Nov 19, 2021 - Food and Drink

2021's biggest beer release is all about the barrels

The lineup of 2021 Bourbon County Brand Stout from Goose Island. Photo courtesy of Goose Island

The lineup of 2021 Bourbon County stouts. Photo courtesy of Goose Island

For this year's Bourbon County beers, Chicago's Goose Island is returning to what made the brewery the OG in the first place: its barrels.

What to know: Bourbon County Brand Stout debuts on Black Friday — an unofficial beer holiday — and easily ranks as the most widely anticipated beer release each year, writes John Frank, our resident beer nerd at Axios Denver.

  • The lucky Chicago-area beer fans who won the Prop Day lottery get an early preview this weekend.

What's new: The 2021 lineup features the original stout — the first-ever bourbon-barrel aged beer — and seven limited-edition variants.

  • The beers are winning rave reviews for the refined wood and spirit characteristics imparted by the barrels from distilleries that include Old Forester, Blanton's and Elijah Craig.
  • This year's Proprietor's Stout — a rare and "special beer for Chicago," the brewers say — is inspired by the classic strawberry shortcake ice cream bar, blending fruit, coconut and vanilla combined in a decadent liquid treat.

💭 John's thought bubble: In a virtual tasting with Goose Island's beer wizards, three editions of this year's Bourbon County stouts stood out:

  • Bourbon County Stout: The original this year is the best I remember with strong baker's chocolate and vanilla notes that make it silky. It's also intentionally lower in alcohol at 14%.
  • Reserve Blanton's: The beer rested for 18 months in barrels that once held the much-hyped Blanton's Original Single Barrel Bourbon. A sip reveals a maple note that compliments the oak and tobacco flavors.
  • Double Barrel Toasted Barrel: The expression of the barrels from Elijah Craig barrels is more prominent than any other variant and features rich flavors of marshmallow and dark fruit.

Between the lines: The quantities released of each Bourbon County are small, so expect Black Friday lines at specialty shops and big box beer retailers that get allocations.

  • The most easily available bottles are the original, as well as the Classic Cola, Fourteen and Cherry Wood variants.

If you find the Reserve 150, Reserve Blanton's or Double Barrel Toasted editions outside Chicago, you essentially won the lottery, so enjoy.


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