As the holidays are now in full swing, everyone has their traditions — whether it’s connecting with old friends or even SantaCon. At Goose Island Brewery, tradition comes in the form of a line of highly sought after, delicious bourbon-infused stouts.
The Chicago-based brewery has been aging this beer in bourbon barrels for its annual release of Bourbon County Stouts since the early 1990s. One of Goose Island’s biggest releases of the year, the 2017 Bourbon County Brand Stout variants has fans lining up across the country for their chance to buy the coveted beers.
This year, Goose Island released six different flavor profiles — their original Bourbon County Brand Stout, a Bourbon County Barleywine, a Bourbon County Stout Coffee, a Bourbon County Northwoods Stout, a Bourbon County Proprietor’s Stout and limited-edition Bourbon County Reserve Stout.
This year’s Bourbon County Brand Stout was made in the barrels that were second use, fresh-unrinsed, 5 to 7-year-old bourbon barrels. It was brewed in honor of the 1,000th batch at Goose Island’s original Clybourn brewpub.
In years past, Bourbon County Brand Barleywine was aged in third use bourbon barrels that previously housed their barrel-aged stout. This year’s Barleywine was aged exclusively in freshly emptied, second use bourbon barrels, so expect this vintage to have a slightly higher ABV and an enhanced bourbon character. According to our Brewmaster Jared Jankoski, this release should have sublime barrel-aged character.
Goose Island teamed with next-door neighbor, Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea for its Bourbon County Brand Stout Coffee. This stout is made with a different coffee blend each year; with the change in coffee comes a change in the flavor profile. This year, they used Intelligentsia’s Black Cat Espresso, which was the bean they used in the first Bourbon County Coffee release in 2010.
The concept for this year’s national variant, the Bourbon County Brand Northwoods Stout, has been bouncing around in Goose Island Brewmaster Jared Jankoski’s head for a couple years. It combines some of his favorite flavors in blueberry and almond.
Its Bourbon County Proprietor’s Brand Stout was created by brewer Quinn Fuechsl and will be available exclusively in Chicago.
Finally, its Bourbon County Reserve Brand Stout is made in 11-year-old Knob Creek Bourbon barrels and will have a limited release in Chicago and Kentucky.
More than 20 years ago, Goose Island Brewmaster Greg Hall met legendary Beam Family Master Distiller, Booker Noe, at a Beer, Bourbon, and Cigar pairing dinner. What began as a conversation about a special 1,000th batch for Goose Island’s Clybourn Brewpub turned into this annual Bourbon County release.
Thanks to Noe’s gift of four barrels, bourbon barrel-aged beer was born. That original collaboration has now come full circle with the 2017 release of Bourbon County Reserve Brand Stout. Aged in 11-year-old freshly emptied Knob Creek Bourbon barrels – the Small Batch Bourbon created by Noe himself in 1992 – this beer is simultaneously a celebration of Knob Creek’s 25th Anniversary and a toast to the chance encounter that brought Bourbon County Brand Stout to the world.
Much like the hottest gifts of the season, Goose Island’s Bourbon County releases are coveted items for beer drinkers so grab them while you can.