Every fall the beer world collides with the bourbon world with the release of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout lineup. This year we’re getting six brand-new barrel-aged stouts that were all aged in bourbon barrels (to varying degrees). It’s an exciting time to be a beer drinker who also loves bourbon whiskey, folks!
I was lucky enough to get to taste these awesome and very bold bourbon-barrel-aged stouts with the Goose Island crew recently. I’m going to impart that experience to you because it’s a great one for both beer lovers and bourbon fans. This year’s lineup is the following bottles of Bourbon County Brand Stout:
- 2023 Bourbon County Brand Original Stout
- 2023 Bourbon County Brand Eagle Rare 2-Year Reserve Stout
- 2023 Bourbon County Brand Angel’s Envy 2-Year Cask Finish Stout
- 2023 Bourbon County Brand Bananas Foster Stout
- 2023 Bourbon County Brand Backyard Stout
- 2023 Bourbon County Brand Proprietor’s Stout
Below, I’m ranking each of the stouts according to taste. Admittedly, this is a bit of a fool’s errand. Each of these stouts is very unique. They all offer a deeply diverse profile. So while this is my ranking, read through my tasting notes and find the bourbon stout that speaks to you and make it part of your life. Another quick note before we dive in, these are only hitting shelves right now with a few coming in the next weeks. Moreover, the price tag on these bottles is going to range from $15 to $50 or more — depending on how deeply your local retailer wants to gouge you.
Thems just the breaks. Capitalism comes for us all. Okay, let’s get after it!
6. 2023 Bourbon County Brand Bananas Foster Stout
Average Price: Varies
The base stout is made with heavily roasted malts and amplified with mild Millennium hops. The stout then goes into a bourbon barrel with several adjuncts — banana, three kinds of almonds, cassia bark, and “natural flavor”.
Nose: The nose is like shoving your nose in freshly baked banana bread full of butter cake crumb, cinnamon, nutmeg, and walnuts with a slab of unsalted butter.
Palate: The palate opens with a sweet and roasted almond with a nice chew to it before perfectly ripe yellow bananas cut in next to sharp cinnamon mixed with white sugar and butter and then spread over brown bread toast.
Finish: The end gets super sweet like a banana cake filled with cinnamon-spiked molasses next to rock candy with a malted brown bread in a can vibe.
This is nice but very sweet. If you’re looking for a dessert stout, this is it.
5. 2023 Bourbon County Brand Proprietor’s Stout
Average Price: Varies (Chicago market only)
This is the same base stout with those darkly roasted malts and Millennium hops. This version rests in bourbon barrels with cassia bark, toasted rice, raisins, and “natural flavor” added to the beer as it ages in the wood.
Nose: Brown rice pops dusted with cinnamon chocolate powder draw you in on the nose with a hint of vanilla pudding and maybe some clove.
Palate: The brown rice pops really amp up on the palate as the cinnamon and vanilla mingle with a nice creaminess accented by a hint of nuttiness over clove tobacco.
Finish: The end leans into the toasted rice with a good dose of vanilla cinnamon.
This is just so unique with that rice vibe. It’s engaging and interesting in all the right ways. Plus, this stout isn’t overly sweet. It’s a nice change of pace.
4. 2023 Bourbon County Brand Original Stout
Average Price: $13
This is Goose Island’s signature Bourbon County Brand Stout. This year, the stout was aged for 12 months in barrels from Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey, and Heaven Hill distilleries. Those barrels were batched to make this release.
Nose: Dark yet buttery chocolate grabs your attention on the nose with a rich vanilla buttercream cut with salted caramel, dark cherry, and roasted almonds covered in sugar coating.
Palate: The palate has a deep dark chocolate brandy cherry vibe that’s almost sharp before salted caramel gives way to spiced winter cakes dipped in vanilla buttercream icing that’s almost eggnog.
Finish: The end is lush, spiced, and full of creamy spiced dark chocolate that almost edges toward espresso.
This is very bourbon-forward. And that’s great! But it doesn’t quite have the depth of the next three bottles of stout.
3. 2023 Bourbon County Brand Eagle Rare 2-Year Reserve Stout
Average Price: Varies
This is still Goose Island’s Millennium-hopped stout. This time, the beer was left in 10-Year-Old Eagle Rare Bourbon barrels for two long years before batching and bottling.
Nose: Marzipan soaked in cherry brandy drives the nose toward deep old oak with an earthy note of fall on a cold day before the stout gets warm with cinnamon and allspice and creamy with vanilla sauce.
Palate: The marzipan turns to roasted almond on the palate as the vanilla turns into lush crème brûlée with a sense of eggnog, sticky toffee pudding, and mincemeat pies with plenty of winter spice, buttercream icing, and soft sugar cookies.
Finish: The maltiness of the dark roasted barley comes through at the end with a rich salted dark chocolate espresso that edges toward cherry brandy tobacco and a whisper of old oak staves rolled in cedar bark.
The whiskey really shines through on this one and blends with the dark stout in all the right ways. This is bold though. The wood and earthiness aren’t going to be for everyone (I dig it). So if you’re looking for a very bourbon-forward stout, this is the bold one for you.
2. 2023 Bourbon County Brand Angel’s Envy 2-Year Cask Finish Stout
Average Price: Varies
So the ripple here is Goose Island stout that spends time slowly aging in bourbon barrels from Angel’s Envy. In this case, those are actually ruby port wine barrels that held Angel’s Envy bourbon, adding a serious depth to the stout.
Nose: The nose has a distinct Cherry Coke (off a foundation with the syrup turned up) vibe next to spiced Christmas cakes brimming with candied orange peels, brandy-soaked raisins, and fatty walnuts next to rich yet subtle salted dark chocolate just kissed with stewed red berries.
Palate: The palate really leans into the brandy-soaked raisins with a mulled wine vibe that’s cut with fresh orange zest, dark rum, and dried red berries before more of that spiced holiday cake arrives with a deeply roasted chestnut vibe.
Finish: The end gets lush with a vanilla creaminess before the spiced cakes, boozy raisins, and roasted nuts all combine on the very end with a hint of tobacco-infused oak.
Look, this is basically tied for number one. This is just delicious. It’s like Christmas in a glass yet somehow stays light and fun. That doesn’t really take away from the stout but it does kind of pigeonhole it into a season. Still great though.
1. 2023 Bourbon County Brand Backyard Stout
Average Price: Varies
This Goose Island stout is loaded into bourbon barrels and then mulberries, boysenberries, and marionberries (shoutout, PDX!) are added to the beer before it rests.
Nose: Bright blackberry and huckleberry pop on the nose with deep and dark chocolate that gets a little creamy on the backend of the nose as it attaches to vanilla cream and a whisper of woody winter spice barks dipped in cherry syrup and gooseberry jam.
Palate: The chocolate covers a batch of dried red, black, and blue berries with a balance of sweetness, woodiness, and tartness before a touch of eggnog leads to creamy mocha lattes cut with clove-spiked orange, a touch of tart cherry tobacco, and a whisper of old sweet oak.
Finish: The end gets malty and tart with spiced winter cakes and sharp red berries next to blackberry jam with a hint of savory salal berry compote over malted dark brown bread cut with molasses and rum.
This has everything that makes the other stouts great and more! The addition of tartness adds a wonderfully diverse dimension to the dark beer that livens it up and takes it so much further. This is a universally great stout that’ll hit right no matter what the weather is outside.