This post could be quite long but I promise it won’t be boring. I had the opportunity to try the 2013 Variants on tap and via bottles at bars around Chicago and at the Goose Island Brewpub at a special event. The Q&A with the brewers during that event was awesome and I took extensive notes to share here. If your’e a home brewer, it’s quite valuable I think. The event was $75 and sold out in under a minute. We had a chance to sample a sizable pour of each of this year’s variants with some food pairings.
The short version in my thoughts on this year’s release is that this year’s Bourbon County variants are the best ever, fresh and right out of the box. The 2013 standard BCS is insanely hot and boozy but the variants are sublime. Drink your variants ASAP if you’re wondering on waiting. Ones I have multiples of, I’ll save some but will be drinking most over the next 6 months. They’re that good!
The Reviews – 2013 Bourbon County Stout & Variants
AROMA 10/10 APPEARANCE 5/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 18/20
adamjackson (1728) – Lyme, New Hampshire, USA – JUL 30, 2012
2013 Batch on tap at Goose Island Brewpub – Black Friday, ’13 4 Ounce pour at room temperature.
A – No head formed. Poured a viscous pitch black into the glass. Midnight black with some motor oil sort of texture. Nice alcohol legs on the swirl.
S – I can smell the bourbon from 2 feet away which is always a great sign. Big burning bourbon scent up close. Hints of vanilla and campfire. Some roasted malts
T – More licorice than the 2011 and 2010 I sampled. Lots of up front licorice. Hint of cardboard taste. The bourbon takes over and coats the tongue with charred oak, vanilla and the finish is all raisins and caramel. On a second sip, I get this hint of pure cane syrup like molasses that my family makes back home. Having had 2009 – 2013, this is the first one I’ve had fresh and boy is it boozy, almost biting like grain alcohol.
M – 25% carbonation. heavy body. Boozy burn on the back of the throat and to the chest. The oaky bourbon taste with vanilla sticks around for a while.
O – I’ve had vintages ’07 and 09-11. Each of them are very delicious. This is a delectable beer that I would enjoy more often if only it was more readily available. Very hot and certainly can use at least a year before someone opens their bottle. I’ll open a bottle every few months but boy does this need time! This is still the best mass produced BA stout on the market. Simply amazing.
AROMA 7/10 APPEARANCE 5/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 16/20
AROMA 9/10 APPEARANCE 5/5 TASTE 7/10 PALATE 4/5 OVERALL 18/20
2013 Proprietor’s Release. Had 4 ounces from a bottle at Goose Island Brewpub on Black Friday ’13.
A – Pitch black and oily. You get coconut oil shine and little specs of white flakes. Very easy to spot this is coconut if it were a blind taste test.
S – WHOA. Nose is like the Caribbean. It’s like I’m in some commercial for a beach resort. Smells like vacation an Almond Joy candy bars. Minor chocolate and minor oak and a whole lot of coconut.
T – Tastes SOOOO good. It’s totally a Malibu Coconut Rum taste. Biting with a spicy finish of raisins and vanilla beans. The coconut candy flavors are huge and wonderful and just wow.
M – Standard mouthfeel as other BCS varieities but it certainly coats the mouth a bit more.
O – This is not as good as BCS Coffee but it’s a very good release this year and one worth trying.
AROMA 8/10 APPEARANCE 5/5 TASTE 8/10 PALATE 5/5 OVERALL 16/20
2013 Release, tried a few ounces at Goose Island and brought two bottles home with me.
A – Just like all of the other BCS Variants, pitch black, thick and oily.
S – Smells like sweet fruited candies. Loads of fruit on the nose but the dominant scent is blackberries with a hint of raspberry. It has a red velvet sort of nose with chocolate and sweet sugary fluff.
T – More blackberry heaven in taste. Pretty acidic like on the verge of being too much. Oreo cookies and fruit by the foot. Has a biting sweetness while being very fruity. Plum and cedar chips as well but I could be confusing the Rye taste profile with cedar.
M – Thinner than BCS but still has a sticky mouth feel.
O – Thank god this doesn’t have the medicinal / cough medicine taste of Bramble Rye. It’s a different animal like a juicy fruit filled Imperial stout with rye bite and wood chips. Just awesome.
Notes from the Goose Island Event
During the tasting, 4 Goose Island employees and the other were there to answer questions. This was an awesome aspect of the $75 ticket price. I tried to take a lot of notes but admit to not catching everything. I’m only transcribing what I am certain to have picked up.
- 24.3 Degrees Plato pre-boil and 30 post boil.
- They boil for 4-5 hours
- 50 Gallons mashing ends up being 40 barrels of actual wort. They sparge with 5 barrels and get an efficiency of 50% in pre-boil gravity.
- Intelligentsia supplied Goose Island with 17,000 pounds of beans
- They cold brew the beans for 20 hours with a course grind
- Intelligentsia roasts and grinds the beans and literally rolls the ground beans over to Goose Island’s brewery which is across the street.
- 1 Pound of Coffee is added to every 1 gallon of beer
- Coconut came from two sources
- Chicago’s Culinary school (I couldn’t catch the name) toasted coconut in their ovens. Brewer said the students didn’t like that GI took up use of their ovens for so long
- The rest of the coconut was toasted by one of the brewer’s wives by hand…but unclear if this was done at home or a commercial setup
- 11 Pounds of coconut per barrel
- First 10,000 coconuts spent many months (I wrote down 8) in barrels. The taste wasn’t strong enough so that’s when the wife stepped in to toast more. 10,000 more were added and I have that it was a total of 7 months for both 10K additions? I must have missed something.
- The coconut will most certainly fade. Drink this very fast. Coconut is high in saturated fats and lipids break down quickly. This won’t last and you’ll be left with the base BCS beer.
- They tested raw coconut in this beer and the result was oily mess.
- 88 Barrels at 18 cases per barrel of this variant.
- 35% of the beer was lost to evaporation and absorption by the coconut
- Case count of Coconut is 88*8. no kegs (looks like that was a lie).
- Mulberries were harvested legally from Humboldt Park. Brewers put down tarps under trees and shook them. One employee joked, “the public intoxication however was not legal”
- There are two variants of boysenberries and one Marion berries.
- The acidity of this beer will go up. Can probably last up to 8 years in perfect cellar conditions. Ideally, drink within 5 years.
- The berries harvested tested positive for lactobacillus. Brewmaster assured me the alcohol content killed that yeast strain. Berries did not undergo any sanitization.
- 50 Pounds of fruit were added per barrel of beer
- 288 barrels for this variant.
- Base beer is Mohogany color
- The base beer is King Henry with almost no tweaks.
- Barrels are 3rd use and held Elijah Craig 12-15 year old followed by Bourbon County.
There was a TON of information at this event. I just couldn’t type fast enough the Q&A and also take notes rating these beers. Sorry about that. I’m willing to make any corrections to this data if people notice anything being wrong, clarifications on notes above that are only half there would be very nice. If you click the link to each of the beers in the rations section, GI lists the grain and hops used in the beers.