On Friday I took a trip to the Four Seasons Beer store to pick a little something up to have during the evening’s work on the site. Picked up a sixer of a Hop Czar from Bridgeport Brewing out of Portland, Oregon. I went to the counter to pay the man when once again, I spied a bottle of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout on the shelf behind the counter. They had it priced at $7.99 per 12 oz. bottle. This was a little too steep to pay for one bottle of beer.
I mentioned that to Barry, the guy tending the register and he said, “Buy a four-pack. It’s cheaper.” Sure enough, I could get four bottles for $24.99 which was almost like “buy three, get the fourth free.” I gritted my teeth as I placed the four-pack on the counter and doled out dollar after dollar. I’d have my IPA on Friday, write about this rather rare stout on Saturday and worry about the finances on Sunday.
I wondered if BCS lived up the hype after reading all the comments on the various beer blogs and forums. After all, GI sold out to AB-InBev last year, why should I continue to patronize their beers? But wait… What if the beer didn’t live up to all the hype? That would signal a significant change direction that the brewery was going. Then again, what if it was as spectacular as the blogs and forums said it was?
In many instances, an AB-InBev takeover isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many of the original brewers are retained and the capacity is increased. More good craft beer and more profit for all involved. But the one factor that made the big guy buy out the little guy seemed to be what the big guy couldn’t do, and that’s make good craft beer. But some controversy surrounded Goose Island’s BrewMaster, Greg Hall (the guy featured in the video below.) It’s been over a year since the takeover and GI doing just fine as recounted in this article from the Chicagoist.com. Only time will tell.
There will always be a special place in my heart for Goose Island, especially after tasting a wide range of their beers with Pere Jacques being a long time favorite. I figured I at least owed them the tasting of this latest version of BCS just for how they helped make me appreciate the taste of good craft beer.
The BCS is rated at 15% alcohol which is clearly printed at the bottom of the label. I made sure to prep myself by eating a hearty meal beforehand and offering a tortuous path for the essences that make one lose his sense of time, reality and good spelling. I didn’t want this to get out hand like it has a few times in the past.
Saturday night rolled around and I waited until the absolute last minute before opening the stout floodgates. I brought the four-pack inside from the garage beer fridge, nicely chilled from the night before. It was time. I lit the fuse on the first stick of dynamite beer and popped the top.
The beer poured a thick, black, dense liquid the color of used motor oil. A slight chocolate colored foam arose to about a half-inch and quickly disappeared. I held the glassful up to the desk lamp within inches from the bulb and nothing shined through. I had a mini black hole in a glass. The aromas had hints of whiskey and dark malts and knew right away that this was going to have to go slow.
The first sip was amazing. The liquid was thick in the mouth and had a super creamy feel to it. The swallow brought forth tastes of chocolate, toffee and burnt toast. To say that this was big beer would be an understatement.
More sips, more flavors. The bourbon whiskey and the chocolate melded into a sort of sweet maple syrup flavor. After two sips, the heat buildup in the gut became noticeable. This was a helluva delicious beer that packed a wallop in taste. This was why people scrambled for this beer when it’s finally released.
The taste was very complex. Different flavors would come and go and then come back again. Third sip and I was already licking the sticky off my lips.
There were many things going on in this beer. That first sip immediately surprised me due to the fact that it felt so thick in the mouth. Next came the sweetness reminiscent of dark chocolate. The transfer to the back of the mouth and the swallow brought out the bourbon and dark roasty flavors as well. So smooth, yet so dangerous. The recipe must cost the Brewery a small fortune.
There were no hop flavors tasted even though the GI website states that the beer has 60 IBUs. Alcohol taste was not present in the mouth but became readily more apparent in the stomach. At 15% ABV this beer was a Molotov cocktail for the senses, but what a way to go.
RB and BA classify this beer as an American Imperial Stout, but I’d venture to say that the BJCP would place it in the Russian Imperial Stout category based purely on the alcohol content. And this beer exceeds the top ABV percentile of that style by 3% and also the IBUs. It still can be considered a stout based on taste alone rather than some hybrid that all the ingredients have created. Also, what factors determine a Russian Imperial over an American Imperial besides the alcohol content?
The beer sort of reminds me of Dragon’s Milk, but on steroids. It’s taste doesn’t come nearly as close to Dark Lord or Ten Fidy but the beer is delicious all the same. Different strokes. And I forgot what Old Rasputin was like. I’ll need a replay on that one.
BCS is another one of those seasonally rare, limited release beers that fly off the shelves at beer stores in spite of its steep price. This is the beer that usually crops up on craft beer forums along with 120 Minute IPA from DFH and Hopslam from Bell’s. In each of these beers you can find the qualifications that they all have. They’re unique, they’re one of a kind, They’re rather rare and they’re all delicious. GI’s Bourbon County Stout stands tall among the other giants of craft beer.
The SixPackTech summary for Goose Island 2012 Bourbon County Stout:
Taste: Amazingly complex. Almost like a shot and a beer in one package.
Smoothness: STP on ball bearings, all in black.
Drinkability: Sip. Rest. Sip. Rest.
Bang for the buck: Similar to a ticket to DisneyWorld. Worth it for the experience and to say that you have been there.
Amount paid: $24.99 for a four-pack. Not cheap.
Get it again? Yes. Next release date.
Wife’s all-encompassing opinion: It’s dark. (sniff) Coffee. Caramel coffee. Burnt. Day-old. Look how thick it is. (sip) Acchk! Oh no. This is not what I could deal with. It’s too much. (I think she went to put a bandage on her tongue.)
Greg Hall talks about BCS