Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Goose Island Beer Co. - Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale

Goose Island's expansion has been good to us here in California. Beers that were nearly impossible to come across before (The Four Sisters series and the Bourbon County Brand series, specifically) showed up in numbers on our shelves late last year. Bourbon County Brand Stout and its ever changing offspring are in pretty high demand in places that see regular distribution of it, so factor in that California hadn't seen distribution of the stuff for three years and you pretty much have the beer world equivalent of throwing a bunch of One Direction tickets into a mob of teenage girls. Fittingly, these beers hit shelves on Black Friday, so people were already in the mood to taze anything standing in the way of what they wanted to buy. This year brought three new beers in the series (Proprietor's, Backyard Rye and Bourbon County Barleywine), so that didn't really help. Somehow, it's a few months since the fracas and I've emerged un-shanked and with a few bottles of the three versions that were semi-attainable in San Diego, Bourbon County Brand Stout, Coffee and Barleywine. Time to check out the barleywine. At #28, Bourbon County Brand Barleywine.

Bourbon County Brand Barleywine pours a rich chestnut color that pretty much becomes black once it all settles into the glass. The head is a moderate 1/2 finger khaki colored cap and leaves pretty minimal lace. The smell is where things pick up, with a nice barrel character coming through immediately. There's a bit of a mustiness in here with some nice bourbon notes, toffee, caramel, dark chocolate covered cherries, light ash, some coconut and a touch of brown sugar. Not bad, Goose Island. Not bad at all.

The first thing I noticed when I took a sip of this beer was how silky smooth it was. The mouthfeel is just incredible. Flavors of toffee, vanilla and milk chocolate slide over the palate first. The middle brings a pretty hearty oak backbone with some burnt raisin skins and a bit of smooth caramel. Things dry out a touch on the finish, and you get that slight prickle of bourbony heat on your tongue, along with some bittersweet cocoa notes. I loved this beer, but I think the hype train took it a little deeper in the Top 250 than it probably deserves to be. Is it a Top 200 beer? Definitely. Is it a Top 30 beer? Ehhhhh. It just doesn't have that harmony in the flavors that top notch barleywines like Sucaba and Mother of All Storms have. It does, however, show pretty nice aging potential, so I'll lay another one down for a while and see where it's at later.

Final Grade: A

Top 250 Beers Tasted: 129

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