The 2017 Goose Island Bourbon County Stouts, Ranked

Sometimes, being a beer writer—or even drinker—takes you to some pretty decadent places. Such was the case for me last Tuesday when, in an effort to reschedule a Bourbon County tasting due to conflicting dinner plans (those dinner plans involving Garrett Oliver and the very talented team at a new restaurant called Gloria), I walked into Maysville half an hour before the scheduled media tasting hoping to steal a few quick sips of this year’s six variants.

Instead, what I was greeted with was this: my own separate table in the rear of the restaurant, with each of the six variants lined up and poured, room-temp and ready for my inquisitive lips. Not only that, but Goose Island brewmaster, Jared Jankoski took a seat next to me on my left (with communications manager of ABI’s High End division, Lisa Derus on my right) to graciously lead me through my own private tasting.

Goose Island Bourbon County 2017 Lineup

An embarrassment of riches: a personal tasting of Goose Island’s 2017 Bourbon County lineup.

 

Bourbon County Brand Stouts & Barleywine – 2017 Variants

To preserve this memory and keep things interesting, I’ve ranked the six variants of Goose Island Bourbon County Brand stouts and barleywine from my least to most favorite. This is based on my notes and memory. Admittedly, both are limited.

The biggest takeaway for 2017 from a production standpoint is the bourbon barrels, which, for the first time, were all first-use, freshly dumped and four years or older. On the shelves, the standout will be this year’s big focus on dessert-like, fruit-forward recipes, with both the national and Proprietor’s variants featuring fruit and almond extracts.

6.  Goose Island Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout (Banana, Almond and Cassia Bark)

Don’t get me wrong: this is a delicious dessert of a beer, especially—and maybe only—if bananas foster is your thing. I’m not a big banana fan, or almond fan for that matter. Baked banana comes on strong, with warm, nutty flavors from the roasted almond extract sneaking in subtly, then sticking around. Meanwhile, the cassia bark brings in a cinnamon kick, tickling the nose and tongue as it marries the chocolate, nut, wood and roast notes with its pungent spice.

5. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Northwoods Stout (National Variant: Blueberry and Almond)

Aroma plays a big role on this one, with a big, warm waft of blueberry pie and then burst of marzipan hitting you with your first and second sniffs. About mid-sip, those berry, sugary almond notes meld with the barrel and dark chocolate roast of the malt to create a truly badass bourbon-laced brew.

Northwoods has become Jared’s pride and joy, and it’s easy to see why. After kicking around the idea for this beer, playing with flavor additions of blueberry juice and almond extract,  he and his team clearly put the time in carefully, chemically getting this one just right.

4. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale

The Barleywine is admittedly delicious, with the high gravity fermentation and lighter malt bill allowing for a fruity, less intense Bourbon County experience. Tasting it on Tuesday, I thought of the lighter, fruitier, more acidic qualities of Third Wave coffees, as opposed to the stout’s big, bold, dark chocolatey, roasty flavors.

There’s no coffee in this barleywine, but tasting it after the BCB Coffee Stout, I found myself wishing there was. Jared did say the barleywine has been put through a Randle with coffee beans in the past, which I will dutifully experiment with at home as soon as possible.

(I already have my coffee picked out: Wartega’s Whiskey Barrel Aged Kenya Bold.)

3. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout

Who doesn’t love a coffee stout? Espresso hits you quick with this year’s variant, with a big, roasty nose reminiscent of the First Wave (think dark chocolate and bitter roast, versus today’s tendency toward single-origin fruit- and acidity-forward coffee flavors).  Appropriately, Goose Island returned to their first coffee of choice this year,  using Inteligentsia’s Black Cat which was used in the original Bourbon County Coffee Stout. It finishes with an almost salted caramel flavor, likely due to the bourbon barrel.

2. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout

There’s nothing like the original. Big, boozy, chocolatey notes swirl among bourbon heat and sweetness, with the roasty character and thick, syrupy body of the malt balancing things out. Sticky, supple and self-indulgent, this is the stout from whence all barrel-aged stouts came, and you must respect it.

1. Goose Island Reserve Bourbon County Brand Stout

…That being said, bring more bourbon into the equation, and I’m even more in. For the Reserve, original Bourbon County Stout was aged in 11-year-old Knob Creek bourbon barrels. The special bourbon barrel-aging imparts a whiskey-like heat that you just don’t get from the original. Adding to that aged wood character is a slightly sweet touch of maple, creating a Knob Creek illusion that’s right up my alley.

Along with sitting down with Jared Jankoski and head brewer of R&D, Quinn Fuechsl (who’s responsible for this year’s Proprietor’s Stout), I was also able to briefly meet Fred Noe, Knob Creek’s master distiller. I have a feeling he’s quite a character.

Goose Island Bourbon County 2017 Tasting 1

Jared Jankoski, Fred Noe and Quinn Fuechsl at the Goose Island Bourbon County media tasting at Maysville on November 7, 2017.

Cheers,

Beer Affair

Further reading:

Goose Island Reveals Seven (Seven!) Bourbon County Variants for 2017 – Men’s Journal 

Goose Island Removes Bourbon County Barleywine Reserve From Release Schedule – Men’s Journal 

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Hardship and Homebrew: ‘Beerland’ Season Two Tackles Race, Disability, and Other Challenging Themes (With Beer)

I recently had the chance to, once again, interview Meg Gill, co-founder and president of Golden Road Brewing and star of Beerland, a television show on Viceland that follows Gill’s travels across the country as she meets some of the nation’s most interesting, unusual and fervid homebrewers.

After a successful debut last spring, Beerland has been renewed for a second season, and its five episodes tackle a  cornucopia of themes just in time for fun family discussions during the holidays: among them, race, immigration, poverty, disability, illness, and the call to utilize one’s talents and capabilities to better the larger community.

Beerland’s Season 2 Cast Members Include:

Mark Beerland Season 2

Mark, a man diagnosed with ALS and “frankly brilliant” brewer who has beer volunteers helping him brew to stay alive.

Adrian + Sean Beerland Season 2

Adrian and Sean, a biracial son and his white father working together to reignite the arts in their Detroit community by funding a nonprofit gallery with their beer sales.

Miki Beerland Season 2

Miki, a Japanese woman who brings her food, culture and homeland-inspired homebrews to an almost entirely white, suburban Alabama town.

Willy Bob Beerland Season 2

Willy Bob, an art therapist brewing beer to raise money for art supplies as he works with disabled adults living in government housing.

Meg Candid with FL Beerland Season 2
And a group of brewers in Florida who divide their time between lifeguarding, EMS, and in the case of Episode 4, disaster relief in the face of Hurricane Irma.

Some Final Thoughts on ‘Beerland’ Season 2

Although I haven’t seen any episodes yet, I have high hopes for this season. First, it promises to weave a heightened sense of purpose into an otherwise lighthearted premise; while season one followed a foulmouthed female brewer hanging out and drinking/critiquing beers with a bunch of beer makers, season two is a call to action to homebrewers to brew for a higher purpose than quenching their physical and creative thirsts.

Secondly, say what you will about the show’s casting this season, but in our current political climate, I see it as a step in the right direction. For a show made possible by the world’s largest and richest brewer (this show is only possible because Gill sold her brewery to Anheuser-Busch InBev a few years ago, freeing up her time and her budget), to acknowledge and blatantly put the spotlight on such importantly underrepresented populations is a bold move, even if it is for Vice.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Season 2 stories, read my exclusive interview with Meg Gill on MensJournal.com. 

Exclusive: Viceland Renews ‘Beerland’ For a Second Season (Watch Trailer)

Meg Gill Beerland Season 2

Cheers,
Beer Affair

Was the ‘Take Craft Back’ Campaign a Bad Move for the BA?

Thoughts on: Brewers Association Launches ‘Take Craft Back’ Campaign to Buy ABI, published Oct. 17, 2017 on MensJournal.com.

Take Craft Back

Last week, the Brewers Association launched Take Craft Back, a “tongue-in-cheek” campaign crowdsourcing imaginary funds in the amount of $213 billion from craft brewers and consumers. The goal? To foot the bill for a weighty purchase: buying out Anheuser-Busch InBev, or ABI, the world’s largest brewing behemoth.

Why? Because ABI has systematically purchased a total of 10 formerly independent craft breweries in the past several years, which allegedly bumps “real” craft brewers off the shelves, out of hop fields and clear out of the minds of beer consumers who aren’t educated enough to make the right choice when faced with corporate versus independent brands at the bar or in the supermarket.

Beer-Brained Idea?

Did the campaign have good intentions? Yes. Absolutely. The BA works their asses off standing up for small and independent brewers around the country, and I respect them for it. In fact, I often cover their successes in beer politics, share and review their Brewers Publications book releases, and reach out to their leaders when I think a story could use their expertise. Take Craft Back is one of the many ways they are both showing and garnering support for the small beer community and I commend that.

But, there was some backlash. Although many of the brewers we love shared the news and contributed to the campaign—and, apparently, upwards of 8,000 people have “donated” (no real money was exchanged, but pledgers are sent some swag for their support)—other industry members were not so tickled. I’ll be the first to admit I laughed at the video, but I too was confused about what I was looking at.

Criticisms of the Campaign

Beer writers in my extended network reacted the most negatively out of anyone, really, and not necessarily to a fault. While the campaign, at best, is obviously a lighthearted attempt to get more eyes on the BA’s goals and convince more people to take the side of the small and independent brewers who work so hard to bring us great beer, the campaign is also bewildering, divisive, and quite frankly, petty. At it’s worst, it’s being criticized as childish, embarrassing, and a misguided use of resources.

I, as always, can appreciate both sides. However, I do agree that there are more effective (and certainly, more distinguished) ways to educate the public about the differences between independently brewed and macro-brewed beer. Although ABI hasn’t issued an official response yet, I imagine they’re laughing their way to the bank, and that the bank is the only institution that will ever touch those $213 billion.

Here’s my coverage of the Take Craft Back campaign for Men’s Journal. 

Cheers,
BeerAffair

BA Launches ‘Take Craft Back’ Campaign to ‘Buy AB InBev’

Today, the Brewers Association launched a crowdfunding campaign to “Take Craft Back” (#takecraftback), purporting to crowdsource the funds necessary to buy Anheuser-Busch InBev: $213 billion dollars.

The announcement came with a campaign video that is equal parts “LOL” and “WTF?”:

In it, “not-yet-superstar, Andy” leads the tongue-in-cheek charge of craft beer brewers and enthusiasts in the fight against Big Beer, which, in AB InBev’s case, has bought up 10 formerly independent breweries in recent years.

Is it a hoax? Yes. I’ve contacted the BA to confirm that it is, in fact, a humorous campaign designed to draw attention to Big Beer’s broadening grip on the “craft” industry, as it buys out formerly small and independent brands and thus, according the the BA, limits and confuses consumer choice.

This, as always, turns our attention to the meaning of “craft” and whether or not that definition matters in a changing marketplace. Whatever the case, pledgers get some pretty sweet swag.

Learn more about the Brewers Association’s Take Craft Back campaign at takecraftback.com

Cheers,
Beer Affair

New York Brewers Define Craft Beer at BCTC 2017

Passion.

Community.

Creativity.

Freedom.

Such are the words used by brewers and their representatives at Belgium Comes to Cooperstown (BCTC), Brewery Ommegang’s annual beer festival that took place this year August 4-5, when asked the question: What does craft beer mean to you?

In the process of making this video, it became clear right away that even when put on the spot, brewers know exactly what craft beer means to them. Read a transcription of their answers below.

“Craft beer means a dedication to what you’re doing and a certain knowledge and skill level. I’ve worked in all different sized breweries…I firmly believe there’s craft in every size. I’ve met some of the best, smartest people in larger breweries. The common thread is passion for beer and making as high quality beer as you can.”

—Phil Leinhart, Brewery Ommegang brewmaster

Phil Leinhart was not available at the time of filming; we called him up afterwards so he could weigh in. 

What Is Craft Beer?

“Craft beer is love. It’s care. It’s quality…There’s no boxes. There’s no limits. There’s no, ‘you can’t do this,’ ‘you can’t do that.’” – Scott Luposello, Brewer’s Apprentice and Taproom Manager, Clemson Bros. Brewery, Middletown, NY

“Craft beer, to me, means a lot of pride from where you come from.” – Noreen Lanasa, Bartender,Oyster Bay Brewing Company, Oyster Bay, NY

“I was just so inspired by craft beer that I dropped out of college…it’s my life now, so it means everything.” – Austin Partridge,Red Shed AleRochester, NY

“It’s a lifestyle. I make it and I drink it, every day.” – Kevin Van Blarcun, Brewer,Red Shed Ales, Kingston, NY

“Good people. Good drink. Good times.” – Jamal Robinson, Director of Sales, Stony Creek Brewery, Branford, CT
“You really find, when you’re in it, it’s just this community.” – Richard Rogers, Brewer, Roscoe Beer Co., Roscoe, NY

“Really, it’s people creating things that they’re passionate about and interested in…It’s keepin’ it real.” – Tony Bellis, Co-founder and Brew Commander, Kings County Brewers Collective, Brooklyn, NY
“For the customer. Full of soul.” – Colin Herzog, Brewer, Flying Bison Brewing Co., Buffalo, NY

“Individuality, freedom of expression, stickin’ it to the man.” – Randy Schull, Packaging Manager, Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.Elmsford, NY

“Freedom.” – Vincent Somoggi, Customer Safety Representative, Flying Bison Brewing Co., Buffalo, NY

“Independence and freedom, my friend.” – Jaye Beattie, Co-founder/Vice President, Four Mile Brewing , Olean, NY

“It’s creativity, it’s freshness.” – Kelly Taylor, KelSo Beer Co., Brooklyn, NY

“It’s about beer being at the cultural center of everything that’s creative.” – Gabe Barry, Beer Education and Community Ambassador, Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn, NY

Thank you to those who participated: Scott Luposello, Clemson Bros. Brewery; Noreen Lanasa, Oyster Bay Brewing Company; Austin Partridge, Red Shed Ale; Kevin Van Blarcun, Keegan Ales; Jamal Robinson, Stony Creek Brewery; Richard Rogers, Roscoe Beer Co.; Tony Bellis, Kings County Brewers Collective; Colin Herzog, Flying Bison Brewing Co.; Randy Schull, Captain Lawrence Brewing Co.; Vincent Somoggi, Flying Bison Brewing Co.; Jaye Beattie, Four Mile Brewing; Kelly Taylor, KelSo Beer Co.; Gabe Barry, Brooklyn Brewery.

Almost no global corporations were named in the making of this video.

Produced by Beer Affair.

Sasions Are Still Cool, So Start Drinking Them

April 8 was Saison Day, a beer holiday created several years ago by Allagash as an ode to the Belgian-style farmhouse ale. As expert brewers of the stuff (you may have heard of their eponymous Allagash Saison), when Allagash says it’s Saison Day, we listen.

I remember when I started drinking saisons and was thrilled about the “new” beer style I was beginning to like. Soon, I grew confused: every saison I tasted seemed completely different from the next, with one dry and peppery, another fruity and sweet, and the next a bit spicy with hints of lemon.

And thus is the beauty of saisons: they are, at their core, seasonal —“saison” being the French word for season—and are inherently varied, each an embodiment of a time and place.

10 American Saisons to Drink Right Now

When I was tasked with planning out this recent feature for MensJournal.com (eventually headlined, “10 American Saisons to Drink Right Now”), I realized how much I like saisons and how little press they’re getting. IPAs are still dominating the craft beer market, while saisons, ever the underdog, are left to where they’ve long been destined: in the dust.

I couldn’t let this beautiful beer style go unnoticed, so, I sat down to think long and hard about what to recommend to MensJournal.com’s national audiences (you can check out those recommendations right here).  But then I faced another problem: I was writing for a crowd craft beer drinkers that spans the country, and couldn’t shout out all of the local saisons I’m currently drinking, which are really good!

5 More Saisons to Drink Right Here in NYC

In addition to the recommendations I made for Men’s Journal that span super esoteric (looking at you, Arizona Wilderness/Other Half collab) to grocery store staples (hey, Hennepin), I thought I’d share a separate list over here with a few saisons that have been standbys for me in NYC.

Interboro Saisonnier

This is one of the first brews to debut from Interboro Spirits & Ales, a brewery and distillery (New York City’s first) that launched late last summer in Brooklyn’s East Williamsburg neighborhood. Saisonnier is a perfect appropriation of the saison style: bright gold, hazy, and a little bit hoppy, the farmhouse style ale is well suited for the urban palate. (PS: watch this video about Interboro Pat and I produced last summer!)

Threes Table Beer

Threes Brewing brought table beer to Brooklyn, or at least, gave it a name and made it cool. This purpose of this simple saison is to have it with food (on the table) and enjoy its fresh flavors of wheat and light bitterness without thinking about it too much, which is exactly what happens when you order one. Try it out sometime.

Transmitter S8

They may not be boasting about it, but Transmitter has been crafting excellent Belgian-style ales (in fact, almost exclusively excellent Belgian-style ales) since they started. One of my all-time favorites from them is the S8, a light and spicy rice saison brewed with pilsner malt and flaked/toasted rice, along with a liberal amount of “new school” German hops.

KCBC Sun Wizard

Kings County Brewers Collective came out the gate with a great portfolio of approachable ales. One the OGs was the Sun Wizard, a bright yellow saison with a fruity tang and citrus bite from El Dorado, Galaxy and Chinook hops. KCBC also recently released the Beggar’s Gold, a Belgian-style blonde ale. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but I hear good things. 

Folksbier Magdalena

Folksbier has quickly become one of my favorite breweries. Their beers are simple, clean, and solid German-inspired classics, ranging from roasty-yet-refreshing dark rye ales or Berliner weisses with fruit (check out the Glow Up series; each one is fermente with a different fruit, and they are all delicious). As pretty much sums up their style, Magdalena blends new school and old school hops, high quality malts and offers slightly sweet and biscuity flavors balanced with a crisp, dry finish.

 

SAISONS POUR TOUJOURS!

Cheers,
BeerAffair

The Best Brooklyn Beer Book Editions Ever Are Here

beer-book-13-cover

The 2017 Brokelyn Beer Book: Zone 1 (Above Atlantic Ave.)

beer-book-14-cover

The 2017 Brokelyn Beer Book: Zone 2 (Below Atlantic Ave.)

Every year since 2010, Brokelyn has published the Beer Book, a pocket guide and passport giving craft beer lovers 30 tickets to the best beers in the borough. Now available in two separate editions, one for upper Brooklyn and one for lower Brooklyn, the Brokelyn Beer Book is created with the dual purpose of making beer more accessible to Brooklyn’s budget-conscious beer lovers, as well as to support and promote the beer businesses that are creating the craft beer scene as we know it.

Without the bars, beer-conscious restaurants and, in more recent years, awesome small and independent breweries that participate in the Beer Book, we would not have the outstanding selection or flavorful variety of handcrafted, lovingly crafted beers—created with the curious, caring consumer in mind—that we have today.

Likewise, without Brooklyn’s beer drinkers, from the craft beer curious to the beer connoisseurs, the bars and breweries we now know and love would not have the opportunity to thrive.

queens_beer_book_2016_cover

The 2016 Queens Beer Book is also still available until April 2017.

As the Brokelyn Beer Book (or, as it is also referred to, the Brooklyn Beer Book, since Brokelyn now also publishes a Queens Beer Book, available until April 2017) enters its seventh year, with yours truly as current curator and copywriter, I ask that you take a minute to explore the new editions—both the Upper Brooklyn Beer Book and the Lower Brooklyn Beer Book—and to appreciate the 60 businesses who made the books possible this year. Without them, there would be no Beer Book.

And, I invite you to explore, especially, the new breweries included in the 2017 editions—like Interboro, KCBC, Lineup and Wartega—along with the updated mix of beer-slinging institutions and those who are newer to the scene. If you’re in the industry, or lucky enough to have regular access to craft brews without breaking open your piggy bank, consider buying the Beer Book as a gift for the thirsty and thrifty beer lover in your life.

Here’s to Brooklyn beers, and to a pair of Beer Books that are better than ever!

Cheers,
BeerAffair

 

 

Beer Industry Yikes: Sierra Nevada Recalls 8 Beer Brands due to Glass Injury Risk

In case you missed it, today’s beer industry “yikes”—after a quality inspection determined certain beers may have a “packaging flaw” involving broken glass—Sierra Nevada recalled all 12-ounce bottles of its Pale Ale, Nooner Pilsner, Beer Camp Golden IPA, Hop Hunter IPA, Torpedo Extra IPA, Tropical Torpedo IPA, Sidecar Orange Pale Ale, and Otra Vez bottled at its Mills River, North Carolina location between December 5, 2016 and January 13, 2017.

To be fair, Sierra Nevada reacted swiftly and thoroughly to the incident, and so far, no sliced throats have been reported. Read the rest on MensJournal.com.