Photo Courtesy of Goose Island Beer Company
Released the day after Thanksgiving on Black Friday, the Goose Island Beer Company this year celebrates its 30th anniversary with a lineup of seven special releases that highlight various partnerships and include amongst other things an aged barleywine. There's some controversy about whether this is actually the 30th anniversary as the Chicago tribune reported in 2016 that the "likely first release was in 1995 - not 1992 as the brewery continues to insist." Nonetheless, thirty(ish) years ago, this path was galvanized when Jim Beam's Booker Noe and former Goose Island brewmaster Gregory Hall connected setting in motion the development of the first-ever bourbon barrel-aged beer as "something special" for the brewpub's 1,000th batch. Below we walk through this year's lineup and the interesting nuances that accompany each release.
The centerpiece of this year's lineup is the Bourbon County Anniversary Stout, not to be confused with the "regular" Bourbon County Stout which is also a part of this year's lineup and which we discuss below. The Anniversary Stout is probably the worthiest of in-depth discussion, blending stout aged in Jim Beam barrels, just like the first release did "back in the day." The original offering of this stout wasn't available in a bottle, but rather on draft only at Goose Island's Clybourn Avenue location. Whereas the original used Jim Beam barrels, the 30th anniversary edition pays tribute to the connection to the Beam family and the roots of the Bourbon County Stout by drawing from a blend of barrels sourced from Beam's Small Batch Bourbon Collection, including Bakers, Basil Hayden, Knob Creek and Booker's. The blend offers a complex, yet balanced juxtaposition of the nuances that each of the varied bourbons offers. Interestingly, Jim Beam much like Goose Island, launched their Small Batch offering 30 years ago as well, with Goose Island noting that "[the release] is a culmination signifying the historical, groundbreaking shifts in both the bourbon and beer industries from two visionaries all those years ago." Tasting notes for this stout suggest notes of dark chocolate, vanilla, cherry and almond.
Since the inception of the original Bourbon County Stout, Goose Island has produced a yearly release honoring Hall's legacy and passion through their Imperial Stout offering. The 2022 release is aged and blended from "freshly emptied" barrels from Heaven Hill, Four Roses, Wild Turkey and Buffalo Trace. Similar to the Anniversary Stout you should expect dark chocolate, vanilla and almonds but no cherry and instead toffee, molasses and dried fruit. As I cracked this open in my garage bar a few nights ago, I must admit that I was one, surprised how smooth it was for being 14.4% alcohol by volume, but moreover how sweet it was - almost too sweet for my palette.
Not a stranger to the Bourbon County Stout lineup, the Coffee Stout was last produced by Goose Island in 2017. The 2022 batch was brewed with Intelligentsia Coffee's Turihamwe blend from Burundi in Africa. For those beer drinkers who love coffee, this is likely to be your jam!!
At double the cost from the Bourbon County Stout, the Biscotti Stout was inspired by the classic Italian cookie. As Goose Island has in recent years experimented with a lot of different unique combinations, some are admittedly quite good, some are just okay, and some are downright meh. This offering, by all accounts falls in the "good" category! Made with cocoa nibs, toasted almonds, anise seed and "natural flavors" expect flavors of marzipan, cocoa and buttered toffee.
Made with ten thousand pounds of Black Mission Figs this bottling is a liquid version of the Fig Newton. Falling on the "good, okay, meh" scale, this bottling falls squarely in the middle at "okay" but nothing to write home about. You're probably not missing out by not having this, and when you could have two bottles of the standard Bourbon County Stout offering for the same price, Bourboneur suggests being a value shopper and doubling down on the regular bottling if given the choice!
Featuring lime and pineapple, this is probably not going to be a lot of people's number one choice out of this year's lineup...or two, three, four, five...six...The Proprietor's Stout features an odd juxtaposition of flavors heavily leaning toward downright fruit bomb and although many readers won't fall in love with this, there's a small percentage that will...you know who you are.
Setting you back about forty dollars, or the same ante for a round of poker at my garage bar speakeasy, the Bourbon County Two-Year Barleywine Reserve clocks in at 17 percent alcohol by volume and is blended from barrels of 14-, 16- and 17-year-old, Old Fitzgerald's Bottled-in-Bond series. This is brew is something a bit unique from the traditional barleywine with a hefty oaky booziness that imparts a lot of earthy flavors - like cigar and plum. If you're looking for a sipper that packs in the flavor punch, this is your bottle.
The Bourbon County Stout release provides a great intersection of the world of beer and the world of bourbon where both find their way to the center of the stage together playing off the best of each to deliver something unique. Although you could go out and buy a snifter to drink these stouts in, Bourboneur suggests you can sip your way through in one of our custom Glencairn's...feel free to ignore the custom 2-ounce engraved pour line! If you enjoyed this, poste become a Bourboneur and join the conversation on Instagram, Facebook, and yes, even TikTok. Cheers!
Bourboneur Glencairn Glass