Goose Island Just Unveiled Plans for This Year's Bourbon County Stout

Bourbon County Stout is coming out on Black Friday like it does every year. What it doesn't do is have variants like these.

goose island 2020
Courtesy of Goose Island
Courtesy of Goose Island

Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout is a significant beer in the history of craft beer. It lays claim to being the earliest bourbon barrel-aged beer. Despite being one of the first dominoes to fall as big beer began purchasing craft breweries, BCS has remained a seasonal release that lots of drinkers get excited about.

The release has changed a bit in recent years, following the acquisition by Anheuser-Busch InBev. There's more available, more accessible variants, more hoopla, and $55 special releases that emulate that "hard to get" feel it once had. Nonetheless, it has maintained a high standard that still gets some people to wait in line for it, even though that's no longer necessary. 

This year's release marks the 10th anniversary of Goose Island's tradition of relating Bourbon County Stout on Black Friday. That will fall on November 27 this year, a date when the brewery will introduce seven variants of the popular Imperial Stout.

"This year’s Bourbon County Stout lineup includes some of the most exciting flavor combinations yet, brought forth by Goose employees and backed by personal inspiration – such as this year’s Bourbon County Proprietor’s, brewed by an Italian-American brewer for her love of spumoni, an Italian frozen treat," said ​Keith Gabbett, Goose Island Brewmaster. "With each sip of BCS, we want fans to be taken on a journey through flavor profiles and nuances that are thought-provoking and truly unique."

The 2020 variants include barrels from Weller, Larceny, and Old Forester. Here's a look at what you can expect to see when this year's batch becomes available. 

Bourbon County Brand Stout
The original, aged for a year in a mix of barrels from distilleries that include Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, and Wild Turkey. 

Bourbon County Kentucky Fog Stout
This is Goose Island's first "tea-inspired variant." It's a take on London Fog using Earl Grey and Black Tea from Kilogram Tea, as well as clover honey.

Bourbon County Special #4 Stout
This variant is an oatmeal stout aged in bourbon barrels. The beer gets a hit of Intelligentsia Coffee after the aging has completed, as well as some bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup. 

Bourbon County Caramella Ale
Caramella Ale is a wheatwine aged in Larceny Wheated Bourbon barrels with apple, cinnamon, and caramel flavor. Caramella is Italian for candy, and the name seems appropriate since there's a serious caramel apple vibe to the recipe. "The aroma leans heavily into sweet caramel and cinnamon spice, while the taste comes in to show off the bourbon-soaked Larceny casks and red apple notes, reminiscent of a bold apple brandy," says Goose Island Lab Tech Joey Tidei, who developed Caramella Ale. 

Proprietor's Bourbon County Stout
Goose Island says this year's Proprietor's Stout was "inspired by third-generation Italian American brewer Emily Kosmal's love of spumoni." The beer is blended with pistachios, cacao nibs, vanilla flavors, and candied Amarena cherries. This release gives Kosmal a unique distinction as the first Goose Island brewer to have two Proprietor's recipes selected for release.

Birthday Bourbon County Stout
They're calling this a "truly unique variation," though it has little to do with cake if you're reading too deep into the "Birthday" part of the title. This stout is the result of a partnership with Old Forester. It was aged in Old Forester Birthday Bourbon barrels, mixing with the sought-after bourbon. Old Forester's tasting notes on the bourbon: "Rich oak spice and black currant coupled with light maple, caramel cake, and white floral notes."

Anniversary Bourbon County Stout
This last variant was aged two years in Weller 12-Year barrels as a celebration of Goose Island's "10-year tradition of releasing Bourbon County Stout on Black Friday." Expect this one to have strong barrel flavors between the 12-year Weller and sitting for an extra year before bottling.

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Dustin Nelson is a Senior Staff Writer at Thrillist. Follow him @dlukenelson.