What Are the Variants of Bourbon County Stout?
The Original Bourbon County Stout
The original has been brewed since 1992 (maybe). The stout is aged in 4-year-old Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels. If you’re tasting BCS for the first time this year, this is the obvious place to get your feet wet.
Reserve Bourbon County Stout
The recipe for Reserve is the same as the Original. However, instead of hitting Heaven Hill barrels, it’s going in those 12-year-old Elijah Craig Barrel Proof barrels. That whisky that was in the barrels before BCS wound up winning Whisky Advocate's 2017 "Whisky of the Year."
Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout
This year’s Chicago-exclusive is exploring “the broad spectrum of chocolate.” BCS is already a sweet, rich beer. The addition of dark chocolate and a couple types of cocoa nibs makes it even more so.
Bourbon County Brand Wheatwine
This is a brand new addition to the BCS lineup. It’s the first time a BCS recipe has strayed from the classic Imperial Stout recipe since Goose Island did a Barleywine variant in 2013. Opposed to the jet-black look of the other beers in the lineup, this is more of an amber and has a little lighter profile, taking on more characteristics from the Heaven Hill barrels.
Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout
This variant has been released previously and is coming back this year. The variant uses real vanilla beans and has a rich aroma and flavor without overpowering everything you like about the drink.
Bourbon County Brand Bramble Rye Stout
This returning variant is something a little outside the norm. The beer was aged in rye whiskey barrels with raspberry and blackberry juice and puree.
Bourbon County Brand Coffee Barleywine
Goose Island partnered with Intelligentsia coffee for this one, and says it’s “the first-ever Coffee Barleywine.” It’s an English-style Barleywine aged in Heaven Hill barrels before it gets an addition of La Soledad coffee beans from Guatemala just before it’s packaged. "Going to Guatemala and sourcing coffee beans, that's kind of high level. I don't know if anyone else is doing that," Jankoski said. "Certainly, you can make a great coffee beer without going to Guatemala. But what's cool is we connect to the culture and we connect to the raw materials and the ingredients we use in the beer."
Bourbon County Brand Midnight Orange Stout
This one feels like a boozy play on a classic (and occasionally reviled) Christmas treat. It’s BCS with orange and cholate, giving it a totally different feel than its less zesty counterparts.
The variants are good -- the Vanilla Stout and the Reserve are damn fine -- but if you're new to the style, it's absolutely worth starting right at the beginning with the Original. Jankoski probably explains why best. "The only other thing I would say is a little arrogant, I guess," he says. "I do feel it's without equal. There are some good [barrel-aged stouts] out there, but Bourbon County, with its depth and body, it really is a special beer."