11/20/23: Tales from the Cellar--Goose Island Beer Co.'s Bourbon County Brand #4 Stout (Revisited)

5:48 PM

I'm making the second post of 2023's Maple Month a fun one. I try to nab an extra bottle/can of the beers I discuss in November whenever I'm able, in the hope that I'm able to revisit them some Maple Month down the road. I have a small shelf in my beer cabinet dedicated to this.

BCBS #4 in a Goose Island stemmed glass beside its empty bottle

Do you remember two years back when I did up Goose Island's maple-forward Bourbon County Brand Stout? I loved it, giving it my highest recommendation. Since I'm keeping things compressed this month, I figured I could break into my second (of two!) bottles of the beer today. Let's see if BCBS Special #4 is just as good at three years old as it was at one.

Goose Island's owned by AB InBev. This has been true for twelve years. This also doesn't change the weight Bourbon County Brand Stout (BCBS) pulls in the craft beer community. Each Black Friday, these beers are sought with fervor, most selling out before your friendly neighborhood beer blogger can make it to his nearest bottleshop (yes, this is an anecdotal statement). The beer's good, InBev or no.

When I last tried this beer, I couldn't find any official presence of it on Goose Island's website. Well, with a little further internet sleuthing this time, I found its page! #4 took the standard BCBS and added oats, coffee from Intelligentsia Coffee, and bourbon barrel-aged syrup from Ohio's Bissell Maple Farm. This resulted in a 13.8% ABV stout (the alcohol content's pulled from my 2021 review of the beer) that's sweet, nutty, and fruity.

I have to hand it to Goose Island: The bouquet on this thing is sweet, it's nutty, and it's fruity. I'm first finding the coffee here, which brings the nuttiness along with dark chocolate and a little roastiness. Layered beneath this lies the maple syrup, sticky sweet, and dark fruit aromatics. There's an inexplicable smokiness that I can't quite place; this makes me think of crispy, freshly-fried thick-cut bacon. Beyond all this is bourbon barrel aging, bringing oak, vanilla, and no small amount of bourbon booziness. This is a beer that boasts an incredible amount of heft, yet smells like a fantastic breakfast. A fantastic boozy breakfast.

Purrl gave my bottle seven whiffs, so she seems to think the stout's improved with age (she gave it two whiffs two years ago). 

Purrl sniffing my bottle

Ticking off the flavors in order as they hit my palate: black, dark roast coffee; an almost burnt chocolate; a light drizzle of maple syrup; those quintessential BBA flavors (vanilla, oak, bourbon); and plums and figs. The finish here is that burnt chocolate, black coffee, and boozy warmth. The maple flavor lingers on my lips after each sip.

Turning to the mouthfeel, and this thing's a monster. #4's a thick stout, thick to the extent that it drinks like how it looks. Just about chewy thick. Each small sip holds more weight than what it seemingly should. BCBS always nails how a stout should drink; this is no exception to that statement.

Speaking of how #4 looks, I poured it into a glass, so let's talk about it. The body of the stout is used motor oil, just as it was two years ago, with a little ruby shining through the edges of my glass as it catches the light. The head, which dissipates within seconds of pouring, is comprised of wet sand-colored bubbles of variable size. 

Small head on #4

When Michelle and I first started dating, we'd (pretty frequently) have Eggs Benedict for dinner, which is a far fancier breakfast for dinner that what I was ever used to. Hell, even now we still have it occasionally. We split cooking duties when we make it: she handles poaching the eggs and toasting the English muffins while I fry up the bacon (we use turkey bacon instead of Canadian bacon) and do up the Hollandaise sauce. 

This is a meal I love and, although it features no maple syrup (if it did, I wouldn’t be able to name a meal I like more), this evening's beer would pair perfectly with it.

Look, I'm giving Bourbon County Brand #4 Stout at 10/10. This is my highest recommendation. It's drinking perfectly now (in the last two years, its fudginess has fallen off and been replaced by a certain smoky quality). My bottle warns that I'm consuming it after its best by date, which is fine with me. This is now richer and more robust than it was last time I had it. If you have a bottle of it you've been sitting on, now might just be the time to crack into it.

#4 best by date

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