Goose Island Beer Co. (AB-InBev)
Location: Chicago, IL
Bourbon County Barleywine is aged in barrels that once housed Kentucky bourbon and Goose Island's renown Bourbon County Brand Stout. This means that the Bourbon County Barleywine should, in theory, pick up an added complexity that would come from a beer that's aged in third-use barrels. In terms of barrel-aging beer, Goose Island knows how to push the lever and continue its innovative search to create ultra-complex barrel-aged brews.
Is your mouth watering yet?
Appearance: The beer pours a murky brown with a minimal head. I am not crazy about the color of the beer, but I do like the label. It's a classy and simple design that hints at sophistication.
Aroma: Lots of sweet malt, toffee, brown sugar, and a touch of bourbon. The aroma is much sweeter than I expected and doesn't have as much alcohol as you'd think, given the ABV.
Taste: The flavors are intensely delicious! Lots of caramel, toffee, malt, and vanilla. The bourbon is subtle, but adds a nice oaked/charred flavor to the back of the palate. I would also add chocolate to the flavor profile. There's a nice heat that follows each sip. At first, I didn't really pick up on it, but after the beer warms a little, the booze picks up.
Mouthfeel: This is a full-bodied, thick, syrupy elixir. The limited carbonation creates a silky-smooth coating over the tongue. You might even be tempted to chew a little (I kid...sort of).
Overall: This is definitely sweet; it might even be too sweet, but I am afraid to complain too much. This is an incredible beer. There's no doubt about that. I love the deep malt and dark fruit flavors. However, I was really expecting (hoping) to get some of the complex bourbon notes from the third-use barrels, but the alcohol is hidden quite well.
There's no denying that Bourbon County Barleywine is a highly sought-after, and highly respected, beer. It has received a rating of 100 on BeerAdvocate for a reason. It's rare and delicious. There's not much to dislike about this beer. The price-point is a bit steep ($20/4pk), but I think it's well worth the cost.