The pioneer of barrel-aged stouts continues with innovation and variety, as the Goose Island Beer Company recently announced its 2022 Bourbon County Stout variants.
It was back in 1992, when former Goose Island brewmaster Gregory Hall wanted to brew something unique for the brewpub’s 1,000th batch. He found what’s described as inspiration in a chance encounter with Jim Beam’s Booker Noe, and that led to Goose Island acquiring the barrels for what was to become one of the world’s first bourbon barrel-aged beers.
Bourbon County Stout isn’t just a local specialty, but today, it is said, is known globally for setting the standard of barrel-aged stouts. This year, Goose Island Beer is commemorating the 30th anniversary of Bourbon County Stout history with a varied lineup.
“You know you’re a part of something special when each year crafting Bourbon County Stout is more fulfilling than the last, especially since starting out we never thought we’d make it again,” said Todd Ahsmann, Goose Island Beer president. “Yet, 30 years later, it’s clear we’ve created something truly remarkable.”
“Three decades have now passed and our Bourbon County Stout is a fixture within Goose Island’s DNA due to the continued craftsmanship, innovation and, of course, the community who love and cherish this truly original beer and the tradition behind it,” he added.
The brewer’s notes on the seven variants releasing this year are:
- Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (14.4% ABV): Every year since its inception in 1992, Goose Island looks to honor the original Bourbon County Stout recipe. This year’s Imperial Stout is aged and blended from freshly emptied bourbon barrels from Heaven Hill, Four Roses, Wild Turkey, and Buffalo Trace distilleries. Expect flavors of vanilla, dark chocolate, toffee, molasses, almond, and dried fruit.
- Goose Island Bourbon County Two-Year Barleywine Reserve (17% ABV): This reserve sees three sets of Old Fitzgerald barrels of varying ages from the distillery’s Old Fitzgerald’s Bottled-In-Bond Decanter Series. This Reserve highlights the distinct characteristics of the Barleywine aged in 14-year, 16-year and 17-year-old barrels of the whiskey. Bringing back the classic English-style Barleywine for the first time since 2018, the Two-Year Barleywine Reserve evokes the intricacies from Old Fitzgerald’s Bottled-In-Bond Series for a smooth taste of rich malt, entwined with notes of toffee, cherry, vanilla, fig, and almond.
- Goose Island Bourbon County 30th Anniversary Reserve Stout (14.4% ABV): The special 30th Anniversary Stout pays homage to the union between Gregory Hall and Booker Noe that then led to subsequent years, variants, and traditions … from Black Friday lines to bottle shares and more. Going back to the inception of Bourbon County Stout, the 30th Anniversary Stout is aged from a blend of Jim Beam barrels from their Small Batch Bourbon Collection barrels including Basil Hayden, Booker’s, Baker’s and Knob Creek. Each of the bourbon barrels offer characteristics unique to each bourbon’s distinct nuances. They are then blended together for a complex and balanced expression that celebrates the heritage and legacy of both brands. And, as history would have it, Jim Beam launched their first-ever Small Batch Bourbon Collection 30 years ago. Expect notes of dark chocolate, vanilla, cherry, and almond.
- Goose Island Bourbon County Biscotti Stout (TBD% ABV): The Biscotti Stout came from the brand’s HR team. Inspired by the Italian desserts of her childhood, Jill Cerone, people manager at Goose Island, dreamed up this variant after grabbing a box of chocolate-dipped biscotti from her cabinet. Working with the brewing team, Jill brought the flavor to life with notes of anise, marzipan, cocoa, and buttered toffee. The biscotti enhances flavors already found in the Bourbon County Stout and adds notes of pizzelle cookies, Easter Pane di Pasqua and, of course, almond biscotti.
- Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout (TBD% ABV): For the first time since 2017, a coffee variant is on the menu, this year in partnership with Goose Island neighbors Intelligentsia Coffee. Intelligentsia relies on Burundi coffee to complement the quality and tasting notes of Bourbon County Stout. The specific coffee blend combined with the Imperial Stout is called Turihamwe, which means “together,” and is a tribute to all the hands that go into making it … from the female coffee farmers in Burundi that produced the blend, to those at Intelligentsia, the first brand they worked with on a variant back in 2010. The result is a coffee variant featuring rich chocolate, coffee, and caramel flavors.
- Goose Island Bourbon County Sir Isaac’s Stout (TBD% ABV): For years, brewers at Goose Island have brainstormed ways to incorporate figs in Bourbon County Stout, but faced a daunting task due to their subtle flavor. Members of the Goose Island E-commerce team, Melissa Alleguez and Ryan Hubona, came up with a recipe inspired by Melissa’s childhood memories of stealing fig cookies out of her grandma’s cookie jar during her summers on Lake Michigan. And thus, the fig cookie and graham cracker-inspired Sir Isaac’s Stout was created. Highlighting the dried fried profiles extracted from the bourbon in the barrels, brewers used Black Mission figs (10,000 pounds of them, to be specific) to create this variant resulting in characteristics of dried fruit, honey, molasses, and citrus, all reminiscent of the classic fig cookie sold on shelves today.
- Goose Island Bourbon County Proprietor’s Stout (TBD% ABV): This stout is inspired by a love for cocktails and the vibrant hospitality industry in Chicago. This recipe was dreamed up after two Goose Island brewers, Jason Krasowski and Paul Cade, spent a night out on the town trying some of the best cocktails the city has to offer. The result is a brewer’s take on a jungle bird cocktail that combines banana, coconut, lime, and a new ingredient for the Bourbon County Stout family – pineapple. The flavors are innovative and fresh, but also share common expressions found in both bourbon and the Original Bourbon County Stout.
“We are so excited to once again be partnering with Goose Island on this amazing collaboration, now to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of both our Small Batch Bourbon Collection and Goose Island Bourbon County Stout,” said Jon Marks, senior director of global small batch for James B. Beam.
“It’s incredible to think about how a chance encounter between Booker Noe & Greg Hall, 30 years ago, was the catalyst for the first-ever bourbon barrel-aged beer. It’s clear to us that because both men were true visionaries, valuing new ideas and authenticity, something truly great was created. We are proud to see the full Small Batch Bourbon Collection come together in this year’s Bourbon County Stout, which is a fitting tribute to the incredible legacies that began 30 years ago.”
Conor O’Driscoll, master distiller with Heaven Hill Brands, talked about their contribution on the Two-Year Barleywine Reserve. “This is a stunning beer and a wonderful reflection of the Old Fitzgerald barrels in which it was finished. The soft, rich character of the extra-aged bourbon partners beautifully with the complexity of the beer. The result is an outstanding addition to the Bourbon County lineup.”
For more information or to get a hold of the barrel-aged beer, check out www.gooseisland.com.
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Gary Carter has been at the helm of metro newspapers, magazines, and television news programs as well as a radio host and marketing manager. He is a writer/editor/photographer/designer by trade, with more than 30 years experience in the publishing and marketing field. Gary enjoys working to build something great, whether...