The night we drank all the Bourbon County


They called it the Bourbon County Stout tasting to end all Bourbon County Stout tastings. Well, maybe I just called it that because the lineup was phenomenal. If you like Goose Islands sometimes elusive, always amazing Bourbon County Brand Stout, abbreviated affectionately by beer dorks everywhere as BCBS, or BCBCS or BCBVS or well, you get the idea. Then this tasting is one you might dream about.

We didn’t end up tasting every Bourbon County Stout and variant ever created, but it was damn close and there were some ‘custom’ variants and desserts to offset whatever might have been missing. Here was how things went down.

The first blind wave…

To start, we had four different Bourbon County vintages put in front of us. We didn’t know what years would be represented, but were told that the 2006 and the 2012 were part of the mix. What ended up happening though is we were lied to. It’s true that the 06 and 12 were in front of us, as well as the 2009. What we didn’t know was that Bourbon County Rare had been substituted as the fourth blind competitor. I’m not going to lie, I gravitated towards the Rare right away. Of the four glasses it was the one I couldn’t stop drinking. So, naturally I thought it had to be the 2006 vintage.

I ranked them blind this way.bc3
1) Bourbon County Rare
2) 2006 Bourbon County
3) 2012 Bourbon County
4) 2009 Bourbon County

Among our group, this is how it shook out.

1) Rare – 8 1st place, 4 2nd place
2) 2012 – 4 1st place, 7 2nd place
3) 2006 – 1 1st place, 2 2nd place
4) 2009 – lots of last places…

What can we learn from this blind tasting? Well, first off, Rare is still badass and even though a couple people didn’t rank it #1 or even #2. The 2012 batch, which many have said is as good fresh as any in the past, is tasting fantastic still about 7 months since bottling, and the 06′ is decent, although most agreed is past its prime. Also, the 2009 was weird, it had a bit of an acidic taste in my opinion. Either it’s at an awkward stage or just wasn’t a great batch.

We didn’t go blind with the rest of the BCBS stuff, but here are my personal tasting rankings for the other stuff we tried, along with the blind beers.

1) Bourbon County Vanilla (2010): This was my first Vanilla taste and it didn’t let me down at all. Not only does it smell amazing still, but the vanilla finish is simply fantastic.

Recommendation: Trade for it like a madman!

2) Bourbon County Rare: Like I said before, still a badass beer and almost a 1a ranking for me. It’s still plenty boozy with just enough of those Pappy barrels tingling on the tongue.

Recommendation: Trade for it like a madman!

3) Bourbon County Cherry Rye: The most recent BC variant in our tasting really surprised me this time. I’d had it before and enjoyed it, but didn’t feel the need to go out of my way to acquire more. bc2But now I just might. The cherry is toned down just a tad and isn’t cloying whatsoever. If you don’t like cherry, it doesn’t matter, this is a great beer.

Recommendation: Get your hands on a bottle.

4) Bourbon County Stout (2010 / 2006 / 2011): I’m grouping these together because they were all excellent and it would be tough to rank one ahead of the other. The 06′ wasn’t a favorite for many when tasted blind, but I found it mellow, smooth and really tasty. The 2010 and 11′ were both fantastic and just about in their prime in my opinion. I don’t know the ideal age for BCBS, but if I had a gun to my head I would say two years.

Recommendation: Drink the 06 now. Drink the 2010 now and sit on the 2011 a little longer if you have the patience.

5) Bourbon County Stout Coffee (2012): This years Coffee version still tastes really really good. The Intellgentsia Coffee or maybe it’s still just fresh enough but I really loved it. I had another bottle back in December though and there was more coffee present, so as you might expect, the fade is on.

Recommendation: Drink it if you have it as soon as possible.

The rest of what we tried, with minimal notes. (Sorry, it was a lot)

Bourbon County Stout 2012: It’s only 7 months old, but it really might end up being one of the best batches ever. I can’t wait to try this again at the one year mark, and the two year mark.

Recommendation: Hoard it.

Bourbon County Stout 2007, 2008: These two were very close for me. Neither was particularly offensive, but neither stood out enough to rank them any higher.

Recommendation: Trade it.

Bourbon County Coffee (2010): I was really surprised to still get a solid coffee flavor when tasting this one. If I was drinking it along I’d probably rate it higher, but next to the 2012 it wasn’t as good.

Recommendation: Drink it now.

bc1smallBourbon County Bramble Rye: It’s been compared to Bourbon County plus Robitussin by many and it’s still not difficult to see why this was one of the least popular BC variants. It still has heavy raspberry and blackberry flavors, but the rye whiskey barrel is almost non-existent to me at this point.

Recommendation: Trade it.

We also got to try Bourbon County Stout aged in a coconut for three days, which was better than you might think, and BC with peanut and chocolate, which I hope becomes an official variant in the future.

My recipe for Bourbon County cupcakes was utilized, and there were three types of Bourbon County Ice Cream on hand as well.

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