2/15/21: Tales from the Cellar Snow Day Edition--Goose Island Beer Company's Bourbon County Brand Stout (2019)

9:25 AM

Man, this February's been a productive month for the blog! I'm super happy (and shocked) to be here writing about this beer today, because it's a snow day for me. My employer almost never closes its offices due to inclimate weather. Yet, here we are. 

While the roads aren't super bad currently, the end of this storm should see Cincinnati with somewhere between six to nine inches of accumulation. Then, on Thursday, we'll have another dumping of the stuff. Since this is a special occasion, I'm resurrecting my Tales from the Cellar series. The beer I'll be breaking into today is Goose Island's 2019 Bourbon County Brand Stout (BCBS henceforth).

Goose Island was bought by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2011. Phew. Got that out of the way quickly enough. The brewery, founded in 1988 Chicago, IL by John Hall, gained quick renown. It expanded in 1995 and again in 1999, with the opening of a bottling plant and another brewpub, respectively. I can understand why people may not drink Goose Island (while I don't necessarily agree with that decision). BCBS, which debuted in 2004, seems to reach across the aisle and bring those who turn their up noses at brewery back into the fold. Let's see if we can't pinpoint why that is.

2019 BCBS isn't featured on Goose Island's website anymore, not even in the Archive. That's fine, though, because we have Untappd. The stout's a 14.7% behemoth which saw time in Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey, and Heaven Hill barrels. It boasts notes of fudge, caramel, vanilla, tobacco, leather, and more. See why I wanted to save this for a special occasion?

The stout's nose is leather, fudge, tobacco, treacle, oak, vanilla, and bourbon warmth. A deeper dive into the bouquet also imparts a brininess, coffee, and fig. There's definitely sweetness here, but BCBS 2019 aromatics combine to be something earthy and dark. Purrl gave my bottle seventeen whiffs, so she likes it. Me? Of course I like it.

My first sip of the stout (because this one's a sipper) is leather, tobacco, fudge, dark chocolate, and coffee on the fore. The finish is vanilla and oak, followed by a big, slow bourbon burn. Finally, there's that ABV. My second sip provides more of the same, but with a bigger emphasis on the fudge and coffee. My third mirrors my second. As this warms and breathes in my glass (yes, glass, as you can see from the picture at the beginning of this post), I'll double back and add any additional flavors the emerge. UPDATE: Now the vanilla's the most prevalent flavor. This is something like a half-hour after pouring the beer into my glass.

Let's talk about bit about how this looks in my glass since, you know, I've poured it into one. It's used motor oil black, with an intricately-laced, rapidly-dissipating tan head.

BCBS has a rich mouthfeel. It's thick, nearly chewy. It fits the stout perfectly.

During my first graduate program, at Ohio University (in Athens, OH), I'd spend classless snowy days reading J.R.R. Tolkien's Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth. This compilation of the Professor's unfinished works holds some of the best stories he ever began. From Tuor's coming to Gondolin and Túrin Turambar's fate to the tale of Aldarion the mariner and "The Quest of Erebor", snowy days remind me of Tolkien's best work.

It can't be a coincidence, then, that I'm listening to Grey Host's The Barrow Path on this snow day, drinking this beer. Anything metal has never really been my jam in music. But, when I first heard "Hunter's Ascent" from this album, I knew I'd need to grab it. Something about the work's Tolkienism clicked with me immediately. You should listen to it on a snowy day while drinking one of those old BCBSes you have stashed away (I know you have some). Come back and thank me after.

Bourbon County Brand Stout, and it's variants, is Goose Island's killer app. On days like this, it's easy to see why. The flavor. The ambiance each bottle imparts. Yeah, this is a 9.5/10 from me. Let's see, later this year (hopefully), if one of those variants is able to improve upon this exceptional stout. Oh, and don't worry about my drinking of this bottle today. I still have one that'll kick around my cellar for some time yet to come.

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