Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout: Where There Is Smoke There Is Fire!

Well in the case of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout this holds true. The 13% ABV Stout has been aged in bourbon barrels and this aging imparts a significant smoky quality to the stout that is really quite striking when you first taste it.  It reminded me a little of liquid smoke at first, but then settled down once my taste buds adjusted to the flavor of the brew.  But what about the fire?  Well that raged on, and was a little bit aggressive, and surprising…

See, I wasn’t prepared to have a brew that is a hefty 13%, to be sure, and have that kind of firey mouthfeel or the kind of burn that it produced in my chest and face.  I guess I was expecting something a little more like beer, and a lot less like bourbon.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved it!

Lets start at the beginning (that is usually where I like to start).  The pour on this brew was like motor oil!  It was thick and black, and I thought it wouldn’t form any head at all, so I got really aggressive on my pour to try and get some bubbles to appear.  There was about a one finger cocoa brown head that quickly dissipated.  Most of the carbonation went with it too.

The nose on this brew was a typical stout.  It had a ton of maltiness, and a little leafiness to it like almost a grassy undertone, which was reflected in the flavor.  Lots of roasted nuts came through and finally a little caramel.  Very complex nose, so I was hoping that this would be a good sign of things to come, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The flavor of this brew is incredibly balanced and smooth. While there is a burn it is actually quite mellow, and just adds yet another dimension to this complex and tasty stout.  It begins sweet and malty with a big roasted malt flavor, then it is spicy and the heat comes in, and here you can taste the flavor of the bourbon, and the finish is warm but with a unique grassiness that I really wasn’t expecting.   I suppose it is the hops but it tasted like I went out to a field of lush green Kentucky bluegrass and pulled out a blade by the root and chewed on it.  This was a very well balanced and extremely complex brew.  But not just complex for complexity sake, but each flavor has its place in making this a superior stout.

The mouthfeel on this brew was amazing as well.  Full and creamy, almost chewy it was a treat for the senses.  I kept expecting to find little shards of the Kentucky bluegrass I was tasting on the brew.  Very unusual, very complex, and very delicious.

This bottle was from 2008, so it had quite a bit of conditioning on it.  I would expect that if it were younger it would have quite a hop note to it as well.  As it was it was almost perfect.


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11 Comments on “Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout: Where There Is Smoke There Is Fire!”

  1. March 10, 2010 at 3:10 pm #

    One of the few beers that has gotten a 5 rating on our site. I love this brew. I’ve got some 2008s and some 2006s as well. They’ve made this beer bigger recently. In fact, it was 11% ABV in 2006. That being said, it’s big and very well priced for what you get. Definitely one for the Bourbon lover. Here’s my review if you want to see it.

    • Don
      March 10, 2010 at 3:30 pm #

      Mike: I would like to congratulate you. Your comment on my Bourbon County Stout review was the 2000th comment we have received here at BeerandWhiskey! Thanks for that, and as the 2000th commenter you will receive a free online subscription to our blog! YEAAAA! WooHoo! In al seriousness, thinks for coming by like you do. I loved this beer. It was interesting to me that we had some similar impressions, and some that were way different. Specifically this whole issue of the Bluegrass quality I picked up on. I figured it must have been the hops that I was tasting and smelling, but you had none of that instead you picked up on a biscuitiness that I didn’t. Really interesting how palate’s can be so different, and yet come to the very same conclusion that this is a great and special beer. Thanks for sharing your review. If I were doing stars this would have gotten a 5 from me as well. I don’t gush much, but this brew deserves it.

      • March 11, 2010 at 4:27 pm #

        It is interesting how the different thresholds for different tastes occur in the process of tasting. We can both agree that this beer is terrific. Seeing quailty when it’s there is the real point.

        When does my free blog stuff come in?

        • Don
          March 11, 2010 at 4:43 pm #

          On that we can agree this is a terrific beer, and one that should be enjoyed slowly, but frequently. Free blog stuff?? Oh…you mean that 2000 thing…yeah..sheesh seems I might have spoken a little too soon. Management really came down hard…I guess it was the 5000th comment that gets all the free stuff….

  2. Jessica Clegg
    March 10, 2010 at 4:45 pm #

    I like how you captured the beyond-liquid body of this stout! It’s one of my favorites and this makes me crave a full glass immediately…

    • Don
      March 10, 2010 at 4:51 pm #

      It was actually a little chewy. Not sure how, but it certainly was. It was great!

    • Don
      March 11, 2010 at 10:00 am #

      That’s because you can’t Handle the Stout!

  3. March 10, 2010 at 11:47 pm #

    Really like this beer myself. When I had it, it was served entirely to cold. It was painful to wait for that glass to warm up and I could experience it in its full glory. But glorious it was.

    Funny that I reviewed the Full Sail Top Sail Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Porter today. It was big, maybe too big, and it had lots of bourbon to it. Many different aromas and flavors like roasted nuts, chocolate, burnt toast, too. But they weren’t balanced or put together well. They were separate. Or when they did come together, they crashed into one another. And the mouthfeel wasn’t quite there either.

    The Goose Island is just so well crafted. Exceptionally so. Everything is right and in the right place. Fabulous beer.

    • Don
      March 11, 2010 at 10:05 am #

      Yeah Chad, I could see where serving it too cold could be a problem. I had mine sitting in the garage, and this time of year it is the perfect temp, right around 50 degrees. Chilled but not cold. I’m a little concerned, because I think I picked up a bottle of the Top Sail at the Co op. I could be wrong about that but it was some Highlands somethinorother. in a red labeled bottle with a silver foil top. If that sounds familiar let me know, because if it is the same, I might just give it to my son. He’ll drink anything…

      • @BeerPoet
        March 11, 2010 at 2:17 pm #

        Top Sail was actually a black labeled 22 oz. bottle with gold accents and a gold foil top. It wasn’t horrible. It was actually O.K. for a Full Sail. Just not as finely crafted as some other booze-barrel-aged brews I’ve had lately. Plus, I was comparing it to the Goose Island. So hard to go up against that.

        I haven’t liked much I’ve tasted from Full Sail. Want to. But that brewery just isn’t doing it for me, I guess.

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