Goose Island Will Pasteurize Its Renowned Bourbon County Stout for the First Time Ever

By Mike Pomranz |

© Goose Island

Since its introduction in 1992, Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout has gone through a lot. When it first hit the market, the quickly acclaimed stout introduced the idea of aging a beer in a bourbon barrel much of the world. When Anheuser-Busch InBev bought out Goose Island in 2011, Bourbon County proved it could maintain its reputation and demand despite losing the allure of its independent pedigree. But last year, the brew faced possibly its biggest challenge to date: infection. Four out of the six varieties of Bourbon County Stout shipped in 2015 were vulnerable to off flavors caused by unwanted bacteria infiltrating the beer. Though this sort of infection isn’t harmful physically, it does impact the taste – which for a beer routinely ranked as one of the best in the world is a big deal.

To prevent this anomaly from occurring in the future, the Chicago-based brewery is taking an unprecedented step: Goose Island will begin pasteurizing all of Bourbon County’s varieties this year, the first time the brewery has pasteurized a beer in its 28-year history. The change is just one of a number of quality control issues announced for the 2016 edition of the line of beers set to be released the day after Thanksgiving.


According to the Chicago Tribune, Goose Island will utilize a process known as “flash pasteurization” – the quick heating and then cooling of the beer – a technique used by other big names like New Belgium, Anchor and New Glarus on at least some of their beers. Proponents of the technique say this method has no adverse effects on the flavor. But it’s also worth noting Bourbon County Stout is the only beer Goose Island plans to pasteurize for now.

As for other measures, brewer Jared Jankoski says the brewery is implementing “more sensitive and specialized media (and) advanced detection and more sampling points” to avoid any future issues, as well as setting “very strict limits on where our barrels come from and how long we will allow from the time of whiskey extraction to when they arrive here for filling,” essentially explaining that infection can come from barrels that have had too much time to be exposed to unwanted elements.

But what does this all mean for consumers? If pasteurization is used by other breweries and shouldn’t affect Bourbon County Stout’s flavor, what’s the big deal? Well, nothing really – unless of course you’re firmly in the “pasteurization ruins the flavors of beer” camp, in which case it’ll be up to you to decide if you think the change has ruined Bourbon County Stout forever. Another possible concern: Lots of people like to age Bourbon County Stout. Killing off any remaining microbes will change this dynamic as well. But then again, getting that under control is the whole point of this new project.


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