Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Beer Review: Bourbon County Brand Stout (2011, fresh)

Reviewing a fresh 2011 vintage bottle of the infamous Bourbon County Brand Stout from Goose Island Brewing Company.
Score: 96

2011 vintage bottle poured in a 22 oz snifter glass served at room temperature.

Appearance: Pours a jet black color with a quarter finger of bubbly mocha head that quickly subsides into an extremely thin ring around the edge of the glass. This baby is completely opaque; absolutely no light gets through it. I even put a bright LED flashlight behind the glass and no light is peeking through. Leaves small, brief streaks of oily lacing along the side of the glass. Swirling brings back some of the sexy mocha-chocolate colored head. 4/5

Smell: Huge aromas of maple syrup, caramel and vanilla extract. Tons of raisins, figs and brown sugar. Lots of dark fruit and notes of cherry. Some booziness. Rich, roasted dark chocolate and sweet bourbon. Some faint roasted coffee. The aroma is very complex and robust. 4.5/5

Taste: The flavor is just as complex and robust as the aroma. Despite all the bold individual flavors, however, the brew is still very balanced overall. Heavy notes of bourbon and maple hit first. Then rich chocolate, figs and plums. A little cherry and caramel-malt sweetness on the mid-palate. The beer finishes with sweet molasses and vanilla, and the flavors really linger. As the beer layers, increasing amounts of caramel, raisins, and sweet, luscious dark chocolate gradually build on the mid-palate. There is also some counter-balancing roasted coffee bean bitterness too. There is definitely some warming alcohol presence in the beer, but it is not a fiery type of alcohol character. Just the beer gently hugging your insides on the way down. As the beer layers, more roasted coffee bitterness, brown sugar, cherries and raisins come out in the finish. And boy does the finish linger. This is liquid decadence. 4.5/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, oily, viscous and chewy with minimal carbonation. The finish is sweet and sticky with a friendly warming sensation on the way down. 5/5

Overall: This is beer lives up to it's hype, although it's one the sweeter side of stouts. If you can find a bottle at retail prices, it's an absolute bargain. Although this beer used to be hot fresh, the 2011 vintage is drinking smooth out of the gate. This is one of the best beers to age.

Recommendation: This is an absolute must try beer. I remember disliking it when I first got in to craft beer about four years ago, so perhaps this is not one for the casual drinker, but I am presently finding this brew to be smooth enough, even fresh, that I think I can probably recommend it all around -- especially to fans of high-shelf brown liquors. Beer geeks absolutely need to seek this one out. The aromas and flavors of the Bourbon Country Brand Stout are extremely complex and robust, and the flavors really linger. This is an extreme example of how tons of different flavors in a single beer can be balanced and stick out at the same time. Cheers!

Pairings: This one is a full dessert in its own right, but if you must pair it with something, try a warm chocolate cake or a Beef Wellington.

Cost: $5.99 for a single 12 oz bottle or $21.99 for a four pack (if you are luck enough to find a store that will sell you four at the four pack price). Alternatively, if you are like me, you might have even paid $45+ for three of them because Chicago was otherwise sold out and you really, REALLY wanted to get your hands on some. Certainly worth buying at least one -- even if you have to pay the profiteering rate.

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