For many shoppers, Black Friday is about the cheap TVs and grabbing the hot holiday toy. For beer lovers, it’s release day for Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout—an ‘event’ moment in the beer world that’s so anticipated it erases the often-antagonistic lines between the craft and macro brewing worlds.
This year, people who line up early at bottle shops will have eight variants to choose from, the largest number of options the AB InBev-owned brewer has ever offered.) They’ll go on sale Nov. 23. Many variants will sell out that day.
The story of BCBS goes back to 1992, when Founder Tom Hall and brewmaster Greg Hall decided they wanted to do something special for batch 1,000 at the company’s brewpub.
Earlier that year, Greg had attended a beer/spirits dinner and found himself next to Jim Beam’s Booker Noe—the man who had revitalized the bourbon business. Greg mentioned an idea he had about aging beer in a bourbon barrel. Before the dinner was complete, a handshake deal had been reached.
Twenty-six years later, here’s what you’ll be able to pick up when they go on sale in November:
Original Bourbon County Brand Stout
The original—aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels that are four or more years old. Loaded with tastes of chocolate, leather, vanilla and tobacco.
Reserve Bourbon County Brand Stout
This year’s “reserve” offering is aged in 12-year-old “Elijah Craig Barrel Proof” bourbon barrels. That spirit was named “Whisky of the Year” in 2018 by Whisky Advocate.
Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout
Chocolate is the overlying theme in this year’s proprietor’s blend. Before it was aged in the traditional Heaven Hill barrels, brewers added a combination of dark chocolate and two types of cocoa nibs, which they say makes the beer silky and decadent. As usual, this variant will only be sold in Chicago.
Bourbon County Brand Wheatwine
A first for the Bourbon County line, this is a wheatwine ale (think barleywine, but with a focus on wheat) that ages in bourbon barrels. It’s the first non-stout Bourbon County beer the company has offered since 2013. Brewers say the taste profile is full of caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, and toffee flavors.
Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout
Not seen since 2010, this fan favorite uses vanilla beans from Madagascar to give it a creamy mouthfeel that enhances the natural chocolate flavors in the stout. “This year’s BCBS Vanilla delivers on all the quintessential things fans love about this variant: aromatic vanilla, marshmallow, toffee, oak and floral note,” said the brewers.
Bourbon County Brand Bramble Rye Stout
Another returning variant, this version of the stout is aged in rye whisky barrels, then raspberry and blackberry juice is added, resulting in a jammy concoction that blends the natural caramel and chocolate of the beer with noticable fruit notes and spice from the rye barrels.
Bourbon County Brand Coffee Barleywine
This new style is a blending of two old favorites—the coffee stout and the barleywine. The barleywine is mixed with coffee from Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea, resulting in a malt-forward beverage with a strong coffee taste and aroma.
Bourbon County Brand Midnight Orange Stout
This final new variant blends orange zest and chocolate for a unique flavor profile. “While the chocolate complements the Bourbon County base, the orange zest offers a point of contrast for a bold new flavor profile to delight Bourbon County fans and newcomers alike,” said the brewers.