Goose Island will be releasing eight variants of its iconic Bourbon County Stout this year: Original Bourbon County Brand Stout, Reserve Bourbon County Brand Stout, Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout, Bourbon County Brand Wheatwine, Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout, Bourbon County Brand Bramble Rye Stout, Bourbon County Brand Coffee Barleywine and Bourbon County Brand Midnight Orange Stout—the first of these releases to include citrus fruit.
Coming, as usual, on Black Friday, this year’s variants include some that Bourbon County fans will find familiar, as well as a few extra surprises. These beers remain of interest to many collectors despite the brand’s AB InBev ownership. In our own sensory testing they’ve remained as good as ever—the last time we blind-tasted 144 barrel-aged imperial stouts, the original BCBS finished at #5.
Here’s the official rundown from Goose Island as well as some details about each:
Original Bourbon County Brand Stout
“Aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels more than four years old, the original bourbon barrel-aged stout ‘is as good as when we first made it more than 20 years ago.’ Flavors of cocoa, vanilla, caramel, almond, cherry, leather and tobacco permeate this complex beer that deepens with each sip.”
Reserve Bourbon County Brand Stout
It’s the same recipe as Original Bourbon County Brand Stout but aged in 12-year old Elijah Craig Barrel Proof bourbon barrels. This bourbon was awarded 2017 Whisky of the Year by Whisky Advocate, the top honor in the world of international whiskey. Reserve is “intended to showcase the nuances of a premium single source and highly sought after bourbon.”
Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout
This year’s Proprietor’s explores “the broad spectrum of chocolate.” Using dark chocolate and two types of cocoa nibs, “this rich and decadent beer highlights the whole range of chocolate from smooth and silky milk chocolate flavors to deep and earthy dark chocolate.”
Bourbon County Brand Wheatwine
Made from two-row and malted wheat, Bourbon County Brand Wheatwine is making its debut this year. Wheatwine is a deep amber color, full of caramel, vanilla, butterscotch and toffee flavors. It is “lighter than its Bourbon County Brand Stout counterparts and a true medium to convey the characteristics” of more than 4-year-old Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels.
Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout
“This longtime favorite is making a long-awaited return to the Bourbon County Brand Stout roster.” Using whole, grade A vanilla beans from Madagascar, this year’s Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout delivers “all the quintessential things fans love about this variant: aromatic vanilla, marshmallow, toffee, oak and floral notes” that highlight “the creamy mouthfeel” and enhance the ingrained chocolate flavors.
Bourbon County Brand Bramble Rye Stout
For this variant, Bourbon County Brand Stout was aged in rye whiskey barrels, and then raspberry and blackberry juice and puree from Michigan and Washington were added. “The result is complex jammy fruit notes that are prominent but well integrated with the caramel and chocolate flavors of the beer and spicy rye character from the barrels.”
Bourbon County Brand Coffee Barleywine
Goose Island flew down to Guatemala “to source some of the world’s best coffee” to use in its first coffee barleywine. The beer is an English-style barleywine, meaning it’s malt forward. It was aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels more than four years old, and La Soledad coffee beans were added before packaging “to retain a bold coffee aroma and flavor.”
Bourbon County Brand Midnight Orange Stout
Goose Island combined orange and chocolate, “taking Bourbon County into a new and exciting direction. While the chocolate compliments the Bourbon County base, the orange zest offers a point of contrast for a bold new flavor profile.”