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A labeling “Easter egg” subtly shows which distilleries’ barrels some Original Bourbon County Stouts were aged in.

By Mike Pomranz
December 08, 2020
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Goose Island Beer Company essentially created the now-ubiquitous style of barrel-aged stouts with their first Bourbon County Stout. Over two decades later, one of the reasons these Bourbon County Brand beers remain popular—beyond Goose Island’s commitment to quality control—is the brewery’s continued attempts at innovation. For instance, this year, Goose Island announced the release of seven different Bourbon County variants, many of which are new concepts like a spin on a London Fog tea drink or another made with coffee and maple syrup.

However, as attention has turned to these far out ideas, for 2020, Goose Island tested another innovation—what they’re calling an “Easter egg”—to once again drive interest back to the original barrel-aged stout. A limited number of “regular” Bourbon County Stouts were bottled with beer pulled from barrels provided by a specific distillery, and these single-origin beers can only be recognized via a small two-letter code subtly included on the label.

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout
Credit: Goose Island Beer Co. / Tribune News Service / Getty Images

If the date code of your BCS ends with either “BT,” “HH,” or “WT,” your beer wasn’t produced through the normal blending of multiple brands’ barrels, but instead was aged in barrels from one distinct distillery: either Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, or Wild Turkey. Bottles without any of those two letter codes are simply the regular blend.

“We always like to keep our fans on their toes and this year we wanted to celebrate the great distillery partnerships we’ve formed over the years. BCS Original has historically been a blend of barrels from distillery partners including Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey. Alongside the traditional BCS Original blend this year, we also released a few limited-edition bottles in Chicago aged in these distilleries’ individual barrels,” brewmaster Keith Gabbett said in an emailed statement. “We can't wait for you to taste the different flavor nuances.”

Bourbon County Stouts aged in specific barrels is nothing new—the 2020 lineup alone includes variants aged in Larceny Wheated Bourbon barrels, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon barrels, and Weller 12 Year barrels—but these coded bottles mark the first time that Goose Island has given a subtle nod to the specific origins of otherwise normal bottles of Bourbon County Stout.

However, as Gabbett explained, for now, these beers can only be found in Chicago. If this Easter egg proves popular there, maybe next year they’ll bring the fun to the masses.