I want to start this review by saying that I’m not a very big fan of Goose Island’s “normal” line of beers. I’ve had most everything that they put in a bottle and just don’t enjoy their line of stuff. However, like many beers, their stuff is actually good on tap (312 Urban Wheat being a good example). So much for them, right? Wrong! While I would not recommend their normal line to many people, their Reserve collection is tremendous. Tremendous! Let me say it again, tremendous. In this Reserve line are Matilda, Pere Jacques, Demolition, Imperial I.P.A and Bourbon County Stout. I actually believed they have re-categorized some of these as Heritage, etc.  But I’ve always known them as their Reserve stuff.  I drank the last of these a couple of days ago.

I can’t wait to open the 2006 editions of their Bourbon County Stout (I’m aging a few). As I looked at my 2008 edition, I noticed that it is actually 2% higher ABV than the 2006. 2008 comes in at a whopping 13% alcohol by volume. There is a lot I can say here, but I already have a lot to say about this beer in the review.

Looking at this beer is like looking into a deep dark cavern. So dark, so bold. On top of the black body rested a dark brown head. This beer is a bold as it looks.

When you take a sniff of this beer, it is sensory overload. Here are some of the notes that I got from the beer. Of course there were strong bourbon notes. Among the best were vanilla, spicy cinnamon (hints), nuts and caramel. Dark roasted grains came through all the bourbon notes and showed that this was a powerful beer all around. No notable hops character was present. Alcohol qualities, along with some biscuitiness, was also noteworthy. And what would a strong stout be without some lovely chocolate notes? What an aroma! One more note that I would like to make is that the biscuitiness, nuts, and caramel gave this beer some aromas of a sweet sherry.

Wow! Upon sipping this beer, the bourbon alcohol heat and flavors were not masked at all. The nuts, vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon spiciness and biscuity qualities wove into a tapestry of wonderful and unique flavors. A smoky bourbon barrel flavor emerged after the initial alcohol qualities. The huge amount of deep, dark, roasted grain balanced the huge bourbon flavors in the beer. They came through as a powerful stout. It seemed that the flavors in this beer would last forever. I don’t know if the full coating mouth-feel gave the beer such long-lasting power or if it was just that powerful of a beer. I would also like to note that this stout had less coffee flavors than other stouts of this depth (that can be a bonus for me–depending on my mood). There was some residual sweetness and a long, dry finish. The very end of the lingering flavors in this beer distinctly reminded me of the after-taste of vanilla and chocolate ice cream (or even chocolate milk).

If you like Bourbon, beer, or both, I think that you will love this beer. I’ve never had a better bourbon barreled stout than the one that Goose Island puts out. It is powerful but balanced in its powerful alcohol and malts. Perfection! My first 5 on the website! I like the Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon Stout but this one kills it. By the way, this is an excellent cigar beer.  I like a good Kristoff…smoker’s choice.

Mike’s Rating:

Overall Satisfaction: ★★★★★ 

Among other Bourbon Barreled Stouts: ★★★★★ 

Among other Stouts ★★★★★