For the 2nd year in a row, I was lucky enough to have the time for a trip to Chicago and find a ticket to attend Goose Island’s Black Friday beer tasting @ the Brewpub. Although a separate operation from the brewery owned by ABInBev, the brewpub still celebrates the annual release of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout with special taps, merchandise and this awesome beer tasting with the brewers and barrel teams responsible for bringing us this awesome stout every year.
For $80 (including service fee), the event sounds like a rip-off. I disagree but because last year’s post received so much traffic and tickets this year were more difficult to get, maybe I should stop hyping this one up so much. Last year, tickets to the sessions sold out in 30 minutes…this year, it took 90 seconds as I frantically tried different times of day trying to find a slot open and 6PM happened to be the only one left after literally just refreshing the page at the time tickets went on sale. So despite how cool this event sounds, don’t go.
What do you get for $80?
- 1 Hour with members of the Goose Island team
- 6 4oz Samples of this year’s BCS Variants
- Dessert (sweet) pairings with 4 of the 6 beers
- A special gift (for MBA members)
- 1 Bomber bottle of a 2014 beer release ($27 value)
- 1 Commemorative glass ($15 value)
- Q&A with the employees on hand
When you take out the service fee, gifts and tasters, the event seems pretty affordable and obviously, because it sold out very fast this year.
Notes and Details on the 2014 BCS Variants I jotted down during the Q&A:
Staff on Hand:
- Mark with cellar operators @ Fulton
- Brad @ clybourn
- Sarah @ month 4 internship @ Fulton
- Nate @ Fulton brewery as maintenance manager
Goose Island 2014 Bourbon County Barley Wine:
- 30% fresh 2nd use bourbon barrels and 70% freshly drained BCS barrels
- 11.7% – 12.3% ABV Range
- 2 bottling dates this year (thus the different ABVs)
- 400 total bourbon barrels were used this year
- English style barley wine, minimal hop character
- Intern tasted 200 of the 400 barrels. Loved them all.
Goose Island 2014 Bourbon County Brand Stout:
- Always different every vintage
- 2100 oak barrels used this year
- Mix of Elijah Craig, knob creek, wild turkey and old Fitzgerald and buffalo trace barrels were used. Lots of blending
- EC was the original supplier of all BCS barrels. Still a majority of barrels are Elijah Craig (heaven hill) (note, last year’s notes mention all EC was used)
- We buy from barrel distributor. Over 3k bourbon and 3k wine in total GI Oak program
- At least 8 year old whiskey barrels used but not always possible. 99% of barrels are 8+ years. (Guesstimate)
- Not temp controlled aging. 8-13 month aging (2.5-3 seasons). Elements lead to a lower abv
- Heaters were used for a few days this year when the warehouse got too cold. This lead to a lower ABV.
- Variety in barrels a mix of better blending and supply & demand of barrels they have available.
- Barrels aren’t topped off. Overflow until you see beer then place bung. No topping off after tasting a sample. Year round process now. High gravity resilient to oxidation. 5-7 gallons evaporation 10-12 months.
- Rare 2.0 to come out eventually. 33 year old bourbon barrels. Reps wouldn’t confirm for sure that this would come out next year but it’s my assumption yes.
Goose Island 2014 Bourbon County Proprietor’s:
- 300 of the barrels in GI’s program are Rye Barrels. Prop this year used 90 of those barrels.
- Barrels were emptied then received adjuncts. Grundy tank used for adjuncts. 170 pounds of kasha bar and. 540 of cocoa nibs. 8 hours of additions bakck and forth tasting every 15 minutes. Made a not so simple syrup with coconut waterand sugar. More nibs added after. Added bit by bit until flavor was perfect.
Goose Island 2014 Bourbon County Vanilla Rye:
- Rye instead of bourbon barrels and rye spice was added to the mash so the recipe itself is unique.
- 70/30 Madagascar and Mexican vanilla split. Mexican more flavors and Madagascan more aromatics.
- Hand slice every vanilla bean before adding to the barrel. 8 Brewers 8 hours to 2 pounds . 470 pounds total were used. Do the math but…
- A buffalo chopper was used to save time.
- Rye barrels had vanilla for 2-3 months after normal fermentation. Vanilla wasn’t ready so holding tank got 70 more pounds of vanilla. 8-14 hours of recirculating to finish the beer up on schedule.
- Yields of 2014 higher than 2010 vanilla. Vanilla did still have some challenges with filtering, circulation and dumping of barrels.
- Single origin coffee, African Zirikana Rwanda coffee not added to beer. No grinding of beans. Cold infusion like last year. Course grind a day sitting with siphoned off and pumped into a bright tank 240 barrels 1800 pounds of coffee. BCS is the base as always.
- 2 weeks in bright tank. Composted all beans. (yay!)
- Note: Here’s the spec sheet of the exact coffee used in this year’s BCS Coffee.
- Beer brewed at the brewpub. Rebrewerd 2014. 40 pounds of hazel nuts and vanilla beans. 4 barrels of it and 15 year Elijah craig barrels. Released mid December 360 bottles.
That’s all for this event. Lots of details were shared this year and I wrote most of these notes on the iPhone (pardon the typos). I hope to get a chance to do this event again next year. A few more photos: