The barrel-aged beers are back with some intriguing new additions.
Last month, I talked about how Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company – despite already being famous for its barrel-aged series known as the Bourbon County Brand – had decided to take its barrel-aging program to the next level in 2017. We’ve already seen the Anheuser-Busch-owned brewer add two new lines of barrel-aged beers this year called “The Cooper Project” and the “Brasserie” series. Now, not to be outdone, the barrel-aged beers that helped put Goose Island on the map will also be completely turned loose: The brewery plans to offer seven different version of the acclaimed brews this fall – the most ever released in a single year.
The past few years have been a bit of a rollercoaster for the Bourbon County Brand line. In 2015, Goose Island sent out six varieties of Bourbon County beers, only to find that four of those varieties were potentially infected with bacteria that could lead to off flavors. The backlash led the brewer to spend 2016 focusing on quality control, and only four varieties were released. But this year, Goose Island brewmaster Jared Jankoski told the Chicago Tribune he felt like he was back in his groove. “I wanted, for lack of a better term, people’s consumer confidence to be extremely high,” he said. “Every decision I made was guided by the idea that [a letdown] would never happen again. I think we made the right changes for that to be the case.”
So what can you expect to find when this year’s Bourbon County Brand brews are released the day after Thanksgiving? Of course, you have the standards, Bourbon County Brand Stout and Bourbon County Brand Barleywine. Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout is back as usual, still made with Intelligentsia coffee and still one of my favorite stouts out there. Two “reserve” beers will also be offered: Bourbon Country Reserve Brand Stout and Bourbon County Reserve Brand Barrelywine, the latter of which will only be available in Chicago and Kentucky. Also only available in Chicago will be the Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout which for 2017 will be flavored with bananas, almonds and cassia bark. Lastly, this year’s completely new addition will be Bourbon County Brand Northwoods Stout, which will be made with blueberry juice and almond extract to create “aromas of rich dark chocolate, fresh blueberry and nutty marzipan.”
“Are we confident they’re going to be good? Yes,” Jankoski told the Tribune, returning to the theme of confidence. “Have we learned [since 2015] and applied what we learned? Yes. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t proud of the work we’ve done.” If you go strictly by the numbers, this year, Goose Island is working harder than ever.