For 2020, we'll see spins on spumoni and London Fog tea.

By Mike Pomranz
August 11, 2020
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Lineup of Bourbon County Stout Bottles
Credit: Goose Island Beer Co.

As we all settle into the “new normal,” sometimes it feels especially invigorating to receive news of the old normal… even if it’s just an annual beer release. This year, Goose Island Beer Company will once again be releasing Bourbon County Stouts on Black Friday. And in fact, the Chicago-based brand says 2020 marks the tenth anniversary of Goose Island specifically releasing the legendary barrel-aged stout on the day after Thanksgiving. (For the record, the beer has been around since the ‘90s, but previously didn’t have a dedicated release date.) Another tradition is also alive and well: The 2020 Bourbon County beers will arrive in a number of different variants—seven to be exact—and the entire lineup has been announced today.

After a couple of years at eight varieties, the selection has actually been dialed down one beer this year, but 2020 certainly offers an interesting—if stout heavy—mix. Of course, the original Bourbon County Stout will return, but from there, the flavor profiles turn more experimental.

Bourbon County Kentucky Fog Stout
Credit: Goose Island Beer Co.

Bourbon County Kentucky Fog Stout is billed as the “first-ever tea-inspired variant,” a spin on the London Fog tea drink brewed with Earl Grey Tea, Black Tea, and clover honey. Bourbon County Special #4 Stout is an oatmeal stout made with Intelligentsia Coffee and maple syrup. Bourbon County Caramella Ale is wheatwine (this year’s only non-stout variant) aged in Larceny Wheated Bourbon barrels with apple, cinnamon, and natural caramel flavor meant to mimic a caramel apple. And the Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout comes courtesy of Italian-American brewer Emily Kosmal who blended in pistachios, cacao nibs, candied Amarena cherries, and vanilla as a tribute to the classic Italian frozen treat spumoni.

Bourbon County Birthday Stout
Credit: Goose Island Beer Co.

The final two variants—Birthday Bourbon County Stout and Anniversary Bourbon County Stout—both put the focus back on the bourbon, featuring special contributions from this year’s spirits partners. Birthday BCS was aged in barrels originally used to produce Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. And Anniversary BCS—named not after a bourbon, but to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Goose Island’s Black Friday release day—is aged for two years instead of the usual one in Weller 12 Year barrels.

“This year’s Bourbon County Stout lineup includes some of the most exciting flavor combinations yet, brought forth by Goose employees and backed by personal inspiration,” explained Goose Island Brewmaster Keith Gabbett. “With each sip of BCS we want fans to be taken on a journey through flavor profiles and nuances that are thought provoking and truly unique.”

Mike Siegel, Goose Island’s R&D manager, also gave a nod to the barrels behind the beers. “Goose Island has been fortunate to partner with the best bourbon makers for Bourbon County Stout, and this year is no different with partners like Old Forester, Weller, and Larceny. These distilleries have crafted some of the world’s most sought after bourbon,” he said. “As a bourbon lover, I’m excited to work with these great barrels and bring them together with Bourbon County Stout.”

As has been the case for ten years, all the variants will be officially available on Black Friday, which lands on November 27 this year. The release is usually celebrated with a large event that brings out hundreds if not thousands of beer fans. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, whether that’s happening this year is still up in the air.

“Our flagship Black Friday BCS release is special to Goose Island and we’re hopeful that we can celebrate our great city of Chicago alongside our fans again this year,” Goose Island President Todd Ahsmann stated. “We’re continuing to monitor the current situation to ensure the safety of our fans and employees is at the center of our plans. Plans are in progress but details are subject to change and we appreciate your patience and understanding as we continue to navigate this situation.”