuff is BLACK. The label said there would be a thick foam head, but as you’ll see in the picture above that I took immediately after the pour, there was hardly a head at all to speak of.
Further reading of the label indicated that after fermentation, the beer is aged in 16 year old bourbon barrels for 100 days where I imagine it probably picks up much of its complex smell and flavors.
Regarding the aroma, this beer again is quite bold. You can smell the stuff while pouring it into the glass, and you can still smell it when its in the glass any you are several feet away from it taking a picture! It isn’t bad like a bum you smell from across the room, but rather interesting and is forces you to come in closer for further inspection.
What’s it smell like? Well I think the label is again – spot on. “An intense mix of charred oak, vanilla, caramel and smoke.” I couldn’t do better myself, so there ya go. Trying to figure out which of the ingredients is most apparent, its hard to say but it is indeed a blend of the aforementioned parts. The only thing left out of the list is the smell of alcohol which is indeed present but that’s not a surprise now is it?
Now the good part. How’s this insane brew taste? Many people claim that this beer makes a good cigar beer and that ‘only the most decadent chocolate dessert can stand up to it.’ So far, I’m inclined to believe it!
All I can say is holy crap. This beer is definitely not designed for the average beer drinker. If you go back and reread my notes on the aroma, multiply that by a factor of three when it comes to the taste! This is a serious beer. You get a taste of the smoked wood, some vanilla and caramel – and the alcohol I mentioned in the nose is in there too. It’s not masked, and I don’t think it was intended to be. Its bold and up front, and brings about a nice warming sensation the whole way down.
The mouthfeel is very thick, this is a dense, ‘chewy’ beer, the aftertaste is really quite nice and it lingers and dare I say, ‘ages’ quite well? If I wait five minutes between sips (you might have to) its still there, and I thought I got some chocolate flavors at that stage too. Neat.
So, what can I say to wrap up this review of the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout? Its a big beer that probably would go nicely with a cigar, but as I’m not a smoker, I would think it would go well with some rich chocolate dessert of some kind. I’m thinking a serious French dessert would make a great paring.
Having this beer solo, one must be mindful of the 13% ABV. Take your time and savor it. This is a beer for sipping, not for session drinking and definitely not for chugging or funneling! It doesn’t taste like beer at all really – at least not in the typical incarnations. Its a special beer and should be tried by anyone looking to push their beer experience envelope to the limits! I’ve never had anything like it. Thanks again to Michael and Sally!
Have you ever had the Bourbon County Stout? What do you think of it? How does it compare to other beers you might have cellared for a few or more years?