There were a whopping seven different releases from Goose Island’s Barrel House line in 2021, including, of course, the fan favorite Bourbon County Stout. Among those options, one in particular may have been familiar to early Goose Island devotees. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Fourteen Stout originally debuted way back in 2014 as part of the Proprietor’s line, available only to beer lovers in the Chicago area. Last year, the Goose Island powers that be decided to pull it out of the vault for re-release to a broader audience, although how broad is still a bit of a mystery. The original Brand Fourteen Stout was aged in a rye whiskey barrel, but to “up the rye ante” for 2021 Goose Island also added rye to the stout mashbill. Taking things a step further, they layered in cassia bark, cocoa nibs, panela sugar, and, perhaps oddest of all, coconut water. We’ve been sitting on our bottle since Black Friday, and that’s probably long enough. Let’s check it out.
This one pours a dark molasses hue with a light, fudgy head that fizzles out pretty quickly. The aroma is not as intense or indulgent as some Barrel House brews, but it’s easily one of the most complex with notes of toasted coconut macaroons, dark chocolate fudge, molasses, and clove. The palate is decadent but still not overdone, although things do push right up to that edge, at least initially. Notes of Almond Joy, brandy-soaked cherries, and molasses cookies are woven into a dark, silky body, while the rye adds a fantastic bit of muted spice simmering just below the surface. The finish is creamy with rich vanilla and a subtle bite of cacao. A beautifully built stout, and one of my favorites yet from Goose Island.