You might not realize it, but Goose Island has been releasing its Bourbon County Stout for ten years. The first ever offering was made for the 2009 Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beers, in Chicago. While that wasn’t available to the public, the first official Bourbon County Stout was released on Black Friday in 2010. This is the part where we normally say that the rest is history. But if Goose Island Brewmaster Greg Hall hadn’t met Jim Beam Master Distiller Booker Noe at an industry dinner ten years earlier, the beloved beer might never have been made.
At the beer, bourbon, and cigar dinner, Hall wanted to talk to Noe about what to do with the 1,000th batch of beer for the Goose Island Clyburn Brewpub. The legendary Master Distiller decided to give Hall four former bourbon barrels to use. This is exactly the moment when the idea for bourbon-barrel-aged beer was born. Without this random meeting between the two, we’d have no Founders KBS, Deschutes The Abyss, or even Firestone Walker Parabola. Also, we’d definitely have no Bourbon County Stout.
To celebrate the tenth anniversary of this iconic brew, Goose Island is releasing seven variants this year. This includes Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Goose Island Bourbon County Kentucky Fog Stout, Goose Island Bourbon County Special #4 Stout, Goose Island Bourbon County Caramella Ale, Goose Island Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout, Goose Island Birthday Bourbon County Stout, and Goose Island Anniversary Bourbon County Stout.
There’s no barley wine this year, but Bourbon County Kentucky Fog is the first-ever tea-based offering with the addition of Earl Grey and Black Tea as well as clover honey to create a very unique flavor experience. Also, what started as a beer aged in former Jim Beam barrels has branched out into many of the most well-respected brands on the market. To celebrate a decade of barrel-aging, variants in 2020 have been aged in Buffalo Trace, Old Forester, and Heaven Hill casks. This includes aging in the beloved Old Forester Birthday Bourbon to create Birthday Bourbon County Stout, as well as Weller 12 Year for the eagerly awaited Anniversary Bourbon County Stout.
While we love learning about the new Bourbon County variants every summer, it’s kind of a bummer to have to wait until November to try them. Just like every year, we can’t get our hands on any bottles until Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). Luckily, we have plenty of barrel-aged beer recommendations to tide you over in the meantime.