On The Outside: Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout
Yesterday, my girlfriend noticed a beer bottle in a seldom seen area of the refrigerator, mixed in with the secondary condiments. She asked me why I was hiding a bottle of Bourbon County Stout (BCS). I yelled from my spot on the couch that I had just picked it up yesterday. "You picked up a 2008 yesterday?" she asked. That piqued my interest.
Earlier this year, we moved to a new house without a basement. This caused us to move several boxes of cellared beer to a friend's basement. Most of the whole cellared lot were moved, but some were consumed in celebration of our new house. When we couldn't locate the BCS, I removed it from my meticulous spreadsheet assuming that we had already enjoyed it. Apparently not.
Finding both the 2008 and 2009 BCS in the fridge we were faced with the inevitable mini-vertical. Well, we could have put them away for more aging, but sometimes it's impossible to resist. Besides, finding that beer seemed like a message from somewhere higher: "Drink me!" So, both bottles came out of the fridge to sit for about 30 minutes to take the cold bite off.
Then, we dove into the mini-vertical. Both poured pitch black and as thick as oil. Each had a dark tan head, with the 2009 version sticking around for much longer. Even with a year on it, the 2008 was only subtly different than the newest release. The earlier vintage was a bit smoother, and not quite as hot. But this is written with my tongue firmly in my cheek, because I can't imagine what could possibly cool this 13% Bourbon Barrel monster. It's already high ABV is only taunted by it's saturated bourbon flavor. This beer is not afraid to show its many, sharp teeth. The 2009 was very heavy on the bourbon right up front: you can smell it, taste it, and possibly even hear it. The older vintage has aged enough to blend in the bourbon taste with more of the malt character and that taste doesn't hit as soon or as strong as the newer bottle, but it's definitely still there.
Final thoughts: My girlfriend has loved this beer since she first tried is a couple of years ago, and it remains as one of the top beers on her ever-evolving list. I have a feeling that if it came down to me or a bottle of this beer, I wouldn't make the cut. For me, this beer certainly is a favorite, but the bourbon is far too strong to make it perfect. The bottle states that it will age well for up to five years, but I don't know if I have the patience (or the willpower) for this practice—though I would love to taste a five year cellared version! Please contact me for cellared donations!
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