The annual Black Friday release of Goose Island’s Bourbon County line of barrel-aged beers grew by one this year to eight, with six of those being more or less widely available to the beer-loving masses. Last year, I reviewed the Bourbon County Brand Stout and Barleywine, so I decided to revisit these two in 2018 with one caveat: This year the Barleywine was available only in the Coffee Barleywine variant, perhaps as an attempt to compensate for the absence of the much-loved Coffee Stout which didn’t make the line-up this year. Supposedly, it’s only taking 2018 off and will return in 2019. Anyway, let’s dig in!
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout (2018) – Last year’s flagship of the Bourbon County line didn’t quite live up to the hype of previous releases. So how did this year’s stack up? The 2018 pours the traditional jet black with a light caramel head. The nose is much less boozy than the 2017 release with softer notes of creamy vanilla, roasted malt, and baking spice. The palate shows more balance, as well, with sizable and slightly bitter roasted coffee flavors complimented by loads of chocolate fudge brownie, oatmeal raisin cookie, and a touch of sour cherry. It’s silky smooth on the tongue, and all those flavors meld perfectly on a generously long finish. Much improved from 2017. The classic barrel-aged stout has returned. 14.7 % abv. A / $12 per 500ml bottle
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Barleywine (2018) – Goose Island likes to remind people they were the first to pioneer the Coffee Barleywine style, which here takes their English-style barleywine, ages it in ex-Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, and adds lightly-roasted Intelligentsia coffee beans right before packing. The beer pours a dark amber color, almost orange, with a cream soda head that dissolves quickly. The nose is initially classic Goose Island barleywine with plenty of malt, vanilla, and subtle fruitiness, but it quickly turns to big roasted coffee notes. The palate shows similar to the barleywines of years past with good body, an impressive but not overwhelming amount of alcohol, and decadent cola, brown sugar, and red fruit notes. The coffee element adds a significant punch of dark chocolate covered espresso beans to the mix. While there’s no added bitterness, which I would have expected, the coffee notes are a bit strong heading into the finish. 15.1% abv. A- / $18 per 500ml bottle