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Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale - Goose Island Beer Co.

Not Rated.
Bourbon County Brand Barleywine AleBourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale

Educational use only; do not reuse.

471 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 471
Hads: 4,520
Avg: 4.5
pDev: 24.89%
Wants: 643
Gots: 2,088 | FT: 316
Brewed by:
Goose Island Beer Co. visit their website
Illinois, United States

Style | ABV
English Barleywine |  12.10% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: jplopez21 on 10-04-2013

Aged in the third-use barrels that were once home to Kentucky bourbon and then our renowned Bourbon County Stout, this traditional English-style barleywine possesses the subtlety of flavor that only comes from a barrel that’s gone through many seasons of ritual care. The intricacies of the previous barrel denizens – oak, charcoal, hints of tobacco and vanilla, and that signature bourbon heat – are all present in this beer. Hearty and complex, Bourbon County Brand Barleywine is a titan and a timeline; a bold, flavorful journey through the craft of barrel aging.
Beer: Reviews & Ratings
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Reviews: 471 | Hads: 4,520
Photo of nizzle8287
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bottled on 09/18/2014. Poured from the bottle into a snifter at 55F. It's dark, but when held up to the light, a nice ruby red shines through. I inverted the bottle before I poured, so there is some sediment. I love a big, unfiltered beer. About a finger of khaki head that goes away completely within a minute leaving about a mm wide ring around the edge of the glass with no lacing - *even the ring is gone after I finish my review*. On the nose there is raisin, caramel, plum, fig, and an almost cashew like smell lingering in the background. The most robust, complex smelling beer I've tried in a long time. And since it's over a year old (on top of 5 years of age at the brewery), there are no hops to speak of. To taste, chocolate shines through the most, then some ripe dark fruits (raisins, figs mostly) as if they've been soaking in some of the smoothest bourbon on the planet for a long, long time, followed up by a distinct oak aftertaste with a tiny bit of char at the end. Minutes after each sip, there's caramel left on the palette, which is very pleasing to me. It's relatively dry, and I would guess around 10% abv, but 12.3% abv has mellowed very nicely due to the years of age - mellowed to the point that it really only warms me from the inside. It's actually very smooth on the palate, not a whole lot of carbonation to speak of, but it's there, sort of brightening up and bringing out the flavor profile. Very, very good beer. For 22 bucks a 4 pack, it had better be good... Anyone hesitant to shell out the dough should take my advice: buy this beer. It's definitely the best barleywine I've ever tried, and probably in my top 3 favorites of all time.

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Photo of yesterdayfaraway
4.69/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

L: dark ruby red with no head
S: bourbon and sugar sweetness
T: mellow bourbon and very sweet. Man this is perfectly balanced. This is fantastic.
F: holy smooth. Not thick like a stout, but easy drinking and ultra smooth. Wow

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Photo of neurobot01
4.36/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle (2014 vintage) into a snifter at cellar temp. Tasted side-by-side with 2012 §ucaba.

Look: a hearty, viscous burnt orangeish brown; looks a lot like brandy.

Smell: my favorite part of this beer. Lots of fruity/jammy notes, basically to the exclusion of anything else, except for maybe a little pipe tobacco. Very reminiscent of brandy (without the heat).

Taste: more of the same—dark fruits, jammy berry, hints of super-dark chocolate, tobacco, brown sugar.

Feel: thick, and a bit undercarbonated. Impairs drinkability a bit.

Overall: first time trying this beer. I like the jammy/brandy profile. It's very good, but it's a little cloying and of a chore to drink, without the reward of incredible depths of complexity.

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Photo of Dustin_Sallitt
4.7/5  rDev +4.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

A 2014 bottle cellared for a year. The nose slams you with caramel, oak, and bourbon. Already can tell this is going to be a treat. First sip brings some sweet molasses and caramel, before the bourbon hits you. Slight chocolate and even less roast follow the bourbon, albeit they are present. The beginning of the finish brings some prunes and dark fruits as the beer warms in your mouth, before a wave of coconut and oak character bring you to a vanilla and caramel oak lasting aftertaste. This beer has opened my eyes to English barley wines.

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Photo of 81tillinfinity
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Rich smokiness layered with a bitter burnt toffee sweetness gives this beer a complexity. Add an alcohol burn along with the bourbon from the barrels and this beer is a winner. Definitely needs some aging to mellow out, but I enjoy the aggressiveness of the young beer.

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Photo of Mehinaman
4.73/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Had the 2015 vintage at Chucks Hop Shop in the Seattle neighborhood of Capital Hill. They are only letting customers buy 4 oz glasses, but that was enough to arrive at the conclusion that this is an absolutely phenomenal beer. Tastes very similar to the regular version of BCBS, but the spice/sweetness from the Barleywine puts it over the top

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Photo of sentimetal
4.61/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2015 Vintage poured into a beer snifter glass. Temperatures went from 45 - 52 f during this review.

Look - Jet black. Motor oil in a glass with a very thin caramel colored lacing.

Smell - Vanilla and raisin and a slightly... smokey essence. I'm not sure how to describe that last whiff I got, but the beer itself is very inviting.

Taste - Chocolate, vanilla, raisin - the hops are very feint. Sweetness and slight malt are the main stars in this show. I love it. There is a very feint "hot, sweet" taste to it as well that I assume has to do with the whiskey barrels.

Feel - Thick and rich, slight carbonation, and a slight alcohol heat at the end. The alcohol heat itself is present but not overbearing. Fantastic.

Overall - While this tastes better than a lot of stouts, the fruity malt nature of a barley wine is very present and adds to the experience. Absolutely gorgeous beer in every aspect. A true sipper and goes perfect with the cold winter. Best barrel aged barley wine I have tried.

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Photo of ThrewRedButter
4.63/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2015 Vintage

L - Dark mahogany with less than a finger of tan head

S - sweet malts, bourbon-soaked raisins, toffee, caramel.

T - Smooth as all hell. Rich, sweet malty flavor with sugary caramel and toffee. Bourbon is present, but more subdued than standard BCBS, but it works to enhance other flavors.

F - Smooth again and even has times where it is mouth-coating. No alcohol taste, but a slight warming on each sip as it warms.

O - Arguably at the head of the class for the style. Smooth-tasting with barrel-aging that made all flavors of the base beer better.

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Photo of ivegot3Dvision
3.2/5  rDev -28.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

I may be in the minority here but this didn't hold up to my expectations. Keep in mind I'm reviewing a 2015 bottle.

I have the give it to Goose Island, these bottles are pretty rad. The pour was nice, a little darker than I was anticipating. It smelled pretty good, like a good English Barleywine aged in bourbon barrels should. The taste left me a little unhappy though. I could taste the sweetness from the malt, a nice oaky, vanilla, caramel flavor, but it was missing something. As I let it warm, more of the flavors came out, and I enjoyed it a bit more. Honestly, its still pretty hot, so I think it could stand a bit of aging. Overall, it's a good BBA English Barleywine, I had heard so many glowing reviews about it I was expecting something life changing.

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Photo of Stolenface1
4.45/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

On tap @ The Answer Brewpub. Pours a deep brown w/ little to no head. Aroma of malt, vanilla, bourbon, raisin and fig. Flavor follows with added coconut and a slight nutty / biscuit flavor. Feel is almost spot on for the style with light/med carbonation(but slightly more than wanted). Overall a really really good american barleywine.

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Photo of Reds76
4.17/5  rDev -7.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Expected a bit more out of this one. Malt and bourbon mix well but was hoping for more barrel flavor on this one. Minimal carbonation and smooth mouthfeel which was good. Good beer, expecting great.

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Photo of corby112
4.66/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Pours a very dark chestnut brown color that's completely opaque with a 1.5 finger frothy beige head that very slowly settles into a thick, lasting ring. Excellent retention, taking a while to finally settle and leaving large chunks of soapy lacing behind.

Very inviting aroma with beautiful barrel character that's perfectly integrated into the barleywine notes of the base beer. Nicely charred oak with subtle dry toothpick as well as some sweet, spicy bourbon, toasted coconut and a silky vanilla bean sweetness. Lots of spirit and barrel but it doesn't overpower the leathery malts and vinous dark fruit notes of the barleywine. Hints of caramel, toffee and tobacco along with some raisin, plum and fig. Smells amazing and I'm not sure how much it could improve.

Full body wih a strong boozy barrel character that's excellently integrated into the barleywine flavors of the base. Sweet and boozy but not overwhelmingly hot or one-dimensional. The barrel flavors are very strong but the leathery malts and dark fruit sweetness still stand out. Lots of sweet, spicy bourbon along with dry, toasted oak, marshmallow, toasted coconut and vanilla bean. Underneath the barrel, there is some slightly smokey, leathery malt followed by dark fruit and lighter malt sweetness. Leathery tobacco flavor countered by caramel, toffee, hazelnut and very sweet dark fruit notes, notably raisin, fig and plum. The spirit flavor is pretty strong but this beer only has slight heat and subtle warmth in the chest. The high ABV is relatively well masked making this complex and near perfectly balanced beer dangerously drinkable. Excellent! Hard to find fault with a barrel aged barleywine that's so strong right out of the gate. This should age gracefully and I'm looking forward to seeing how it develops over time.

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Photo of Lostbeer35
4.9/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

I mean do I really have to say anything?

This is one of the best beers I have ever had. Although I have not had a huge experience with Barleywine, this beer is amazing regardless of a style classification. Beautiful red/amber color. The smell is sweet. The taste is the only beer I've given a 5. What tastes like a 5 you ask? That my friend you cannot explain in words..but if I were to try, I'd say - harmonious balance between bourbon and malts, strong oak presense and toffee, caramel notes. DIdn't really take "feel" into consideration, but I'm sure it was ok. Overall - save this beer for who you are celebrating something big. It's hard enough to get it, so don't give it away...this goose is for you.

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Photo of Stevem68
4.59/5  rDev +2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Pours a dark Amber color. Has an aroma of vanilla, booze, caramel and a sweet backbone. Flavor is a little boozy with Carmel, malts, vanilla and a nice warm mouthfeel and finish. Overall this is one of the best barley wines I've ever had.

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Photo of danh53
4.28/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Big vanilla notes with bourbon soaked dark fruits. I get figs, raisins, plums, and maybe cherries. Brown sugar and caramel are there along with some chocolate booze. This is one year old and it still has some heat to it. Aroma is similar and really comes a live as it warms. The mouth feel is medium and smooth. Its a very sweet beer without being syrupy. Booze leaves a strong after taste.

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Photo of tregan_20
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

12 oz bottle poured into a snifter. The look is pretty much pitch black with dark brown around the very outer edges. The head on the pour was very minimal. It smells of rich bourbon barrel, vanilla, chocolate, cherries, chocolate. The taste is similar to the other variants: big and bold. It tastes just as it smells too. The feel is thick but silky with low levels of carbonation. Overall this is a delicious offering from Goose Island, cheers!

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Photo of John_M
4.24/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Have had this beer a number of times, but most recently on tap at the annual Oakshire small batch event.

The beer pours a pretty dark brown color with light lacing and decent head retention. The beer has the look of one that has seen some serious barrel aging. On the nose, there is a huge presence of vanilla and brown sugar, with some underlying chocolate and light coffee as well. The flavor profile replicates, though this beer is so rich and sweet, it's almost cloying. Alcohol is pretty well integrated into the flavor profile, though you can tell it's up there a bit. Mouthfeel is pretty full, and the finish is very sweet and long.

Nice beer, but a little bit of this goes a very long way.

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Photo of do_ob
4.52/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

This beer is a monster of a barleywine. Everything about this thing is huge and intense. Smokey, oaky, sticky-sweet booze on the nose along with notes of vanilla and caramel. Heavy weight, and incredibly chewy. Cloyingly sweet, sticky syrupy bourbony choclate, smokey vanilla, roasted caramel and brown sugar..

Probably one of the most complex beers I've had. Everything about this one is just great. My first taste of BC anything, and this has got me itching to try more.

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Photo of BIll_Currie
4.6/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

another hard to get beer for me but found it at great american beer festival. no surprise that it was awesome. too bad i could only get a taste. bourbon county anything is great

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Photo of dfillius
3.98/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 2.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

2013 vintage bottle reviewed on 9/12/14
A: Moderate pour yields lace of tan bubbles. More head please. Translucent dark brown liquid.
S: Raisin, bourbon, oak.
T: Sweet, grass and earth, not boozy! Slight bourbon tang in the finish. Nice job done with the barrel aging - the barrel didn't hijack this beer.
M: Full, rich, warming but not hot.
O: Delicious, a great barrel aged beer. Splendid restraint in the barrel characteristics.

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Photo of Czarkazm
4.6/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Bottle 9/24/2013. Pours an unattractive murky coca cola color, but holding the glass up to the light showcases a dark crimson body, littered with particles, being stirred up by numerous streams of carbonation heading towards a quickly dissipating tan colored head. This one has a lot going on! Absolutely dominating in the dark fruit department; dried figs, dates, raisins, dark chocolate covered cherry cordial, with vanilla, char, coconut, tobacco, burnt caramel, brown sugar, and it goes on and on. Huge on the palate, full body, sticky, well balanced goodness. Taste has more going on than the aroma. Still get a small amount of the booze but it has matured very nicely. Lots of the dark fruit characteristics still come through but the flavor brings out more of the barrel notes - bourbon, oak, vanilla, coffee roast, dark chocolate fudge. BCBS is definitely present within this beer without calling for too much attention. An enormous, sweet, complex barleywine with a ton of barrel character.

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Photo of MichaelNeelsen
4.37/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2013 bottle stored for almost two years and poured at home.

L: Deep red, dark amber blackness. The head is there initially, but soon is gone completely. This could be due to the maturation? Definitely some sediment at the bottom.

S: Bourbon warmth. Maybe a little fig or raisin.

T: Really nice bourbon flavor with dried fruits, apricots, plums, lots of malt. Incredible warmth.

F: Wonderful smoothness that wasn't there when the beer was younger. It floats on your tongue, closely approaching the "T-1000 liquid metal" feel of Surly Darkness. At the bottom of the glass, at the end of the drink, you definitely encounter that trademark Bourbon County tackiness.

O: This beer is WAY too sweet when it's young. But after aging a couple years, it was wonderful. I can't wait to try one after 5 years.

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Photo of SaisonRichBiere
4.63/5  rDev +2.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2013 vintage poured into a snofter.

Pours dark brown with a reddish garnet hue, and despite trying to pour smoothly, some chunks of sediment made it into the glass. A few bubbles accompany the pour, but almost no carbonation visibly hanging around. Smell is strong caramel, vanilla, and tobacco, with hints of bourbon essence and oak. No tingly heat on the nose, but plenty of rich aromas. Taste is WOW. A lot in this. Rich, creamy, dark caramel dominates, chewy malt sugars, milk chocolate, dried dark fruit richness, date sugars, vanilla, Demerara, oak, and even a cedary twang creeps in. Feel is appropriately thick and still, but a sloshing around in the mouth yields some fizzy bubbles. Leggy and lingering on the palate. Overall, an absolute classic. Extremely smooth with some age, a great sipper, as the flavors come out as it warms.

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Photo of IvoryFoxhole
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

12 oz bottle of 2013 vintage given to me by friend last week, so cannot vouch for storage. Poured into Tekus glass.

Barely a half-finger head that quickly dissipates, leaving a tiny ring. Beer is a deep, leathery cordovan.

Smell immediately after pouring is dominated by bourbon. You can also pick up dried fruits. Vanilla and coffee come in as it warms.

Taste immediately after pouring is the dominant malt profile, some bourbon, some plum/prune. Very little alcohol detected despite monster ABV. Vanilla and coffee come in as it warms.

Well-balanced, medium-bodied, maybe closer to full; practically no carbonation to speak of, a small amount of alcohol burn. Sweet, but not cloyingly so.

Definitely a relative to the BC stout because of the barrelling, but it has its own character. I'm not a huge barleywine fan, but this is a special beer

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Photo of Jovial_Libations
4.5/5  rDev 0%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Bottled on 09/17/2013. Poured into a tulip glass.

L - Dark brown, rust colored with little carbonation.
S - Oak, Bourbon, Vanilla, Caramel
T - Sweet but balanced. Raisin, fig, vanilla, oak notes.
F - Surprisingly balanced, not too full-bodied or thin.

Overall I prefer this to BCBS. While BCBS tastes execellent fresh or on draught this one has aged pleasantly after 2 years in bottle. BCBS does not age well IMO, but this one could actually handle another year or two.

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Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
99 out of 100 based on 471 ratings.