The Thirsty Beagle: Bourbon County Brand Stout drops in Oklahoma

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Bourbon County Brand Stout drops in Oklahoma

Wasn't too long ago the idea of having Goose Island beer in Oklahoma was far-fetched.

The idea that we would ever get Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout was even more wild.

Well, this isn't your older brother's Oklahoma beer scene, folks.

The 2015 vintage of BCBS -- featuring a new 16.9 oz. bottle -- already surfaced in some stores on Tuesday and is expected to hit more today.

The beer is traditionally released on Black Friday, eliciting long lines at stores that have it in stock. Looks like we'll likely be able to avoid the lines here in Oklahoma as the beer slowly surfaces at various stores.

And for those who want to try it on tap, you'll be in luck there as well. TapWerks has announced they will tap a keg of BCBS at 11 a.m. on Friday. Oak & Ore will also tap a keg at 11 a.m. as part of a larger Black Friday Brunch and Beer Bash, including Elk Valley Coffee Nemesis (with branded coffee mugs), Elk Valley Pumpion, Omnipollo Yellow Belly, Founders Backwoods Bastard, Prairie Christmas Bomb and St. Bernardus Christmas Ale.

A good time will be had by all.

In the meantime, let's talk a little bit more about BCBS. For years, this was akin to some sort of mythical beast of a beer for us in Oklahoma. Many had heard of it, but few -- mainly the traders and beer travelers -- had tried it.

When Goose Island was bought out by Anheuser-Busch, it created a natural conundrum. How can we as beer fans covet/worship a beer that ultimately is made by the evil overlord? Some have chosen to no longer kneel at the BCBS altar.

For example, in scanning the local beer social medias this week, I noticed several people being dismissive of BCBS, some specifically citing the A-B tie-in.

Let's not be mistaken: BCBS is a good beer. The beer is made in the same way it's always been made, with the same technique and the same type of ingredients, and in the same brewery in Chicago. While you may find the ownership situation unsavory, the beer itself is indeed something to savor.

Goose Island describes it like this:

"A liquid as dark and dense as a black hole with thick foam the color of a bourbon barrel. The nose is an intense mix of charred oak, chocolate, vanilla, caramel and smoke. One sip has more flavor than your average case of beer."

If you want to learn more, read this blurb lifted from an article in the Chicago Tribune from earlier this year:

As notable as what’s in the bottles will be the bottles themselves: All BCBS beers will be packaged in new 16.9-ounce custom brown bottles that will be sold individually. Designed by marketing and design firm VSA Partners, the bottles include prominent raised lettering and a small label affixed to the bottleneck.

Goose Island's manager of brewing innovation, Mike Siegel, said the new bottle is an effort to heighten the Bourbon County drinking experience. Though the beers are some of the most sought after in the world, they have until now been packaged in the same 12- and 22-ounce glasses as much of the Goose Island lineup.

This beer is something we put a lot of effort toward, and people stand in line all over the country for it,” Siegel said. “The challenge was to come up with a package that elevates it to the next level.”

Before we dig in a little more on each beer, here’s the context promised above: To celebrate the brewery’s fifth birthday back in 1993, Goose Island’s then-brewmaster, Greg Hall, brewed the most audacious beer he could: a rich, boozy stout aged in barrels that previously held Jim Beam bourbon. Hall called the beer Bourbon County Stout.

The beer was a quick hit and helped launch a movement; aging imperial stouts in whiskey barrels has become an industry touchstone. Most “best beer in the world” lists include a healthy number of barrel-aged stouts, and at least a few are likely to come from the Bourbon County family. (Though Goose Island was sold to Anheuser-Busch in 2011, and some of its beer production has been exported to A-B breweries outside of Chicago, the Bourbon County beers continue to be made at Goose Island’s Fulton Street brewery.)

Twenty-two years later, the annual Black Friday release of the Bourbon County series has become a beer calendar event, drawing ever-larger crowds that begin gathering ever earlier.

And for more about the flavor profile specifically, read this, also from the Tribune:

As usual, BCBS will be a blend of imperial stouts Goose has aged for nearly a year in bourbon barrels from several Kentucky distilleries. Drinkers can expect a beer similar to past releases.

“We’re very happy with the beer, and we’ve got a process down that works for us,” Siegel said. “We just focused on making more this year.”

Goose pulled beer from about 4,500 bourbon casks this year — up from about 4,000 last year.

A Goose Island spokeswoman said the suggested retail price for Bourbon County Stout will be $9.99, which would be approximately the same suggested price-per-ounce cost as last year. However, retailers are free to price the beer as they wish.

Early word is that it is retailing in the $11 to $13 range in Oklahoma stores.

In addition, this year Goose Island will release several special variants of BCBS. It's not clear at this point if any of those will make their way to Oklahoma.


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