11/24/21: Goose Island Beer Co.'s Bourbon County Brand Special #4 Stout

6:08 PM

We've come now, to the ending of the current blog season. This is the final beer of 2021's Maple Month. I purchased this bottle on November 27th, 2020. I've had it in my cellar for nearly a year.

This beer, this Maple Month's swansong, is, of course Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand #4 Special Stout (I'll refer to it as #4 from here on out). I picked this up nearly a year ago knowing that I'd crack into it for this evening's post. Let's see if cellaring it for a year's paid off.

Chicago, IL's Goose Island exists for a wide variety of reasons: To make beers that showcase everything a beer can be; to enrich their Chicago community and support organizations that uplift the city; and to help to grow the concept of craft beer and bring new fans into its fold.

The brewery was acquired by AB InBev a decade ago. Many folks bemoaned this, but those folks still hunt down Bourbon County Brand Stouts each and every Black Friday. Goose Island's no longer an independent brewery but damn if BCBS isn't a killer app.

#4 was part of last year's BCBS release, largely meaning that it's no longer featured on Goose Island's website. So, like always when the beer's nowhere to be found on the brewery's website, we're hitting up Untappd for the info needed to know about the stout. This 13.3% behemoth is an oatmeal stout take on the standard BCBS, giving it some nuttiness. After spending time in its bourbon barrels, Goose Island added cold coffee and coffee beans, both of which imparted some fruit notes to the stout. Lastly, the brewery tossed in some bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup, which serves primarily to add complexity to the beers flavors and aromas.

Before going any further here, I should note that, yes, I am drinking #4 out of a Goose Island chalice. No, this isn't a wax- or foil-capped beer. Yes, this is my blog. I absolutely do whatever I want. I make the rules so I can break them if I feel the need to, okay?

I get plenty of dark fruit on the bouquet--both from the coffee and from the stout itself. Plum, fig, raisin; a lot of fruity goodness. There's also, of course, some coffee/dark chocolate bitterness. There's a roastiness from the coffee and the oat, as well as some slight nuttiness from the latter. There's fudge and a hint of molasses, as well as all those good BBA notes (vanilla, oak, hearty booze). I'm finding a touch of maple sweetness mingling with brown sugar esters from my waft, but, really, there isn't much of the maple present in the stout's nose.

Purrl's back on her Maple Month boycott. She gave my bottle two whiffs (luckily I was quick enough to snap a usable picture). Were I her, perched upon my cat tree, I would've doled out twenty or more--there's just so much in this bouquet to take in and mull over. It's a whole experience.

A sip of the stout (because this is quite obviously a sipper) gives me milk chocolate (probably from the mixture of roasted oat and bourbon barrel vanilla), coffee, maple (sitting proudly and strongly here), and all those dark fruit notes I mentioned above. This fades into dark chocolate bitterness that dwells long in the finish with a boozy warmth--this latter finish note continues to grow within my core as I take a second sip, which leaves a maple sweetness on my lips and dark coffee coating my cheeks. Much like #4's nose, its flavor profile is absolutely an experience unto itself.

#4's mouthfeel is luxurious. It's heavy, it's smooth, it's robust as hell. It's exactly what I expect a stout like this to be.

Since I'm drinking this from a glass, I'll say that #4 poured used-motor oil black, with a finely-laced tan head that quickly dissipated into a murky swirl atop the stout's surface.

Earlier this year, Michelle and I did what we sometimes do and holed up in a cabin in Ohio's Hocking Hills region. While we were there, we experienced a massive snowfall (for southern-Ohio standards, at least) and woke up one morning to an accumulation of 6 or 7 inches of snow that fell overnight. We had a hot tub, the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings, and plenty of stouts to keep us (okay, me--she had cocktails) company.

The morning of that mythical snowfall, we slept late, hot tubbed it up, ate breakfast, hiked the mountain behind the cabin (a feat given the sheer amount of snow on the ground), hot tubbed it up again, watched The Two Towers, ate again, and slept. All the while, I had a stout or three to keep me warm (not that the cabin wasn't itself heated--it definitely was). Sitting on my couch, slowly nursing the chalice I poured myself of #4, this fun and wildly memorable excursion from our daily lives is in the forefront of my mind.

Look, it's not like I'd planned to finish out 2021's Maple Month with three 10/10 beers in a row, but I do what I have to do. Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Special #4 Stout is a definite 10/10 beer. It gets my highest recommendation. You won't find on store shelves anymore but if you happen to have a buddy with a bottle of it in their cellar, maybe you can sweet talk them into letting you help split it. Worth a try, right?

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