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Meet the Brewer Behind 2016 Bourbon County Proprietor’s

Meet the Brewer Behind 2016 Bourbon County Proprietor’s
Mike Zoller

Two years ago Emily Kosmal was working on recipes for chocolate milk. Today she is the creator of one of the most coveted barrel-aged stouts in the country.

Each year Goose Island employees get a chance to submit their recipes for the beer that will become Bourbon Country Brand Stout Proprietor’s. The brewers take home some base BCBS and then get to add whatever ingredients they want.

Photo by Eric Dirksen.
Photo by Eric Dirksen.

Kosmal used her previous work experience in the dairy industry to help create the recipe that would be chosen for this year’s Prop.

“I wanted to use what I know and I know chocolate milk very well,” Kosmal said. “I didn’t want to deviate too far from what’s already naturally occurring in a BCBS. Things like chocolate and smokey notes coming from the barrel and for me BCBS has always reminded me of a cigar. I wanted to play on that. Cigars are really smokey and chocolatey with a little burn and that’s where the chipotle peppers come in.”

Emily Kosmal with her creation: 2016 Prop. Photo by Eric Dirksen.
Emily Kosmal with her creation: 2016 Prop. Photo by Eric Dirksen.

Before coming to Goose, Kosmal had no experience in the brewing industry. But she wanted a change of scenery and the opportunity to interact with the people who were drinking what she was creating. Making the decision to come to Goose was easy for Kosmal.

“It’s really a simple answer – I love beer,” she said. “I’ve wanted to work with a product that I actually get to interact with consumers one-on-one and see what they think. With the dairy industry I never interacted with the customers or consumers. It makes it harder to keep going back everyday if you don’t see where your product is and how it impacts people.”

Kosmal’s recipe is different from previous year’s Prop’s that went a sweeter or fruitier route. Her recipe features smoke, cocoa nibs and chipotle peppers that add a late heat to the beer. The cocoa nibs are prevalent and give Prop a rich body with the smoke adding another layer of complex flavor.

Photo Credit: Desiree Duzich
Photo By Desiree Duzich, Spoiled Beer Brat Productions

When told her recipe was chosen Kosmal didn’t believe it.

“At first I thought my coworker who told me was joking,” she said. “Then I heard it from other people and it was awesome. It really was a humbling experience. I’m learning as much as I can about brewing and Prop is a pretty big honor. To have people so excited about this beer is so exciting.”

With Goose Island coming off a tumultuous year for Bourbon County they scaled things back for the 2016 batch and went to four simple BCBS beers. They changed the brewing process and added a pasteurization step to ensure the quality of the beer would not be altered once in the bottle.

“Last year was rough,” Kosmal said. “Who wants to wait in line, get your bottles and then you can’t enjoy them? That’s not cool for anyone.”

This past Sunday Goose Island held Prop Day. A free event that required a ticket but allowed lucky winners a chance to purchase a bottle of Prop before the Black Friday release. After purchasing the bottle they were bussed to the Goose Island Warehouse where more free beer and entertainment were waiting.

Kosmal said it was important for Goose to have an event thanking the fans of Bourbon County and making sure they knew how important to the brewery they were.

“Prop Day is a special way to give back for what happened last year,” she said. “We wanted to give back to Chicago. We still care about your loyalty to Goose and this beer. We make this beer for our fans. It’s not for us. It’s for them. It’s a long process and everyone in the brewery touches this beer in some way.”

The reviews of Prop at Prop Day have been mixed so far. Some greatly enjoyed the unique flavor and others weren’t fans of it right away but said they would cellar their bottles and try it again down the line. Even Kosmal said that Prop’s flavors will develop and cellaring the bottle might be the best option right now.

Photo by Eric Dirksen.
Photo by Eric Dirksen.

“I don’t need it to have universal popularity but I hope people will enjoy it and want to share it,” she said. “I’m almost more excited to see how it holds up down the line in later years. This is a Prop that is 100% meant to be cellared. In a few years I’ll enjoy looking in beer groups to see where it holds up and what people think.”

With Prop Day over craft beer fans all over Chicago will line-up on Black Friday hoping to get all four variants of Bourbon County but especially get their hands on a rare bottle of Prop. For Kosmal this year has been a blur for her and she’s excited to see the response to her beer.

“To be this closely involved with Prop has been a wild ride,” she said.

Feature photo courtesy of Goose Island.

Mike Zoller is the Midwest Editor for Follow him on Instagram: @CHICAGOBEER and PorchDrinking Chicago’s Twitter feed for the latest Chicago craft beer news: @PORCHDRINKCHI.

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