Goose Island Bourbon Country Stout: Too Much of a Good Thing

Bourbon isn’t just a delicious distilled spirit, it’s also the booze that keeps on giving.  This whiskey is aged in charred oak barrels that are then recycled to age a variety of other libations.  Some scotch is aged in bourbon barrels and this process has spread to the beer making world.  There are a rapidly increasing number of beers that use bourbon casks as part of their coming of age.  As someone who has taken a liking to the South’s finest distilled product relatively recently, I had been wanting to try some to see if the character of the oak and the whiskey really comes through.  A fortuitous gift of Goose Island’s Bourbon Country Stout made this desire a reality.

I haven’t written too many reviews about wild card beers.  Other than a Leinenkugel disaster that has sworn me off of that label for eternity, most of the beers I’ve reviewed were selections I’d made with the assumption that I’d fully enjoy or at least find the contents passable.  Since this bottle of Bourbon Country was a blind gift, this was my first shot at reviewing a beer I didn’t select for myself.  That brought some mystery to the process, and I’d certainly like to do more reviews that way.  Maybe this is just a subtle way of begging for beer gifts, but it did make this review more of an adventure.



I cracked the bottle of Bourbon Country as my first beer of the night in a social setting.  It pours a thick, pitch black with the apparent viscosity of melted chocolate.  Ok, maybe it’s not quite that gooey, but it seems thick.  I normally sample the nose by taking a deep whiff once I’ve finished the pour, but the aroma hit me as soon as the beer started cascading into the glass.  Booze and oak filled my nostrils and stayed there.  There isn’t just a hint of bourbon in the nose, it smells like a malty, earthy blend of beer and whiskey.  Bourbon is a very sweet whiskey, and combined with the roasty malt, it made for quite the olfactory experience.  The coffee ice cream colored head was abundant and persistent.  With the super thick head atop beer as black as night, it almost looked like a glass of espresso with copious frothed milk.

The first sip was a blast of bold flavor notes all tumbled together like a bar fight.  Coffee.  Chocolate.  WHISKEY.  Again, there was no subtlety to bourbon’s contribution to the brew.  Bourbon stomps all over your tongue like a sweet-footed Sasquatch.  Mouthfeel was thick and slippery, as was expected when I observed the apparent thickness of the beer while pouring.  The ulta-high alcohol content (15% abv) brings a serious burn to the tongue that persists down the throat and into the belly.  If you don’t like drinking hard liquor, you may find this unpleasant.  As a whiskey drinker, I found it pleasant and a much needed balance to the sweetness of the malt and the bourbon.  There was little to no hop bitterness here, the sizzle was all provided by ethanol.

jekyll-hyde-243x304This stout is all about being bold and brazen.  It makes not apologies for treating your mouth like its bitch.  At first, I was enjoying the way it ran rampant over my palate.  After a while, unfortunately, it transformed from Dr. Jeckyll to and into a malty version of Mr. Hyde.  Once about half of it was gone, it started to become a challenge to continue.  It didn’t seem overly sweet at first, but the cumulative effect of bourbon cut with malt started to coat my mouth and I needed to intersperse further sips with those of cold water.  As my enthusiasm for the brew began to wane, the pace at which it was consumed began to slow.  This led to a gradual warming of the glass and its contents.  Normally, stout is meant to be chilled and not cold, but with every fraction of a degree it got closer to room temperature, it became more and more difficult to drink.  I engaged Man Mode to continue powering through it, but the last 4 ounces were certainly unpleasant.  I would only consider drinking this again if it came in a smaller serving.  Eight ounces would be more than enough.

So there it is, the good, bad and ugly.  I loved it at first but was glad to be done when I got close enough to the bottom to surrender and seek something more crisp and bitter from the beer fridge.  I’m certainly glad I put in the effort and am very grateful to the supplier.  For better or worse, this stout was certainly a challenge I’m glad I undertook.


~ by schlippo on March 24, 2014.

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