13% ABV from a bomber
I always get asked by non-beer geeks what my favorite beer is. It would be easy to be a snob and name some hard to find curio that they’ll never get to try, that I may never get to try again, but that’s just annoying. So I usually name Goose Island’s Bourbon Country Brand Stout, a masterpiece of a beer that can be easily found just about anywhere and which, despite the lack of rarity, stacks up with anything and everything. I never get tired of it.
You can imagine my excitement when news came that 2010 would see the release of several new iterations of the beer. It was like hearing a half-dozen new sequels would be made of your favorite movie!* Last year saw the release of Nightstalker, essentially just Bourbon County before being bourbon-barrelized–I think it’s apt that while most breweries are bourbon-barrelizing ever solid beer they make, Goose Island, arguably the creator of the modern bourbon barreled stout decides to reverse engineer it back to its base–and that was a swell little brew with a breathtaking complexity.
The first release of this new series was Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout and, while I of course expected it to be rarer than its godfather, I never expected it to fly off shelves as quick as it has and become one of the rarest and hottest beers on the market today. Luckily, luckily, luckily–because I would have cried if I’d missed out–my man Sam surprised me with a bottle and I am eternally grateful. Simply put, this beer stacks up to its predecessor if not most of the bad boy stouts on the market. I had it alongside, just off the top of my head, Black Tuesday, Canadian Breakfast Stout, Darkness, and several Dark Lord vintages and it was definately able to mix it up with those bullies.
Regular Bourbon County seems to have been specifically created for me. Deliciously hot and boozy, packed with chocolate and vanilla and about as un-subtle as a beer can get, the Intelligentsia Black Cat espresso added to this Bourbon County Coffee makes it a little smoother, a little more palatable, a little more “user-friendly.” I can completely understand why this effort has meteorically shot up to, as we speak, #3 on the BA Top 100 list while the regular Bourbon County languors a little lower at #45. Bourbon County Coffee simply has less things to dislike about it. Personally, I think I like the initial effort just a tad better–I like the harshness of it–but let’s say that maybe two out of seven days of the week I might like Coffee Brand better. It may even be the best coffee beer ever made. Not to be missed.
Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout
13% on tap
I thought I could relax in my whale-hunting for a bit as the 2nd release in the Bourbon County series wasn’t slated until October but while procrastinating yesterday afternoon I happened to notice online that The Pony Bar was having a Goose Island event which would have this little gem on tap. Not sure if I’d ever luck into a bottle of this, I had to hightail it over to Hell’s Kitchen for what I’d long expected to be my favorite of the Bourbon County series. Unfortunately, that was not the case.
Bourbon County Vanilla is good, amazing even, but just a little lacking and certainly not in the class of regular, Coffee, or even Nightstalker. It’s incredibly hot and boozy right now which is saying something when it’s coming from a guy like me who likes hot and boozy (and not just in my women.) It’s also extraordinary sweet right now. Bourbon-barreled beers are already quite vanilla-y due to the bourbon and oak presence and adding even more vanilla on top of that makes it almost superfluous. A “Death by Vanilla” your favorite Times Square chain restaurant might call it on the dessert menu. The eight ounce glass I had was more than enough. This is a quite interesting beer but it could surely use some age, which makes me wonder if the bottled release in October might be significantly better. Let’s hope. Until then, though, I’m gonna give it an…
To my knowledge there’s quite a few more iterations coming, though I’m not sure that all will be bottled. A raspberry one, a “rare” one aged in 23-year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels (one of my favorite bourbons ever), and a blueberry one that, oddly enough, several “people in the know” keep insisting is the best. Excited to try all of them. Hopefully.
Maple Bacon Stout
6.5% on tap
One of the worst things about being a beer “collector” is that if you see a beer you’ve never tried before, and may never get to try again, and you want to try it…well, regardless of your plans for the day, you’re going to have to try that beer. It’s not like being a coin collector or something where, if you hear about a rare coin somewhere you can just sprint downtown and buy it. No, us beer geeks actually have to affect our bodies’ chemistry to enjoy our hobby. So while I had absolutely no plans to get drunk yesterday, to have even a sip of alcohol, the second I started seeing all these Goose Island oddball rarities on tap, I had no option but to drink them. I mean, this could be my only chance ever! And there was no way I was passing up something called “Maple Bacon Stout.”
Not another issue from the Bourbon County series, just a “simple” “low” (enough with the scare quotes) ABV stout, but with some seriously weird shit going on. It smells like a meaty rauchbier (a style I just haven’t got into yet) but the maple addition adds a nice sweetness to the taste that levels it out and makes it a quite pleasant non-imperial (an endangered species!) stout. I considered asking for a one ounce taster before purchasing a full glass but, fuck it, I’m a man. I dove in head first. Glad I did, cause this one was pretty good. It’s the perfect beer for those kind of ugly fattish girls that like to pretend they enjoy stuff that men like in order to ingratiate themselves to said men. “See, I’m not like those other girls–I like beer! And bacon! And football! And giving you unrequited head in the men’s bathroom!”
*Then again, I wish that single sequel had NEVER been made to “2001: A Space Odyssey.”