Saturday, March 24, 2012

Bourbon County Stout Vertical

Last night, courtesy of some of Madison, Wisconsin's best BA's (including our gracious host Ben), we opened up one of the most epic verticals one could possibly participate in: every Goose Island Bourbon County Stout variant since 2007, including the alleged Pappy Van Winkle aged 2007 Bourbon County Stout (10/12/11 bottling). The full line up of Bourbon County Stout beers opened included:
  • 1x Bourbon County Stout 2006 (unknown barrel)
  • Bourbon County Stout 2007 (10/23/07 bottling)
  • 2x Bourbon County Stout 2007 (12-16 year Heaven Hill barrels)
  • 2x Bourbon County Stout 2008 (12-16 year Heaven Hill barrels)
  • 2x Bourbon County Stout 2009 (12-16 year Heaven Hill barrels)
  • 2x Bourbon County Stout 2010 (12-16 year Heaven Hill barrels)
  • 2x Bourbon County Stout 2011 (12-16 year Heaven Hill barrels)
  • 1x Bourbon County Rare (allegedly aged in 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels)
  • 1x Vanilla Bourbon County Stout
  • 1x Bramble Rye Bourbon County Stout
  • 1x Bourbon County Stout 2010 (Intelligentsia Black Cat espresso)
  • 1x Bourbon County Coffee Stout 2011 (Intelligentsia Anjilanaka coffee)
Each person essentially got two-thirds of a taster's cup of beer from each variant to try. The infamous Bourbon County Rare was served in glass tasters cups, so as to receive as much respect as possible despite the small format tasting.

Side by side, here is the order, from most to least, of how much I enjoyed each variant:
  1. Bourbon County Rare
  2. Bourbon County Vanilla
  3. Bourbon County Stout 2007 (10/12/07)
  4. Bourbon County Stout 2008
  5. Bourbon County Stout 2007 (Heaven Hills)
  6. Bourbon County Coffee 2011
  7. Bourbon County Coffee 2010
  8. Bourbon County Stout 2011
  9. Bourbon County Stout 2010
  10. Bourbon County Stout 2009
  11. Bramble Rye Bourbon County Stout
  12. Bourbon County Stout 2006
In case you are curious how the different variant smelled and tasted (they all had an identical appearance with practically identical mouthfeels), I took notes.

  • Coffee 2011 versus Coffee 2010: The 2010 coffee had no real coffee aroma by comparison to the 2011. The coffee aroma in the 2010 was very subtle and mellow, almost hidden in the background of what otherwise smelled like the traditional bourbon county aroma. The 2011 coffee, on the other hand, had a robust and smooth roasted coffee and fresh raw coffee bean aroma.
  • Bourbon County Stout 2011-2009: Smell very similar, though the 2009, strangely enough, seemed to have a "hotter" aroma than the 2010 or 2011. Maple, caramel, vanilla, dark fruit and rich bourbon.
  • Bourbon County Stout 2008/2007 (Heaven Hills): Similar to the 2009-2011 aroma, but with absolutely no booziness whatsoever. Smells like vanilla and chocolate covered Raisinettes.
  • Bourbon County Stout 2006: A bit oxidized, light cardboard.
  • Bourbon County Stout 2007 (10/12/11): No booziness. Similar to, but "richer" and "molassesier" in aroma than the other 2007 bottles.
  • Bourbon County Rare: Rich and complex chocolate, bourbon without the bite, loads of raisins and molasses.
  • Vanilla Bourbon County: Sweeter (in a good way) bourbon and raisin aroma than the other variants.
  • Coffee 2011 versus Coffee 2010: The 2011 has a substantially more pronounced coffee flavor than I remember in my original review. The 2011 coffee has a flavorful roasted coffee backbone. The 2010 coffee, on the other hand, tastes like the Bourbon County 2010 with a coffee twist in the finish -- much more akin to the bottle I remember drinking about a month ago. Strangely enough, I went back to my original review of Bourbon County Coffee 2011 and looked at the picture. It was indeed the 2011 version I drank. Both versions still taste fantastic, though the 2011 coffee was much tastier to me than the 2010 version. People at our table who did not like coffee felt the opposite and preferred the 2010 coffee version. The coffee in both beers was a great example of flavor synergy.
  • Bourbon County Stout 2011-2009: The 2011 tastes the same as when I first reviewed it, though the "booziness" may have mellowed out a little. Strangely, the 2010 seemed marginally more boozy than the 2011. The 2011 vintage has a higher alcohol content than any of the previous "regular versions" of Bourbon County Stout and it is (obviously) the freshest batch, so that seemed a bit strange. Even stranger, however, might be the fact that the 2009 vintage was the hottest of all the Bourbon County Stout variants/vintages that I tried (well, except for maybe Bramble).
  • Bourbon County Stout 2008/2007 (Heaven Hills): The booze completely disappears in the 2007 and 2008 versions. The 2008 seemed a little more complex in chocolate flavor, while the 2007 version's chocolate flavors were largely just dark chocolate and cocoa. There's a touch of warmth on the palate with the 2007 vintage.
  • Bourbon County Stout 2007: No booziness. Similar to, but again seemingly "richer" and "molassesier" than, the other 2007 bottles
  • Bourbon County Stout 2006: Oxidized! Cardboard and Bourbon County Stout flavor, pretty "warm" (but not boozy per se) on the palate.
  • Bourbon County Rare: Silky smooth, rich and robust in flavor. Perfectly and delicately crafted. Much more bourbon flavor than any of the other vintages/variants with no alcoholic bite or booziness on the palate whatsoever. Raisin, fig, and milk chocolate as well.
  • Vanilla Bourbon County: Much more prominent sweet vanilla flavor mixed with dark chocolate. A little "warmer" (but not boozy) on the palate than the 2011 or 2010 Bourbon C0unty Stout (but less than the 2009), but not necessarily in a bad way. The bourbon flavors have a lot of synergy with the added vanilla.
Of course, the Bourbon County Stout vertical was just the main event. There was plenty of other great beers to go around as well -- including King Henry, Juliet (2009 and 2010), Lolita (2011), Big John, the long out of production Goose Island Imperial IPA (the beer that got me into craft beer), Smoke From The Oak, a 1.5 liter bottle of Liefman's Goudenband from 1999, Batch 4 Temptation, Zombie Dust and more. We had an Abacus chilling in the fridge to share as well, but forget about it over the course of the night. Thankfully, it was high enough in alcohol that it did not freeze or explode.

All in all, last night was a great evening of great beer shared with great people. I have a two bottle deep Bourbon County Stout vertical of my own that extends back to 2008 (though it is currently missing the 2010 Coffee) that I will have to open really soon. Thanks again Ben for hosting such a fantastic event.


1 comment:

  1. You didn't keep any of the empty bottles did you?