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 

Advertisements

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

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.

Space-Obsessed Band Releases Album on a Beer Can

T.R.I.P. Beer Can

Aeronaut Brewing and The Lights Out present: Intergalaxyc T.R.I.P.

Bands and breweries have produced beers together many times before—Crooked Stave recently released Damn! IPA and Totem Wild Ale with the Motet; U.K.-based brewer, Camerons teamed up with the remaining members of Motorhead to release an American-style pale ale, Road Crew; Unibroue, world brewer from Quebec, partnered with Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine to release A Tout Le Monde, a Belgian-style saison brewed in honor of Mustaine’s 55th birthday; and Champion Brewing of Charlottesville, Virginia has long partnered with punk bands for beers like their Black Me Stout with Against Me! .

But for the first time, a brewery and band have partnered to release an album on a beer—and the story only gets weirder from there.  Continue reading

3 Brooklyn Beers Make Men’s Journal ‘Best Beers in the World’

It’s always fun to read “best beers” lists, but it’s especially exciting to see your own local breweries floating to the top of beer media’s best picks from around the globe.  In this year’s 100 Best Beers in the World from Men’s Journal, three beers from New York City-based brewers made it to the list of the world’s finest, and all three of them were from Brooklyn. Continue reading

Boston Beerdos: Big Hapi, a Beer for Big Papi, Available Today Only at Sam Adams Brewery

For you baseball fans and beer weirdos out there, listen up: Sam Adams is releasing a beer at their brewery in Boston today—and today only—dedicated to Boston baseball hero, Big Papi (formerly known as David Ortiz).

The beer is called Big Hapi (get it?!) and it’s a double IPA packed with lots of hops and lots of juice (mango, to be exact). There are only 541 cans being released—one for each of Big Papi’s home runs, because he’s a beast—and the proceeds will go to the David Ortiz Children’s Fund, because he’s also apparently awesome. Big Papi loves his children.

Get the deets in my latest article on MensJournal.com >

Sam Adams is Releasing a Super Limited Beer Honoring Red Sox’s David Ortiz