Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout   

Review Date 12/12/2017     By John Staradumsky

And there it was. Plain as the nose on your face, Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout. It was Black Friday, around 11 AM or so, and I was out shopping with the wife. I checked into Total Wine, and there it was. A table, right out there in the open, with various bottles of Bourbon County Stout, in two varieties even. I chose a bottle of the coffee version, and put it in my cart.

Now, I’ll confess that I have never had this beer before. Once I sampled the Bourbon County Barleywine at Taco Mac, but the price was so ridiculous I only got a sample. That, however, was the only time I had tried any of these beers. I don’t stand in lines, I don’t get on waiting lists, I don’t do somersaults just to get a beer. At my age, the beer needs to come to me. And you know, this time it did, as I knew sooner or later it would. Patience, grasshopper.

On the Goose Island website, they say:

Everyday Goose Island smells Intelligentsia’s coffee roasting next to the brewery. This world class roaster puts the same craftsmanship into their coffee as Goose Island does with its beer. Each year this excellent coffee stout is made with a different bean variety, chosen in collaboration with our brewers and Intelligentsia’s experts. With the change in coffee comes a change in the flavor profile, making each release truly unique from the previous years. The 2015 incarnation features Intelligentsia Los Delirios coffee from Nicaragua. Available nationwide in limited quantities.

This year, Goose Island went on an origin trip to Costa Rica with Intelligentsia to choose Flecha Roja, a roast that blends flavors of fruit and cherry, chocolate and nuttiness and a sublime aroma.

Further details from the website regarding the 2016 version:

Style: Imperial Stout Aged in Bourbon Barrels

ABV: 13.4%

IBU: 60

Color: Midnight

Hops: Millennium

Malts: 2-Row, Black Malt, Caramel, Chocolate, Munich, Roast Barley

The 2017 version of Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout is no doubt different, so we will update later with that information. The neck label gives a strength of 12.9% by volume, and I paid $14.99 for my bottle, which is ridiculous. That other variety I was mentioning earlier was made with blueberry and almond, and was a whopping $25 a bottle. I told them they could keep that one.

I drank my bottle of Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout a few weeks after purchasing, a bit before the Patriots were playing the Dolphins on Monday Night Football. I will confess that I went in with the preconception that it wasn’t going to be worth the price. As soon as I popped the bottle and decanted into a glass, that perception began to fade away.

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout pours to a jet-black color with a light creamy tan head formation and a nose packed with coffee grind and soft boozy bourbon aromas. First from the bottle mouth and then the glass after decanting, the aromas were heady, rich and alluring.

Taking a sip, the beer is full in body and smooth over the tongue with rich chocolaty notes, roasty coffee and coffee grinds, licorice, charcoal, and subtle notes of boozy bourbon. It finishes roasty and warming with alcohol, perfect for this time of year. The bourbon comes out more as it warms in the nose and the finish, which becomes a very boozy finish indeed. Dark chocolate and powdery cocoa are omnipresent.

I will note this beer is so wonderfully complex that it took me about two hours to drink it, as I gently sipped it over that time. That adds to the value component when considered against the price.

Overall, this is a 5 star beer less one for the crazy price. It’s not a beer I would buy lots of (if you could), but even at the price it’s a beer I would buy once a year. I wouldn’t chase it, but if it is there, then yes I would buy it. In fact, next year I’ll probably pick up two (one for aging). The neck label suggests it will age nicely up to five years.  

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout is a strong argument in favor of those (like me) who maintain that independent breweries acquired by megabrewers are still craft breweries, and *can* still make great beer. A similar beer made by an independent brewer, Founders KBS, ranks a peg below Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout in my estimation. I do rank them both at 4 stars on the Bruguru scale, but that is because the Goose Island beer is higher in price. Hedonistically, between the two, I prefer the Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout.


And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.

*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.