Courtesy of Goose Island Beer Co.
Benjamin Franklin famously said nothing is certain except death and taxes — but for beer fans, the annual Goose Island Bourbon County Stout announcement could be added to the list. Though the beers themselves are not quite as coveted as when they were legitimately hard to find, the lineups remain consistently solid — and speaking of consistent, the Chicago beer brand is ready every August to preview the beers in advance of their annual Black Friday release on Thanksgiving weekend.
In recent years, the rise in more experimental pastry stouts has pushed Bourbon County brews into slightly more exotic directions like whiskey and cola or London Fog tea, and this year's line up features a mix of classic styles and experimentation: two straight barrel-aged stouts, a coffee stout, two cookie-inspired stouts, a cocktail-inspired stout, and a barleywine. And though the date of the original Bourbon County Stout has been debated, Goose Island is celebrating 2022 as the brew's 30th anniversary.
Courtesy of Goose Island Beer Co.
So though the classic Goose Island Bourbon County Stout will always get top-billing, the 30th Anniversary Reserve Stout is probably the most discussion-worthy of the variants, blending stout aged in Jim Beam barrels, just like the first BCS. "This year we are looking back at 30 years of Bourbon County Stout, while also continuing to make our releases new and exciting for ourselves, and the fans of this amazing family of beers," Mike Siegel, Goose Island's senior innovation manager, stated. "This 30th Anniversary [beer] pays tribute to the connection to the Beam family, and the origins of BCS."
Courtesy of Goose Island Beer Co. Goose Island Bourbon County 30th Anniversary Reserve Stout
"It's incredible to think about how a chance encounter between [Jim Beam's] Booker Noe and [Goose Island's] Greg Hall, 30 years ago, was the catalyst for the first-ever bourbon barrel-aged beer," Jon Marks, senior director, global small batch, for James B. Beam, added. "It's clear to us that because both men were true visionaries, valuing new ideas and authenticity, something truly great was created."
The Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Stout also has a bit of history to it, billed as the first BCS "variant." And as Siegel points out, this year, it "once again was made with our longest partner in this amazing series of beers, Intelligentsia Coffee Roasters," also based in Chicago.
Moving into "pastry stout" territory, the Goose Island Bourbon County Biscotti Stout adds notes of anise, marzipan, cocoa, and buttered toffee to try and mimic classic Italian desserts, while the Goose Island Bourbon County Sir Isaac's Stout used 10,000 pounds of Black Mission figs to capture one staff member's childhood memories of stealing fig cookies out of her grandma's cookie jar.
But perhaps the wildest variant out there has the most deceivingly straightforward name. The Goose Island Bourbon County Proprietor's Stout is the brand's annual Chicago-only release, and this year's is a doozy: billed as a take on a take on a jungle bird cocktail that combines banana, coconut, lime, and pineapple.
Courtesy of Goose Island Beer Co. Goose Island Bourbon County Two-Year Barleywine Reserve
Last but not least is the only non-stout in this year's lineup: the Goose Island Bourbon County Two-Year Barleywine Reserve. "Our 2 Year Barleywine Reserve brings back an old favorite in an amazingly new way with barrels from a legendary bourbon 'Old Fitz,'" Siegel stated. Specifically, the barleywine was aged in 14-year, 16-year and 17-year-old barrels used for Old Fitzgerald's Bottled-In-Bond Decanter Series.
"Whether pushing the boundaries of Bourbon County Stout with bold new ingredients and flavor combinations, elevating the beer by coaxing nuanced characteristics from world-class whiskeys and barrels, or by reaching back into our archives and reviving old Bourbon County Stout favorites, we at Goose Island look forward to the time of year when we can share our hard work with you," said Daryl Hoedtke, Goose Island's senior brewmaster. "This year is no exception, with an exciting 2022 lineup!"