Great Beers for the New Year #3: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. Chicago, Il.
This would have made a superb Christmas beer, but we didn’t pick it up until the New Year. If you haven’t seen our 12 Beers of Christmas, here are links to most of them: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh, twelfth.
Date: January 8, 2019
The Story— Goose Island is now wholly owned by AB Inbev, the world’s largest brewer. Both AB and InBev before their merger specialized in making successful breweries disappear. Our home base of Old Dominion was one of the ones AB ate; their offer to us to continue contract brewing our beers should have embarrassed them. InBev, however, would sometimes recognize the distinctive reasons for a smaller brewery’s success and didn’t shut them down. Hoegaarden White Ale certainly isn’t the masterpiece that Pierre Celis brewed back in the day, but it is top fermented and bottle conditioned. When the InBevvers tried to move production to a more “efficient” they realized they couldn’t match the flavor. It’s still brewed in Hoegaarden.
For the past several years, it appears that InBev has had some influence on AB’s maneuvers, or maybe the AB guys finally woke up. In any event, AB InBev owns some of America’s very good regional breweries, but has let the brewers continue to do what they do best.
Goose Island is a case in point. When you buy Goose Island IPA — and it’s hard to avoid it– you’re getting a big batch beer from a brewery build to churn out Budweiser. The beer isn’t bad for a big batch effort (the Munich breweries do better) but it’s a serviceable alternative to some of the other big boy attempts to “craft” big selling beers.
More importantly, the brewers at Goose Island still produce their line up of relatively small production high quality beers. The get lab support and access to ingredients that has probably made it easier to brew so well.
Bourbon County could no more come from a Budweiser plant than a rabbit could give birth to a cow. The Bourbon County Stout is one of the best sipping beers we’ve encountered — maybe ever. We bought two extra bottles to lay down for a vertical tasting next year and the year after.
The Beer— Rich dark malt. Chewy with berry fruit early on. Dark chocolates with an herbal accent, hints of clotted cream with finishing dark dank wood from the bourbon barrels. Of course it’s boozy – it’s a whopping 15.2%, but it’s so think and luscious that you almost have to look for the alcohol…until you try to stand up.
Note: Bourbon Country Bramble Stout is a variation that’s aged with raspberries and blackberries in rye barrels that comes in at 12.7%. It’s a very good beer, but it was nearly twice the price and we didn’t think all the fruit did anything but get in the way of near perfection.
Value — Very Good. It almost hurts to call a $15 beer a bargain. But this one is. The $24 Bramble is still a fair price if you like the fruit, but we’d rather have two bottles of the masterpiece.
Values: “fair” is a good beer at an above market price, “good” is worth the money, “very good” is a bargain, and “excellent” is a steal.