For beer nerds, Black Friday isn't a day for scoring deals on clothes or electronics. Instead, they'll be lining up to score a bottle, or more, of one of Goose Island's Bourbon County Stouts, a hallowed annual tradition since 1992. Ahead of the unofficial beer holiday, Goose Island announced its lineup of Bourbon County Stout variants for 2021 to whet your appetite before their release.
The buildup to the release of every year's Bourbon County Stout lineup is like the beer world's equivalent to streetwear brand Supreme's seasonal launches: Preview the collection, and watch as folks lineup to be one of the lucky few to score whatever they can, whether it's for themself or for the resale market. And this 2021 lineup for Bourbon County Stout is a worthy follow-up to last year's, which many deemed as Goose Island's best in years, seeing beers aged in extremely rare Old Forester Birthday Bourbon and Weller 12-Year barrels.
“Goose Island has formed deep-rooted relationships with some of the most sought-after whiskey makers in the industry and we’re grateful for the partnership and trust they instill in us to age beer in top notch barrels, like those from Old Forester, Elijah Craig and Blanton’s," Mike Siegel, the Barrels and Beyond Beer Innovations Manager at Goose Island, says in a press release. "Each year these partnerships allow our Imperial Stout to extract new and exciting oak and whiskey characteristics and complexities to elevate the quality and taste of Bourbon County Stout."
Besides beers aged in Old Forester, Elijah Craig and Blanton’s barrels barrels, you'll find a cola-inspired brew, one that tastes like a strawberry ice cream bar and a rerelease of a 2014 fan favorite.
The tradition of Bourbon County Stout has been around since 1992 when former brewmaster Greg Hall wanted to celebrate the 1,000th batch of beer brewed at Goose Island, which Hall's father had founded. Just a year shy of its 30-year anniversary, here is what you can find in this year's Bourbon County Stout lineup.
The base of Goose Island's original Bourbon County Stout is an homage to Greg Hall's original recipe for bourbon barrel-aged ales. The ale is a mix of imperial stouts aged in bourbon barrels form distilleries such as Heaven Hill, Wild Turkey and Buffalo Trace. Goose Island says to expect flavors of "chocolate and vanilla, oak, whiskey and molasses, followed by caramel, berry fruit and almond."
ABV: 14% and 14.4%
Goose Island took its original Bourbon County Stout, and, in an effort to amplify its wood notes, finished it with honeycomb-shaped cherry wood chips. According to the brewery, "the versatility of the cherry wood and honeycomb shape allowed for maximum flavor extraction, revealing complex characteristics like red fruit, ripe cherry and light toffee, which are not found in the original oak barrel itself.
Goose Island used Old Forester’s 150th Anniversary Bourbon Barrels to age its beer, imparting flavors of chocolate, vanilla, and coconut.
This beer spent one year aging in Elijah Craig’s Small Batch Bourbon Barrels, followed by another year of aging in Elijah Craig's Toasted Bourbon Barrels. This is just the second time that Goose Island has done a “Double Barrel” Bourbon County Stout, and it's likely to be one of the most coveted bottles in the 2021 lineup.
Blanton's is one of the world's most sought-after bourbons, and if you haven't been able to score a bottle, at least you have a chance at Bourbon County Reserve Blanton’s Stout. The beer is aged for 18 months in a barrel of Blanton's Original Single Barrel Bourbon. Besides the standard notes of chocolate and oak, the aging imparts the "warm aromatics of baking spices such as clove, nutmeg and cinnamon."
Don't confuse this for a whiskey cola when you taste it. This rendition on the classic two-ingredient cocktail was spawned from a love of the soda between brewers Paul Cade and Jason Krasowski. They added "lime and orange juice and zest, plus coriander, cassia bark, nutmeg, brown sugar and vanilla" to round out the beer to more accurately replicate a whiskey cola.
Goose Island looked back to its Proprietor releases, which are exclusive to Chicago, for its Fourteen Stout, a remix of the Proprietor’s 2014 recipe. Fourteen Stout gets an addition of rye for a spicier flavor, as well as cassia bark, cocoa nibs, panela sugar and coconut water.
ABV: TBD; awaiting final bottling details
This year's Chicago-exclusive Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout is inspired by a strawberry ice cream bar, an idea stemming from the mind of brewer Emily Kosmal, who is the first brewer to have three Proprietor’s ideas picked for release. The beer is aged in bourbon barrels, then blended with strawberries, vanilla and coconut, imparting the unmistakable flavors of the classic dessert.
ABV: TBD; awaiting final bottling details