Two weeks ago, while at the Four Seasons Beer Store, I saw a four-pack of Goose Island Bourbon County Stout right there on the shelf. Ting! Something triggered my memory shoals. I made a mental note of the look and feel of the carton and price (!!) and went on my way. I did some research on this beer and it seemed as if everyone was waiting for this new batch. What was so special about this beer?
I visited the G.I. website which produced this snippet:
Style: Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
Alcohol by Volume: 13%
International Bitterness Units: 60
Malt: 2-Row, Munich, Chocolate, Caramel, Roast Barley, Debittered Black
A bourbon barrel aged (think Dragon’s Milk) 13% ABV black beer with chocolate, caramel and roasted, bittered extra ingredients brewed as a stout. The price? Twenty Dollars U.S. Cash. Holy shit. A four-pack of high-alcohol beer came to 5 bucks a bottle. However… (there’s always the ‘however’) the online ravings about this beer piqued my interest and my love of the dark beers, so I dug deep into my pocket and cringed as I paid the man. Hating myself for a while, I plunged the beer into a dark corner of my bedroom.
Tonight’s review selection happens to be probably, the most expensive beer I’ve ever purchased. But it serves two purposes: to diversify my own taste experience and to verify what has been said about the beer in question. RateBeer recommends this beer be drunk from a snifter. I think not. The snifter is a bit unwieldy to handle but you can’t beat it for the aroma presentation. I prefer a British pub pint glass. Tonight, a compromise: I broke out the Sam Adams pint glass with the somewhat snifter opening. That would do nicely. (BA)
I grabbed the first bottle of G.I.B.C. Stout, the Sam glass and fired up the Mac. While things were warming up electronically, little did I realize about what would be warming up later. I popped the top noticing that this once a year beer has twist-off cap as if it was a daily drinker. Hmm. Knowing that stouts traditionally don’t pour with a lot of head, I filled the glass with no tipping involved.
The beer poured out of the bottle resembling a thin chocolate syrup, rich and very, very dark. The head came up a nice chocolate brown as well. Holding the glass up to the light, it was impossible to see anything through the liquid. The aroma was a nasal wonder, having notes of deep, dark roasted malts, chocolate and perhaps a tinge of bourbon.
The first sip came with a gigantic WOW! Thick to the tongue, the beer slithered in from the glass. The dark roastiness of this beverage was almost overwhelming. Hints of molasses and maple syrup accompanied all of the above. Then there was the after-swallow roto-rootering of the nose. Man, oh man, what a mouthful!
By the third sip the suds had gone away. The beer sat in the glass taunting me, “Go ahead, punk. Have another sip.” It was as if it was a bubbling cauldron of way over the top flavor. Eye of newt, bat wing, tongue of frog, that sort of thing. This was most assuredly an extreme beer.
The liquid actually felt thick in the mouth. The roastiness and the dark flavors filled every tiny nook and cranny of the mouth with a dark spackle. With each sip, the roasty-toasty scent filled the nose before the liquid even entered. The front, middle and back of the sip was a rush of taste.
As the sips progressed, they got smaller and smaller as if the mouth and nose said, “Please. Make it stop.” But the tongue said, “Thank you, sir. May I have another.” The stomach lit a fire and began singing “Kumbaya”. My mind was also starting to feel the effects of the alcohol.
At three-quarters of the way through the first glass of this monster beer, I realized why it was priced so high, why it was so eagerly anticipated by craft beer drinkers and why it only comes out once per year. Also at this point, I was thinking, “Holy Shit. I hope I can get through writing this review.” This beer was the heaviest, tastiest, most alcohol ridden beer I’ve ever had the opportunity to taste. Holy Cow! as Harry would say.
Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout is second only to Sam Adams Utopias in my tasting experience so far. There may be others, but this one even beats Sam Adams’ Double Bock in mouth flavor, taste complexity and depth. This beer is extreme, way out there, over the top and a taste which you must experience at least once in your lifetime.
This beer is not for the faint of heart nor for the novice craft beer drinker who likes Guinness and other dark beers. This beer is special for special occasions. Thank the gods that it will develop in the bottle for five years. The first purchase of this TNT Stout could be good for the next three years.
Unbelievably rich and dark with deep roasted malt flavor and hints of molasses and maple syrup and other heavy, creamy tastes, this beer will blow your mind. And a small part of your wallet as well. It is a taste experience few will have in their lifetimes. Extreme to the nth power, where n= where no man has gone before. Let the superlatives flow… unbelievable, out of this world, outrageous, out of body experience. You must try this beer! It’s the Darth Vader of stouts.
Taste: A+ > The most extreme darkness your mouth will ever behold.
Smoothness: A > So slick, so encompassing, so much!
Drinkability: N/A < Sorry. This will be up to you.
Bang for the buck: A > Yes. Each bottle has 5 bucks worth of taste.
ABV: 13% <- The warning Be Careful! is not strong enough here.
Interview with Goose Island’s head brewmaster during a visit to New York
(To be taken with a grain of salt.)