Everything You Need To Know About Bourbon County’s 2018 Releases
Photo: Goose Island Beer Co.
To many people, Bourbon County means much more than just an area in Kentucky. That’s because it’s also a brand of beer from Chicago’s famed Goose Island Beer Company. The brewery itself was founded back in 1988, but the release of Bourbon County Stout has been an annual tradition since 1992 when Chicagoans were lucky enough to be the first to try this iconic brew.
“Since 2013, as a thank you to our adventurous and loyal Chicago fans, Bourbon County Stout Proprietor’s is released one day only, for this city only,” says Jared Jankoski, brewmaster at Goose Island. Even though the day takes place in the Windy City, that doesn’t stop people from all over the country (and the world) from descending upon the city to get a taste of the beloved stout.
The first official Proprietor’s Day was 2016. In the last three years, enthusiasm for these sought-after beers has only increased. But don’t think you can just show up at the brewery, get in line, and grab yourself some of these tasty, aged beers. Bourbon County beers are so popular you have to enter a lottery to even get the opportunity to purchase tickets (for $30). Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 8, beer fans signed up online. If you missed the window and want to try one of this year’s offerings, you’ll have to wait a little longer.
This year’s Proprietor’s Day is on Nov. 11. If you were lucky enough to get tickets, you’ll be treated to one heck of a huge party. “The atmosphere can be described as utter joy,” says Jankoski. “There are few better things than being able to drink craft beer on the streets of Chicago.” Partiers will have more than just beer to enjoy as local companies will offer products made using Bourbon County Stout. There will also be food trucks, music, and a lot of beer to keep you warm and toasty no matter how chilly the day may be.
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2018 Bourbon County Offerings
This year is the most ambitious yet for the brand. “This year’s Bourbon County offerings are the most we’ve ever released with eight total variants coming out,” says Jankoski. He breaks each one down below.
Bourbon County Stout: “The original bourbon barrel aged stout. Flavors of cocoa, vanilla, caramel, almond, cherry, plus leather and tobacco flavors permeate this complex beer that deepens with each sip. Roughly 25 percent of Bourbon County was aged in 4-year-old-plus Buffalo Trace barrels and the rest was aged in 4-year-old-plus Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels. It tastes as good as when we first made it over 20 years ago.”
Reserve Bourbon County Stout: “The same base recipe as BCBS, but this beer is aged in 12-year-old ‘Elijah Craig Barrel Proof’ bourbon barrels. The bourbon from those barrels was awarded 2017 ‘Whisky of the Year’ by Whisky Advocate, the top honor in the world of international whiskey. Reserve is intended to showcase the nuances of a premium single source and highly sought-after bourbon.”
Photo: Goose Island Beer Co.
Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout: “This year’s Proprietor’s explores the broad spectrum of chocolate. Using a combination of dark chocolate and two types of cocoa nibs, this rich and decadent beer highlights the whole range of chocolate from smooth and silky milk chocolate flavors to deep and earthy dark chocolate. It’s only available in Chicago.”
Bourbon County Wheatwine: “Made from two-row and malted wheat, Bourbon County Brand Wheatwine makes its debut. As the first recipe to veer from the original Imperial Stout since Barleywine in 2013, Wheatwine displays a deep amber color, lighter than its counterparts, and acts as a true medium to convey the characteristics of our 4-year-old-plus Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels. Wheatwine overflows with flavors of caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, and toffee.”
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Bourbon County Vanilla Stout: “This longtime favorite makes a long-awaited return to the Bourbon County roster. Utilizing whole, grade A vanilla beans from Madagascar, Vanilla delivers on all the quintessential things fans love about this variant: aromatic vanilla, marshmallow, toffee, oak, and floral notes, highlighting the creamy mouthfeel and enhancing the chocolate flavors that are ingrained in BCBS.”
Bourbon County Bramble Rye Stout: “For this variant, we aged Bourbon County Stout in rye whiskey barrels, then added raspberry and blackberry juice and puree from Michigan and Washington. The process resulted in complex jammy fruit notes that are prominent but well-integrated with the caramel and chocolate flavors of the beer and spicy rye character from the barrels.”
Bourbon County Coffee Barleywine: “Working with our friends at Intelligentsia, we flew down to Guatemala to source some of the world’s best coffee to use in the first-ever release of Coffee Barleywine. A malt-forward English-style Barleywine, the beer aged in 4-year-old-plus Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels before we added La Soledad coffee beans right before packaging to impart a bold coffee aroma and flavor.”
Bourbon County Midnight Orange Stout: “Brewer Oscar and quality analyst Paul created the concept for this new variant of BCBS. The result? Midnight Orange. They combined two things we love, orange and chocolate, taking Bourbon County into a new and exciting direction. While the chocolate compliments the Bourbon County base, the orange zest offers a point of contrast for a bold new flavor profile to delight Bourbon County fans and newcomers alike. With dual inspiration from a favorite childhood treat and an exquisite Mexican Mocha, the bright orange aroma from fresh Spanish orange peel leads into a rich cocoa flavor.”
Beer On Black Friday
If you aren’t able to get tickets for Proprietor’s Day, you can still get your hands on these coveted beers, but you better show up early. And by early, we mean days early. “In past years, people have been known to show up to Binny’s Lincoln Park (official Black Friday store) as early as two days before Black Friday,” says Jankoski. “Some start arriving on Thanksgiving after dinner. Most people start to show up early in the morning on Black Friday closer to 4 to 5 am.”
All variants will be nationally distributed with the exception of Reserve and Proprietor’s. Reserve will be distributed in Chicago, New York, Kentucky, and the company’s Philly Brewhouse (where it will only be available for on-site consumption). Proprietor’s will be available in Chicago only.
If you’re planning to brave the elements to get this year’s Bourbon County releases, Jankoski encourages everyone to dress appropriately. “Bring hand warmers, blankets, and copious amounts of coffee. Feel free to bring chairs,” he says. If you go to Binny’s Lincoln Park, Goose Island and Intelligentsia Coffee have been known to give attendees coffee and snacks to help them get through the morning. But remember that absolutely no drinking is allowed in Black Friday lines. You’ll have to wait until you get home to crack open one of these tasty brews.