Thursday, April 5, 2012

Beer Review: Rare Bourbon County Stout

Reviewing the Rare Bourbon County Stout from Goose Island Brewing Company. This beer was a one-time, now retired and incredibly hard to find brew -- the 2008 batch of Bourbon County Brand Stout aged for two-years in 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels. These barrels, in turn, were used to age the King Henry barleywine.
Score: 100

Bottle Number 4784. Bottled on 11/19/10. Served in Duvel glasses and shared with my magnanimous buddy Bryan Hernandez on 03/31/12 at Merkles Bar & Grill in Wrigleyville. This was the last bottle of Bourbon County Rare in the bar, and it was not even on the bar menu. We gave a sample pour to our server, Jenni, and she seemed to love it.

Appearance: Pours a jet black color that is a total vacuum of light. Completely opaque. A thin mocha/espresso-colored head at pour quickly dissipates into a thin ring around the glass. This beer is absolutely imposing in appearance. Minimal lacing with surprisingly average retention. 5/5

Smell: Deep, rich and bold vanilla pleasantly dominates and invigorates the aroma. Smooth bourbon-soaked raisin, light oatmeal, molasses, dark chocolate, cocoa, milk chocolate and just a subtle hint of currant/black cherry. 5/5

Taste: Delicately crafted, robust and balanced. Savory vanilla and smooth, rich bourbon-soaked raisin hit right upfront. There is no booziness at all, but there is a light and pleasant warmth and liveliness on the midpalate. The back half of this beer is loaded with complex and luscious chocolate flavors -- creamy milk chocolate, dark chocolate, unsweetened raw chocolate and a little bit of bittersweet chocolate morsel. The unsweetened chocolate and bourbony raisin sweetness layer up on the palate real nicely. There's some oak and maple syrup flavor on the midpalate too. This beer is sweet, but ever so perfectly so for the style and far from being "overly sweet." A little caramel, tobacco, and butterscotch come out as the beer warms and layers. This beer is heavenly. 5/5

Mouthfeel: Full bodied, minimal carbonation. Creamy and syrupy mouthfeel. Sweet and slightly dry finish. Perfect imperial stout mouthfeel. 5/5

Overall: This is easily the best barrel aged beer I have ever had.

Recommendation: $60 is a steep price to pay for 22 ounces of beer (almost $2.75 an ounce, or about 20% the cost per ounce of ordering a Sam Adams Utopias pour at a bar), but it is well worth the price for the quality of beer you get. Bourbon County Rare is drinking perfectly right now, and Goose Island has no intention, as far as I am aware, of ever making this beer again. With only 940 cases of this beer produced, it is only getting harder and harder to find and try with every bottle consumed. Seek this one out now, before it's all gone or before the beer is past its prime.

Pairings: Do not pair this beer with anything. It is a rich and luscious dessert to be enjoyed in its own right and on its own merit. If you must, however, pair it with a food, try s'mores.

Cost: $60 for a 22 oz (bomber) bottle at the bar. This cost somewhere around $45-50 a bottle retail when it was first released, but you would be hard pressed to find a better deal than the $60 we paid at Merkles. I know two other bars in the city that still have a bottle of this, and they charge $75 and $100 for the bottle.

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