Mention Anheuser-Busch or ABInBev and most craft beer drinkers will either ignore you or turn their heads away. Mention Goose Island and you will get a few heads to turn, although some will continue to look away. Mention Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout and you should have everybody’s attention, all waiting to hear what you have to say.

As Black Friday nears every year, craft enthusiasts gear up for one of the years most anticipated releases, Bourbon County Brand Stout. Lines start to form on Thanksgiving night and stories begin to circulate about past experiences with this beer. This year was no exception as I was lucky enough to score plenty of BCBS and at least one variant in preparation for a long winter of big beers. 2017 variants included the Proprietor’s Reserve, brewed with banana puree, cassia bark and almonds, the Coffee stout with Black Cat Espresso adding the needed touches and the ever popular Barleywine.

Today, I am pouring the Bourbon County Brand Stout and I am eager to try this year’s offering. It is brewed with 2-Row, Black, Caramel, Chocolate, Munich 10 and Roasted Barley malts and is hopped up with Millenium. Poured from a 16.9 ounce bottle, the concoction is jet black and thick and temporarily shows a small tan head that quickly dissipates to a light film on top. Aromas leap from the glass and pound the nose with bourbon, vanilla, coffee and sweet malts.

As the first sip is consumed, I receive a big dose of stinging bourbon, dark molasses, malts, creamy vanilla, dark chocolate, leather and tobacco with a finish of more bourbon, alcohol-soaked dark fruits and dates and raisins for days. Carbonation is low as was expected and the mouthfeel is coating and chewy with an alcohol burn on the sides of the mouth and the back of the tongue.

The balance is quite nice, allowing all of the boldness of BCBS to work together and as the beer warms, the alcohol continues to be a player but keeps the balance in check. The finish is still bourbon, with sweet vanilla cream and a great warming feeling all over. perfect for a cold winter’s night.

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout (2017)
BREWERY: Goose Island Beer Co.
LOCATION: Chicago, Ill.
STYLE: Imperial Stout
ABV: 14.1 percent
IBU: 60
PRICE: $9.99
AVAILABLE IN: 500ml bottles
BCBS is a beast of a beer and not for the weak-minded or light-hearted. The plethora of malts balance quite well with the bourbon barrel and the hops to produce some amazing flavors to include sweet vanilla, tons of bourbon, leather and molasses. It comes together quite well and is definitely a sipper to be enjoyed with friends.
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