Each year Goose Island’s Boubon County Brand Stout hits shelves the Friday after Thanksgiving, making it my kind of black Friday. The only trouble is it usually flies off the shelves faster than it is stocked. While my favorite local liquor store has a “call me when it gets here” list, I didn’t put my name on it this year. So it was much to my surprise when I walked into another store just a few days ago and found 3 bottles in the cooler. Merry Christmas to me.
The pour of this beer seems rather thin for a massive 14.7% stout. The low viscosity also left little to no lacing on the glass as the mocha-tinted head faded to only a thin coating on the coal-colored liquid beneath.
The relative thinness of the beer does not mean its short on aroma. The scents leap from the bottle as soon as the cap is popped and become even more pronounced when poured. The heavy aromas of maple and vanilla can be detected with the nose several inches from the glass, while moving it closer reveals big caramel, molasses, butterscotch, a bit of pecan, and a just a hint of oak. These aromas go through somewhat of a metamorphosis as the beer is drank and warms, with the final liquid smelling more of oak and a sinus-cleansing alcohol note. The empty glass could easily be mistaken to have contained a fine, smoky bourbon. But discussing an empty glass is getting ahead of myself.
The thinness is again noticed in the beer’s body as it is medium-heavy rather than a hugely thick imperial stout. However, BCBS is one of the most buttery smooth beers I have had. Vanilla and sweet molasses hit on the tip of the tongue with the slight carbonation burn more noticeable on the sides of the front. The middle initially picks up a sweet and slightly bitter flavor of pure maple syrup before transforming to milk chocolate briefly and finally big flavors of butterscotch and caramel flanked by a dry oakiness. The aftertaste in this young beer runs the gamut from sweet molasses to a bitter hop kick to alcohol heat before a long lingering hop bitterness and sweet maple & caramel balance persists. Patience and aging will mellow the bitterness and burn a bit if those are displeasing to you.
Bourbon County Brand Stout is a special beer for a special time of year, though its specialty also makes it a rarity. However, if you are able to find a bottle or two, don’t let its scarcity prevent you from sharing it. Stoke the fire, grab some snifters, and pour some holiday cheer among friends.
Aroma (as sweetly pleasing, pronounced, and complex as you’ll ever smell)…10/10
Flavor (massive and well-balanced)…9/10
Style-appropriateness (slightly thin but one of the most impressive imperial stouts around)…9/10