When Brewmaster Greg Hall was looking to brew something unique for Goose Island’s 1,000th batch, more than 20 years ago, he just needed inspiration. Then a chance encounter between Hall and Jim Beam’s Booker Noe led to Goose Island acquiring the barrels for what was to become the world’s first bourbon barrel-aged beer: Bourbon County Stout.

It’s safe to assume that neither of the two would have predicted the uber-loyal following, the annual Black Friday fervor, nor the wide-ranging lineup of variants, when they brewed that first batch of BCS. But today, it still stands as one of the most anticipated and widely lauded beers to release each year, and has truly set the standard for barrel-aged stouts, globally even.

And for 2019, the lineup is as unique as it has ever been, thanks to the creativity of several featured brewers’ recipes, and partnerships with distilleries such as Heaven Hill–which the brewery has said has allowed them to “release a more barrel-forward lineup of variants.”

Those eight variants that will release this year are:

  • Bourbon County Stout

  • Bourbon County Double Barrel Stout

  • 2-Year Reserve Bourbon County Stout

  • Reserve Rye Bourbon County Stout

  • Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout

  • Bourbon County Wheatwine Ale

  • Bourbon County Café de Olla Stout

  • Bourbon County Mon Chéri Stout

In addition to the above lineup, Goose Island will release a limited edition box dubbed the ‘Vertical Collection’–inclusive of 2017, 2018, and 2019 Bourbon County Stout.

All of these variants will of course go on sale this Black Friday, November 29, 2019.

The following images and descriptions of this year’s lineup of BCS have been provided by Goose Island, in preview of the November release. We will be sure to follow up with our own thoughts on each beer once we are able to sample through them.

Our goal every year is to make the best Bourbon County Stout we’ve ever made, so it means raising our game with each release. It’s one of the most important beers we make as we continue to build on the legacy Greg Hall laid out over 20 years ago.

— Mike Siegel, R&D Manager

Bourbon County Stout

This year’s Bourbon County Stout, aged in a mix of Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace and Wild Turkey barrels, yields a richer, more complex mouthfeel. Flavors of cocoa, vanilla, caramel, almond, plus leather and tobacco flavors permeate this complex beer that deepens with each sip.

Tasting Notes: Cocoa, Vanilla, Toffee, Caramel, Rich Chocolate, Almond

We’re really excited for this year’s release; Bourbon County Stout Original is one of the best yet with lots of rich chocolate and fudge notes. We’ve pushed our own expectations of what a BCS variant can be, which has resulted in some fantastic versions.

— Keith Gabbett, Brewmaster

Bourbon County Wheatwine Ale

The 2018 Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beers (FoBAB) award-winning variant is back for its second year, this year aged in Larceny wheated bourbon casks. The result is a softer flavor profile, full of caramel, vanilla, butterscotch and toffee flavors, all while carrying the nuances of Larceny bourbon barrels.

Tasting Notes: High Caramel, Vanilla, Butterscotch, Toffee

We saw last year how Wheatwine can really showcase the intricate characteristics of traditional bourbon, and this year we wanted to take it one step further. We were fortunate to get the opportunity to utilize the barrels from Larceny’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, which uses ‘…wheat as the secondary grain, instead of the traditional rye…’ and we jumped on it. This year you will find a smoother note to Wheatwine than last. It will continue to maintain an amplified body with notes of butterscotch and toffee, while carrying the nuances of Larceny Bourbon Barrels.

— Tim Faith, Wheatwine Brewer

Bourbon County Café de Olla Stout

This variant is inspired by a traditional Latin infused coffee. This year we took Bourbon County, added Intelligentsia Coffee beans and cold brew. To round out the coffee flavor, cassia bark, orange peel, and panela sugar garnish the beverage resulting in an intriguingly complex flavor and aroma.

Tasting Notes: Coffee, Dark Chocolate, Orange, Cinnamon

Bourbon County Café de Olla Stout was inspired by my friends and family. Coffee, much like beer, brings us together. This concept pays tribute to the cultural diversity and beloved people of our city to celebrate the wonderful traditions that blend us altogether. Bourbon County Café de Olla Stout is a wonderful twist on BCS coffee with a combination of ingredients that provide an intriguingly complex experience. The coffee aromatics are garnished with a hint of citrus and subtle notes of cinnamon. Panela sugar helps round out the potion, concluding the well balanced combination of flavors and aroma.

— Austin Niestrom, Café de Olla Brewer

Bourbon County Mon Chéri Stout

“Mon Chéri” means “my darling” in French and this recipe is a love letter from the brewer, Quinn, to his wife who loves cherries. Mon Chéri Stout is made with Balenton and Montmorency cherries, brewed with oats and a dash of brown sugar creating aromas of amaretto and almond. With one sip you’ll instantly get flavors of cherry cobbler, vanilla, and chocolate, followed by a silky, velvety finish.

Tasting Notes: Aromas of Amaretto and Almond, Oats, Cherry, Vanilla and Chocolate; Silky, Velvety finish

I had been toying with using granola in Bourbon County Stout for some time, and cherry has been a classic flavor in stout–but it was my wife that thought to marry the two together. After many tweaks, we found a nice mix of granola, oats and brown sugar, that gave us a ‘pie crust’ element to the beer, then layered in a mix of Balaton and Montmorency Tart cherries. This gave the blend a complex bouquet of sweet and nutty aromatics while delivering a depth of cherry flavor.

— Quinn Fuechsl, Mon Chéri Brewer

Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout

2019 Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout is an homage to variants of years past fusing flavors of toasted pecans, coconut, cocoa and vanilla. Starting with an aroma of dark chocolate, toasted coconut and caramel, layered with intense notes of roasted pecans and bittersweet cocoa reminiscent of Tiramisu, ending with lingering notes of marshmallow.

Tasting Notes: Coconut, Pecan, Vanilla, Chocolate, Marshmallow

Reserve Rye Bourbon County Stout

The Reserve Bourbon County Stout series is intended to showcase the nuances and flavor impact of a premium single source and highly sought after bourbon, this year’s being Rittenhouse Rye. The 2019 Reserve Rye Bourbon County Stout aged in Rittenhouse Rye Barrels exemplifies fruity, spicy rye flavors as well as the notes that come from the impact the barrel has on the original imperial stout. The Reserve Rye highlights all that makes Rittenhouse, and Bourbon County, unique.

Tasting Notes: Spicy, Fruity

2-Year Reserve Bourbon County Stout

2-year Reserve Bourbon County Stout spent twice the amount of time as traditional BCS in 11-year-old Knob Creek barrels creating an oak-forward intensity accented by hazelnut and chocolate notes, all while allowing the signature flavor profile of the Knob Creek Bourbon to shine through.

Tasting Notes: Oak-Forward, Maple Syrup, Nutty (Hazelnut/Nutella), Chocolate

Bourbon County Double Barrel Stout

Double the barrels and double the time, Bourbon County Double Barrel Stout is rich with depth and flavor that can only be achieved by time and patience. This stout was first aged in 11-year-old Elijah Craig barrels and then aged in award winning 12-year-old Elijah Craig barrels resulting in a stout like none other.

Tasting Notes: Barrel-Forward

I’m extremely proud of Bourbon County Double Barrel Stout. We aged Bourbon County for a year in 11-year old Elijah Craig barrels before we decided to up the ante and age it for another year, this time in 12-year old Elijah Craig barrels. The layering of two coveted barrels from the same distillery and the extended aging time allows us to really showcase what’s possible with Bourbon County Stout.

— Keith Gabbett, Brewmaster

Bourbon County Stout Vertical Collection

This year, Goose Island is proud to offer the Bourbon County Stout Vertical Collection inclusive of 2017, 2018, and 2019 BCS all in one box. They are giving BCS lovers the opportunity to experience multiple years of beloved Bourbon County Stout side-by-side. Explore every nuance of flavor between each vintage year and enhance your understanding of how the taste of BCS changes over time.

Bourbon and beer is a partnership that makes sense. It not only gives our barrels another life, but when you partner with another team that values quality and innovation, it allows for a creative, educational space for the consumer to enjoy these special products. We are fortunate to continue developing this partnership with Goose Island and look forward to expanding what they can offer through Bourbon County Stout using Heaven Hill Distillery barrels.

— Conor O’Driscoll, Heaven Hill Master Distiller


Photography & beer descriptions provided by Goose Island Beer Co.