Nov 15, 2023 - Food and Drink

Taste test: Goose Island's 2023 Bourbon County stouts

Bottles of Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout

Goose Island's 2023 Bourbon County Brand Stout lineup. Photo courtesy of Goose Island

The barrel is the star of this year's Bourbon County stouts from Goose Island.

What's happening: The Chicago brewery, owned by Anheuser-Busch, made six variants for its 2023 release that showcase freshly emptied barrels from six much-loved bourbon distillers.

Why it matters: Bourbon County Brand Stout — released once a year in November — is the original bourbon barrel-aged stout and remains a standard-setter in the beer industry.

What they're saying: "We consider the barrel to be an integral ingredient in this beer, as much as the malt, the hops, the yeast that go into brewing and fermenting this beer," Daryl Hoedtke, the senior brewmaster, said at a recent tasting.

Mark your calendar: The Bourbon County celebration starts Saturday in Chicago with Prop Day, the debut of the city-exclusive variant, which this year is inspired by the flavors of rice pudding.

  • The nationwide release of the other variants is Nov. 24, Black Friday.

What to know: The newest edition is the Angel's Envy 2-Year Cask Finish Stout — aged in Angel's Envy bourbon barrels and Ruby Port wine barrels for a year each, lending a flavor of cherry and spice.

  • The Eagle Rare edition also is aged two years and showcases hints of vanilla and American oak.
  • The standard Bourbon County is aged in Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, Four Roses and Wild Turkey barrels.

The intrigue: For the second consecutive year, bananas are the featured ingredient in one edition. The Bananas Foster Stout was first released in 2017 as a Proprietors Stout only available in Chicago, but now it's going national.

💭 Thought bubble: My favorite sip is the Backyard Stout, which is finished with a blend of mulberries, boysenberries and marionberries.

  • The tartness of the fruit blends nicely with the barrel tannins and cocoa sweetness of the beer.
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