Sunday, December 8, 2013

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine review

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine AleBuying craft beer these days can almost be like investing in the stock market. Popular beers, especially bourbon barrel released ones, often sell out in a flash and when a popular beer like Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine hits your local shelves you had better get in line quick and bring along some serious cash if you have any hopes of getting any.

I had gotten the word via social media that my local store had gotten in their shipment of Goose Island Bourbon County Brand beers on Black Friday and went out to buy it about 2 hours after the store opened. When I arrived, I saw the store display and most of the stock had already been mostly cleaned out. There were two 4-packs of the Goose Island BCB Barleywine left selling for an incredible $25.99 a 4-pack and I decided to just buy one of those. In hindsight, I should have snagged both 4-packs and stocked up and cellared half of them.

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale is a big malty brew that was aged for months in 3rd-use Kentucky bourbon barrels and brewed in the English-style tradition. It weighs in at a respectable 12.1% ABV and 60 IBUs and came in a 12oz bottle. Goose Island used a lot of Pale, Crystal, Caramel and Dark Chocolate malts and bittered it with Pilgrim and Styrian hops. This kind of beer was built for enjoying now and also will last up to 5 years in a good cellar. If you're lucky, you can also find this on draft as your better beer bars and restaurants. Seeing it out here in Colorado is a rare occasion.

As far as I know, this beer is not an annually made beer and is not on their regular beer calendar. The label states simply: "Ltd. Release", so don't expect to see this brew made every year.

Appearance: I chose to drink this beer in a wide-bottomed snifter-like glass to help bring out all of the aromas as possible. Bourbon County Brand Barleywine poured on very dark, although not quite as dark as an imperial stout. There were a lot of mahogany colors along the sides of the glass, but the beer was nearly too dark and thick to see through. There was a thick medium-brown colored head that stuck around for a long time. The lacing on this beer was also excellent and clung to the glass. The bottle opened with a slight hiss and seemed to have a modest amount of carbonation.

Aroma: I died and went to heaven with this one. The aroma is a wonder to behold. The bourbon barrels imparted a big bourbon, vanilla, oak and dark malty sensation. It was unmistakably a bourbon barrel-aged beer. The alcohol in this brew was very noticeable in the nose and the overall smell was rich and very inviting. I could tell this was going to be a big, big beer - one that would want to sip and savor slowly. As this beer warmed up (and you SHOULD let this one warm up a bit) all of the complex aromas came out. It's the kind of beer that I sit and smell over and over again.

Bourbon County Brand Barleywine close-upTaste: I took a small sip and let it sit in my mouth for a while. One of the first flavors I picked up was a wonderful vanilla and oak tone from the barrel. This was a full bodied beer that was thick and chewy. There was a big malty taste and was semi-sweet and yet had just enough bitterness to counter the sweetness. There was also a boozy component from being higher in alcohol than most. I could pick up some caramel and chocolate tones also. For a beer that was bottled just a couple months earlier, already most of the big hoppiness that barleywines tend to have was gone. I believe the barrel-aging took away much of the hop bitterness that should normally be there. I didn't mind though as this made this beer taste like it had already been aged for a couple years.

There was also a hint of bourbon flavor in this beer and it immediately warmed my insides as it went down. This was a slow sipper and was meant to be savored slowly. Swirl, sniff and sip - repeat - perfect.

Overall: Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale has got to be in my top 10 all-time favorite beers. I'd give this a 4.7 out of 5 if not higher. The price I paid for this beer was well worth it in my opinion. I can see why some stores would want to jack up the price. If you find this on tap or in a bottle somewhere you have got to get some. Hats off to Goose Island for expanding on the Bourbon County Line. The only beer from them that I feel is a bit better is their Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout. This was one of America's best barrel-aged barleywines.

Disclosure: I paid full retail price (and then some) for this beer at my local liquor store. The cost was $25.99 (not including tax) for a 4-pack of 12oz bottles. Other stores in the area were gouging customers charging up to $40 a 4-pack. Despite the high price, this beer was well worth it.

Related articles:
- Goose Island 2008 Bourbon County Brand Stout review.
- Goose Island 2012 Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout review.
- Goose Island Lolita 2011 review.
- Goose Island Christmas Ale 2009 review.
- Goose Island India Pale Ale review. (2013)

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