First Taste | 2019 Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
Following a year that saw Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout go heavy on adjuncts such as vanilla, orange, berries, and chocolate, the 2019 lineup is focused on the barrel itself.
The eight-beer lineup will be released, as is the tradition, on Black Friday but those attending FoBAB or Prop Day will have a sneak peek at the beers ahead of their official release. The media was invited to the Goose Island Barrel House for the first public tasting of this year’s lineup.
While I’ll break down each beer shortly, from top to bottom this year’s lineup was much better than last year’s in my opinion. The over the top adjuncts lost sight of what Bourbon County is – a barrel-aged beer. This year’s focus on the barrel was refreshing and produced a very solid batch of beers. Many of the variants are simply base Bourbon County Stout with the barrel shaping the flavors and aromas.
I’ll go through the beers as I ranked them shortly after the tasting.
My standout from the 2019 batch. This beer can be best described as a chocolate brownie with bourbon barrel notes. It’s kind of what I expected 2018 Prop to be.
Base BCS spent two years in an 11-year-old Knob Creek barrel where they developed fantastic notes of rich chocolate, molasses, and vanilla. It’s incredibly well-balanced and despite the high ABV, it’s one that drinks very easily. The late heat from the barrel ties this beer together nicely.
I wasn’t shy about saying how disappointed I was in Prop last year. In fact, it was my least favorite beer of the entire 2018 lineup. When I heard the ingredients I imagined a rich velvety chocolatey beer. Instead, it was a chalky Bakers Chocolate mess.
2019 Prop is an homage to the Props of years past. Featuring coconut, vanilla, cacao nibs and toasted pecans I was curious as to how all these ingredients would blend together and if you could take hints of several previous beers and make a successful one.
Goose redeemed themselves this year with a stellar Prop. This creamy and smooth beer highlights the coconut and vanilla upfront with the cacao nibs subtle in the background with the toasted pecans coming in late to add a nice nuttiness flavor at the end to cut the sweetness.
Get excited Prop Day attendees.
A new addition to the lineup last year that ended up winning a medal at FoBAB returns to 2019 and it’s better than last year’s version. Aged this year in 100% Larceny bourbon casks the flavors of butterscotch, toffee and caramel combine to make a beer that clocks in at 15.3% ABV but is easy drinking and a delight to sip.
This year’s batch is made with a wheat grain build that is 30% higher than last year’s batch giving it that smooth flavor. I liked last year’s wheatwine but wasn’t crazy about it, this year’s though is very high on my list.
Beers 4-6 on my list can pretty much be arranged in any order and I’d agree with it. I think 1-3 and 7-8 are cemented in my mind but the middle three all kind of fluctuate.
Double Barrel turned heads as a draft-only variant a couple of years ago. Following the success it had on draft it’s no surprise it made its way into bottles this year.
The beer spent a year in 11-year-old Elijah Craig barrels before being put in 12-year-old Elijah Craig barrels for another year. The result is an 18% ABV beer that is robust and to no surprise very bourbon-forward.
There are slight chocolate notes in this one but make no mistake who is king here – it’s bourbon and it’s really good.
Perhaps the most anticipated beer in the lineup this year because of the combination of ingredients that was very intriguing. Two types of tart cherries, oats, and brown sugar created a beer that got people talking.
Maybe I was still jaded by 2018’s lineup that I kind of expected to be hit in the face with a ton of cherries that would overpower everything. Luckily that didn’t happen and I was actually surprised with how subdued the cherries were. Honestly, I wouldn’t mind a bit more cherry in the beer but it definitely wasn’t overly sweet like Bramble last year.
I thought the oats and brown sugar were great complementary ingredients to the beer which really helped build the body and provided a solid mouthfeel and smoothness to the taste.
The base 2019 Bourbon County Stout is on par for what has come out of Goose the last couple of years. Two noticeable differences this year. The first is that mouthfeel is incredibly velvety and viscous – more so than in previous years. It’s a great beer to drink.
The other is the nose – I didn’t get any. Typically you’ll get a nice aroma of chocolate, bourbon, molasses, and vanilla but the aroma was as strong as water. It seemed odd to me. Luckily the flavor didn’t follow suit as the beer known for chocolate, smoke, vanilla, and bourbon came though.
Overall it’s a solid beer and while I put it as sixth on my list, you can move it up to fourth or fifth and I’d agree with you.
This year’s Reserve features the Rittenhouse Rye barrel for a spicy and boozy Bourbon County. I was really thinking this would be higher up on my list but it just wasn’t.
There was nothing noticeably wrong with the beer but when I drank it I wasn’t as excited as the others. The spice of the rye is fairly strong and I thought there might be some cinnamon or dark fruit notes to complement the heat. Rye fans will probably like this beer a lot, others might be passing.
Café de Olla
Every year there seems to be at least one variant that flat out misses the mark for me. In 2017 it was Northwoods, 2018 there were a bunch, and in 2019 it’s Café de Olla.
The aroma gives you light hints of coffee and on the first taste you get that coffee but it’s quickly erased by aggressive notes of orange. It’s like having Midnight Orange from last year but instead of chocolate, you have coffee.
While the chocolate orange flavor combination worked for some people last year, I have a harder time believing that the coffee orange flavor will work as well. But as always beer is 100% subjective and there are still people that tell me Northwoods is their favorite variant of all time.
Anyways, there’s your lineup of 2019 Bourbon County Stout. I’m excited to hear what people think as it begins to hit the festival scene and then of course on Black Friday.