CHICAGO — More than twenty years ago Greg Hall wanted to brew something truly unique for Goose Island brewpub’s 1000th batch – he just needed inspiration. Then a chance encounter between Greg and Jim Beam’s legendary distiller, Booker Noe, led to Goose Island acquiring the barrels for what was to become the world’s first bourbon barrel aged beer.
Since then, the beer has become a local favorite and globally known beer – and still people line-up down the street for its Black Friday release in Chicago. We’re super excited about this year’s variants, and we hope you are too.
We are releasing eight variants this year:
- Original Bourbon County Brand Stout
- Reserve Bourbon County Brand Stout
- Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout
- Bourbon County Brand Wheatwine
- Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout
- Bourbon County Brand Bramble Rye Stout
- Bourbon County Brand Coffee Barleywine
- Bourbon County Brand Midnight Orange Stout
The variants go on sale this Black Friday, November 23rd.
Bourbon County Brand Stout (ABV: TBD): Aged in 4+ year old Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels, the original bourbon barrel-aged stout tastes as good as when we first brewed it over 20 years ago. Flavors of cocoa, vanilla, caramel, almond, cherry, plus leather and tobacco flavors permeate this complex beer and deepen with each sip. As Brewmaster Jared Jankoski stated, “It ain’t broke, and we didn’t try to fix it.”
Reserve Bourbon County Brand Stout (ABV: 15.2%): The same base recipe as Bourbon County Original, but this beer is aged in 12-year old “Elijah Craig Barrel Proof” bourbon barrels. The bourbon from those barrels was awarded 2017 “Whisky of the Year” by Whisky Advocate, the top honor in the world of international whisky. Reserve is intended to showcase the nuances of a premium single source and highly sought-after bourbon.
Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout (ABV: TBD): This year’s Proprietor’s explores the broad spectrum of chocolate. Using a combination of dark chocolate and two types of cocoa nibs, this rich and decadent beer highlights the whole range of chocolate from smooth and silky milk chocolate flavors to deep and earthy dark chocolate.
Bourbon County Brand Wheatwine (ABV: 15.4%): Made from two-row and malted wheat, Bourbon County Brand Wheatwine makes its debut. As the first recipe to veer from the original Imperial Stout sinceBarleywine in 2013, Wheatwine displays a deep amber color, lighter than its counterparts and acts as a true medium to convey the characteristics of our 4+year old Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels. Wheatwine overflows with flavors of caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, and toffee.
Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout (ABV: 14.9%): This longtime favorite makes a long-awaited return to the Bourbon County roster. Utilizing whole grade A vanilla beans from Madagascar, Vanilla delivers on all the quintessential things fans love about this variant: aromatic vanilla, marshmallow, toffee, oak and floral notes highlighting the creamy mouthfeel and enhancing the chocolate flavors that are ingrained in Bourbon County.
Bourbon County Brand Bramble Rye Stout (ABV: TBD): For this variant we aged Bourbon County Stout in rye whiskey barrels, then added raspberry and blackberry juice and puree from Michigan and Washington. The process resulted in complex jammy fruit notes that are prominent but well-integrated with the caramel and chocolate flavors of the beer and spicy rye character from the barrels.
Bourbon County Brand Coffee Barleywine (ABV: TBD): Working with our friends at Intelligentsia, we flew down to Guatemala to source some of the world’s best coffee to use in the first-ever release of CoffeeBarleywine. A malt-forward English-style Barleywine, the beer aged in 4+ year oldHeaven Hill Bourbon barrels before we added La Soledad coffee beans right before packaging to impart a bold coffee aroma and flavor.
Bourbon County Brand Midnight Orange Stout (ABV: 14.9%): Brewer Oscar and Quality Analyst Paul created the concept for this new variant ofBourbon County. The result? Midnight Orange. They combined two things we love, orange and chocolate, taking Bourbon County into a new and exciting direction. While the chocolate compliments the Bourbon County base, the orange zest offers a point of contrast for a bold new flavor profile to delight Bourbon County fans and newcomers alike. With dual inspiration from a favorite childhood treat and an exquisite MexicanMocha, the bright orange aroma from fresh Spanish orange peel leads into a rich cocoa flavor.
“I had my first sip of Bourbon County when Greg made the first batch back at the Clybourn Brewpub. I was amazed back then and I’m still blown away every year when this beer comes out of the barrels. Our brewers invest so much creativity in this beer and I’m excited as hell for drinkers to try this year’s original and the variants. We bought some new gear this year for the brewers and it’s allowed them to make more of the variants than we have in years past.Hopefully more people than ever will find one or a few they love. I’m also extremely proud that distillers like Heaven Hill are proud to put their name on our bottles when we collaborate on beers like this year’s Reserve. Cheers!” – Todd Ahsmann, President
“You have to just leave your expectations of what beer is at the door with Bourbon County. You can take 10 sips over the course of 10 minutes and taste something new every time. It’s really something to be savored. It’s not a quick drinking by the pint beer, it doesn’t have to be fussy, but it keeps you coming back for more because of its complexity.”- Mike Siegel, R&D Manager (on how to explain Bourbon County to first timers)
“We’ve been longtime fans of Elijah Craig. We started brewing the beer well before they won Whisky of the Year, but it was certainly no surprise when they did – it’s a fantastic whisky. We want the best quality ingredients, so it was a simple choice to go with Elijah Craig. We had all the confidence in the world that this would make a great variant.”- Mike Siegel, R&D Manager (on their choice to use Elijah Craig barrels for Reserve)
“The folks at Intelligentsia are awesome to work with, they’re really guiding us to areas, people, and farms that make a lot of sense. This year we went to Guatemala and got to source our beans from a 5th generation family-owned farm. To me, it really resonates with what we do — feeling close to the ingredients that are in our beers and making a conscious choice of how we source our ingredients.”- Jared Jankoski, Brewmaster (on sourcing the coffee beans with Intelligentsia)
“This year’s Proprietor’s is unique in its simplicity. We only used one extra ingredient (chocolate),but the flavor remains complex due to the different types we’re using.”- Brian LaGro, Brewer (Prop)
“As a lab analyst, it’s been a fun experience to be on a different side of things. Working in the lab, I have a lot of interaction with the beer, so creating a variant came easy with what I felt worked well with the Bourbon County characteristics.”- Paul Lievens, Quality Assurance Analyst (Midnight Orange)
“At Goose Island we’ve been toying with the idea of using citrus notes with Bourbon County for a number of years. This year I feel like Paul and I made a damn fine beer – it’s an amazing, balanced, stout featuring a rich chocolate flavor with added complexity from Spanish Orange zest.”- Oscar Sanchez, Brewer (Midnight Orange)
“What if we brewed a variant of Bourbon County that used only the lightest malts available, two-row and wheat, to showcase what the process does and not just the recipe? The beer is a representation of the boil and the barrel. We boil for a very long time and what that does is create a lot of melanoidins, high caramels and other characteristics that carry through bourbon aging, but ultimately make Bourbon County what it is.”- Tim Faith, Brewer (Wheatwine)
“Goose Island and Elijah Craig exemplify quality and innovation within the industry and we are thrilled to partner again on this year’s Bourbon County Brand Stout Reserve. We proudly provided freshly emptied Elijah Craig Barrel Proof barrels for this Reserve release, the same whisky that won Whisky Advocate’s Whisky of the Year honors just last year.”- Denny Potter, Elijah Craig Master Distiller
Todd Ahsmann, President
Todd fell in love with craft beer culture in 1988 as a bartender at Goose Island’s Chicago brewpub. From there he launched a 20 year career in music marketing, but beer was always his first passion; he never stopped offering Goose Island his help on the side (in exchange for beer, of course). Eventually his journey came full circle and he made it back to sweet home Chicago where he has been President of Goose Island for the past year.He’s more excited than ever to bring Goose Island into the future and give Chicago, and the rest of the world, the damn fine beer it deserves.
Jared Jankoski, Brewmaster
Jared started his brewing career in Wisconsin. After graduating college with a degree in chemistry and completing a diploma in brewing, he became a brewer at New Glarus. He was eventually drawn to Chicago where he’s been Goose Island’s Head Brewer sinceJune of 2012 and then Brewmaster beginning March of 2015. With a strong belief in quality and establishing a solid foundation, Jankoski’s experience at Goose Island has allowed him to focus on building a strong team and improve the foundation for making great beer to better accommodate the diverse family of brews produced in Chicago.
Mike Siegel, R&D Manager
Mike’s passion for great beer started in his early 20s and soon led to many years of homebrewing and traveling the U.S. and Europe in pursuit of it. After careers in sound engineering and information technology, he was urged by his wife Katie to quit beating around the bush and make the switch to brewing professionally. Mike started at GooseIsland in 2011 as a brewer and cellarman, and in 2013 was promoted to Research &Development Manager. In this role, he oversees all new beer development and helps facilitate the collective creative output of the numerous talented brewers that GooseIsland has on its team.
Brian LaGro, Brewer
Brian has been a brewer at Goose Island for the past four years. This year he earned the coveted position of Goose Island Bourbon County Proprietor’s brewer after submitting his recipe for the final variant.
Paul Lievens, Quality Assurance Analyst
Paul started at Goose Island as a Quality Assurance Analyst in September 2017. His role is to oversee fermentation of the beers and ensure that beer drinkers get the best tasting beer possible. Paul and Oscar Sanchez developed the national Midnight Orange variant together.
Oscar Sanchez, Brewer
Oscar has been a brewer at Goose Island for the past two years. He was inspired to brew the Bourbon County Brand Stout Midnight Orange variant after tasting an unbelievable orange mocha during a recent trip to Mexico and worked with Paul Lievens to bring it to life.
Tim Faith, Brewer
Tim started home brewing his sophomore year of college and quickly became intrigued with how applicable all areas of science were to every step of the process. A medical internship to Australia made it an easy decision to change majors from pre-med toMicrobiology, feeling it would allow him to enter the industry. After graduating Augustana college in 2011, Tim started his brewing career at Great River Brewery in Davenport, IA, learning every aspect of production brewing and packaging. From there he went on to work for New Holland Brewing Company in Holland, MI, running their wood program from2012-2014, developing an understanding for wild and mixed fermentations, barrel-aging and cooperage. Finally, in March of 2014, Tim arrived back in Chicago at Goose IslandBeer Co. and currently holds the position as R&D Brewer III. Tim completed a diploma asa Craft Brewmaster from ABI University in 2017. This year, Tim makes a Bourbon County variant debut with the inaugural Wheatwine.
About Goose Island
For the last 30 years we’ve been thinking big about beer. From opening up a brewery in the middle of a city to pioneering the barrel-aged beer category, we’re committed to making great beer, throwing epic parties and celebrating our hometown in a BIG way – it’s the only way we know how to do it.In our hometown, we continue to brew quality beer and invest in our people and our brewery allowing us to continually innovate while giving back to our community. We want to challenge ourselves and to challenge the way people think about beer.