Beer Review: Goose Island Bourbon County Stout

January 6, 2009

Goose Island was kind enough to send me a sample of their Bourbon County Stout, and I am finally getting around to reviewing it. Goose Island: so sorry for the delay. I truly appreciate each brewery that sends me a beer to review. I’ve just had a hard time finding the time to review lately.

Goose Island is a brewery out of the Windy City, Chicago, Illinois. According to the press release they sent me with the beer (which was packaged in a recyclable and reusable tin container and packed with recycled and recyclable Prairie Eco Pack inside a 100% post consumer recycled box):

Goose Island Brewing Company has been celebrating the annual release of its Bourbon County Stout since it was first created 16 years ago by brewmaster Greg Hall to commemorate the 1000th batch at the original Chicago brewpub…

Apparently this beer was aged for 10 months in 16-year-old bourbon barrels. The press release describes this as “dark and dense”, and with a flavor so intense, “only the most decadent chocolate dessert can stand up to it”.

The Pour
On the pour you can tell this is one thick, thick beer. It pours like a fine motor oil, black and thick and clinging to the glass. There is very little head to speak of, but what is there is caramel brown. The beer is absolutely opaque. As a matter of fact, it looks pitch black.

The Nose
There are definitely roasted malt and deep dark fruit aromas here as well as chocolate and coffee notes. There are hints of bourbon as well. This smells like it will be one strong thick brew, not for the faint of heart!

The Taste
This seems actually thicker than you anticipate, which is difficult to accomplish. The higher alcohol content is definitely noticeable, but it does not distract from the overall flavor profile. You can taste the roasted malt and the oak of the bourbon barrel, and chocolate and coffee notes are there as well in varying degrees that seem to change with each taste. Overall the flavor is intense!

This beer is one very well suited for aging, and I would definitely like to try this after it ages a couple of years. It’s a little too thick for my tastes, but it is a unique and interesting beer. It would probably be fantastic after aging a while. Something to be savored, as a fine wine.

Recommended: If you’re after a thick, intensely nuanced beer, absolutely. Definitely something to try now and to age, to compare the flavors as they mellow.

Price: This was a sample sent by the brewery/PR folks.

ABV: 13% ABV according to the press release


  1. I remember drinking my first BCS in the early 90’s while living in Chicago. That beer does age well. It’s one of my favorites BA imperial stouts. That was very nice of the PR folks to send you some to review. I have to go up to KY to get mine.

  2. I’ve heard about the Goose Island Brewing Company. This beer you describe sounds like a very intensely flavored, thick beer. I tend to stick to lighter varieties but I’m definitely intrigued and see if my bartender friends knows more about it. I’ll have to give it a try either way.

  3. This is the first time I’ve explored blogs, but I have started to venture out on trying different types of beers. I figure I wanted to be more educated on the different types of beer and I strolled across your blog. I used to drink the mainstream beers like Bud and Coors, but I started to learn more about craft beers. What is your opinion on domestic and imported crafts beers and how it is different than the mainstream beer? I always thought beer was beer, but I am learning more and more that it is not. Why would anyone buy an imported craft beer over a domestic craft beer? What is your favorite craft beer?

    I am looking forward to all responses and learning about more beers to try.

  4. Well, I think domestic and imported craft beers are better than the mainstream beers by leaps and bounds. Craft beers are generally brewed with better ingredients and, in my opinion, with a different purpose in mind. I think beers like Bud and Coors are brewed to appeal to the lowest common denominator, so to speak, and to make money. So the ingredients are inexpensive and the flavor is generic and shallow.

    Craft beers, on the other hand, seem to be brewed with the idea of making a good beer. They are usually more flavorful and interesting with a lot of character and depth of flavor. I’m no wine expert, but to me the difference between Bud and Coors and craft beers is like the difference between a generic cheap red wine (Franzia in a box maybe) and a good quality (not necessarily expensive) cabernet sauvignon.

    As far as buying an imported craft beer over a domestic craft beer, I don’t have a preference myself for imported or domestic. I select beer on an individual basis, not necessarily on where it is brewed. As you branch out into other beers you’ll begin to learn German beers are different from beers from the British Isles, which are different from American beers, etc etc.

    As for my favorite craft beer, that’s a tough call. Really depends on my mood at any given time and the season. In the fall and winter I like my stouts and porters and nut brown ales. In the spring and summer I might still have some nut brown ale now and then but mostly go to the IPA’s, pale ales, wheat and witbiers and seasonal spring and summer beers.

    Two of my favorite breweries are Young’s and Samuel Smith, both out of England. Domestically, I think Dogfish Head is doing good stuff, as are Brooklyn Brewery, Highland Brewery, and too many others to mention.

    If you want to discuss beer more or talk about specific recommendations, please feel free to email me at thebeersnob @ gmail.com

  5. Thank you for that input thebeersnob…I know one of the beers you mentioned I had…Brooklyn Brewery and I do like that. I probably will have more questions for you, but I just can’t think of them right now because I am at work…haha. I’ll be sure to email you hopefully soon.

  6. I will definitely seek this one out.
    It’s nice to see that at least some micro breweries are taking the time to long-age beers before bottling. There hasn’t been too much of that done since the late, great, Ballantine Brewery in Newark, NJ closed way back in 1971 (they were famous for their long aging and their old, wooden aging vessels).
    Too bad they’re gone…the products Ballantine made would certainly stand up against and in many cases surpass a lot of the stuff being made today. They were a big brewery that 50 years ago was the 3rd largest in the nation, yet made fine and distinctive specialty products that would give a lot of micros today a run for it quality wise.

  7. I was just revisiting this beer and yeah, its a trip! I’d suggest everybody try it if possible but take your time and let it warm up a bit to really bring out the flavors.

    @The Professor, I still see Ballantine Ale in my local shops – obviously its not the same brewer that was in Newark (Isn’t the Ballantine house part of the Newark museum now?) Do you know who brews the Ballantine ales today?


  8. […] Island is not a brewery I am very familiar with.  I reviewed their Bourbon County Stout last year, and it was a great, nuanced beer with neverending depth of flavor.  Recently, they sent […]

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