Thursday, September 12, 2013

Goose Island's Evolution of a Stout

You don't just start out with a great barrel aged stout. Truly great stouts have layers, like onions...and Shrek. They're recipes that are built on one component at a time. Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Stout (BCBS) series is a shinning example of this.

The Barons just sat down at the Goose Island Migration party hosted by Twenty Tap. Goose Island brought four different stouts to the event, but after talking with their people we realized the stouts really weren't very different at all.

Goose Island brought Night Stalker, Big John, Coffee BCBS, and Cherry Rye BCBS.

To make these big impressively tasty stouts, the brewery has to start with a solid base. For Goose Island, Night Stalker is the base for these beers. Big John is just Night Stalker with cocoa nibs added to the recipe. Then we take Big John and Barrel age it to get normal Bourbon County Brand Stout. In 2012 they aged their BCBS with coffee as well creating the Coffee BCBS. They went one step further and aged the Rye Cherry BCBS in rye whiskey barrels on top of fresh Michigan cherries. You may notice that all these beers have different ABV, but that's because most barrel aged brews actually start to gain  more alcohol as the water content of the beer evaporates from the barrel. In the whiskey world they call the lose the "angels' share".

There is one more even bigger and badder stout and that's the Rare BCBS. This was a bad motha' in all the right ways. Its the same brew but it has an additional 2 years aging in Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels. If you've never had the pleasure of drinking Pappy Van Winkle, you are missing out. Its outstanding bourbon. Unfortunately we only got a couple ounces. It was an amazing beer, but I really didn't have enough to give it a huge review. If you ever see it... buy it and send it to me. Seriously.

Because these beers all start from the same place, it is next to impossible to tell them apart by sight (top right is the Coffee BCBS and the bottom left is the Rye Cherry BCBS). There was a bit of confusion around the table as we were all passing the beers around, but each one had its own unique aroma. Just by smell you could tell which one had coffee, which had cocoa and which had the cherries.

Of all of these wonderfully big boozy stouts my favorite was the Rye Cherry version. The Rye Cherry Bourbon County Brand Stout is a huge dark stout with great spicy rye whiskey character and some awesome bitter cherries. It comes in at 13.7% abv. It smelled like whiskey, chocolate and booze but most of all you smelt cherries. When it came to the table the head had dissipated a bit but it was oily black with just a slight ring of tan head running around the glass. My first sip was big rich almost decadent chocolate flavors mixed with very tart cherries and then melded together with the nice spicy oak flavor of a rye whiskey. Rye whiskey was a great choice because I feel like the the spiciness and the oak really helped to temper some of the overall sweetness of the beer. The cherries were probably my favorite addition because they were so tart and dark that they mixed perfectly with the dark fruit flavors from the original stout and gave the beer a bit of acidity to brighten it all up. Really I could have drank this all night. I would have been hammered drunk and probably had a belly ache for days but it would have been worth it. This beer was incredibly good and the only beer I had twice. Now I need to get a bomber to sit on and cellar, if you have one to spare let me know!

I give Rye Cherry BCBS a 5 (wish I could give it a six)

I give Nightstalker a 3.5

(Too sweet to be a 5 for El Duque)

I give Big John a solid 4

 I give Coffee BCBS a 5

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