Mention Black Friday to just about anyone and the odds are that the first thing they think of will be massive crowds fighting to pay a discounted price for already overpriced items at various large nationwide stores.

However, mentions of Black Friday directed towards craft beer enthusiasts would most likely bring a slightly different thought to mind, namely large lines for one of the most anticipated beer releases of any given year: Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout and its multiple variants.

Like previous incarnations, the base Bourbon County Brand Stout is an imperial stout brewed with two-row, Black, Caramel, Chocolate, Munich 10 and Roasted Barley malts and is hopped with Millennium hops before being aged in bourbon barrels. However, while the 2018 version was aged in barrels that previously held Heaven Hill bourbon for more than four years, the 2019 version was aged in a mix of bourbon barrels that previously held Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey bourbons.

As was the case in 2018, there were eight different variants released 2019, however, unlike 2018, all but two of the versions were new, a list that included:

  • Bourbon County Reserve Rye Bourbon County Stout 2019: an imperial stout 100 percent aged in barrels that previously held Rittenhouse Rye
  • 2-Year Reserve Bourbon County Stout 2019: an imperial stout aged for 24 months in barrels that previously held Knob Creek 25th Anniversary for 11 years
  • Bourbon County Café de Olla Stout 2019: an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels and brewed with coffee beans and cold brew coffee sourced from Intelligentsia Coffee as well as additions of of cassia bark, orange peel and panela sugar
  • Bourbon County Mon Chéri Stout 2019: an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels and brewed with Balaton and Montmorency cherries, oats, and “a dash” of brown sugar
  • Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout 2019: an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels and conditioned on toasted pecans, coconut, cocoa, and vanilla
  • Bourbon County Double Barrel Stout 2019: an imperial stout that was first aged for 12 months in 11-year-old Elijah Craig barrels sourced from Heaven Hill. Goose Island then emptied the beer from those barrels and aged it in fresh 12-year-old Elijah Craig barrels, “the same barrels that housed the Whisky Advocate 2017 Whisky Of The Year.”

The complete line-up for 2019 was:

  • Bourbon County Brand Stout 2019
  • Bourbon County Brand Wheatwine 2019
  • Bourbon County Reserve Rye Stout 2019
  • 2-Year Reserve Bourbon County Stout 2019
  • Bourbon County Café de Olla Stout 2019
  • Bourbon County Mon Chéri Stout 2019
  • Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout 2019
  • Bourbon County Double Barrel Stout 2019

Today’s review is the Bourbon County Café de Olla Stout 2019, an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels and brewed with both coffee beans and cold brew coffee sourced from Intelligentsia Coffee as well as additions of of cassia bark, orange peel and panela sugar. According to the brewery, this particular variant was inspired by “the traditional Mexican beverage of the same name” and replaces any regular coffee variant that has historically been a part of the Bourbon County lineup.

Visually, the Café de Olla Stout 2019 pours a deep, dark black color and I end up with two large fingers of brown head that slowly dissipates, leaving behind a smattering of its former self in the form of a  small ring. The aroma emanating from the glass is full of dense dark chocolate laced with coffee beans, as well as slightly lesser notes of cinnamon, bourbon, oak and tart citrus.

The beer starts with wave after wave of flavors that seem to change on a dime from the first taste: dark chocolate and bitter coffee easily dominate the palate, while the finish is full of slightly tangy orange and a touch of cinnamon. There is also plenty of burnt sugar and raisin sweetness, along with some coconut and caramel notes that come in after warming up a bit. Although the mouthfeel is thick enough not to cause issues, there is very little carbonation.

Interestingly, unlike the base Bourbon County from 2019, there is very little bourbon to be had in the profile, while the bitterness on the finish seems to get stronger as the beer warms, leading to some slight issues with the overall balance.

Goose Island Bourbon County Café de Olla Stout 2019
BREWERY: Goose Island Beer Co.
LOCATION: Chicago, Ill.
STYLE: Imperial Stout
ABV: 13.9 Percent
IBU: Undisclosed
PRICE: $25.99
RELEASE DATE: Nov. 29, 2019
AVAILABLE IN: 500ml Bottles
BEERS POURED: 1
There is quite a bit going on in this beer, including plenty of both dark chocolate and coffee bean notes, both of which easily dominant the palate for the entire time I was drinking it. However, while both the cinnamon and orange are noticeable, they are really only present on the finish, with neither ever reaching the palate. In the end, while I really missed the bourbon notes that had been a major part of the blend in past coffee incarnations and the large number of competing flavors fighting for their places resulted in a somewhat surprisingly unbalanced profile, it is still a fairly enjoyable beer, and much like 2018's Bourbon Count Vanilla variant, one that I think will actually improve with a bit of time.
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