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Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale - Goose Island Beer Co.

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

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

3,336 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 3,336
Reviews: 349
rAvg: 4.53
pDev: 8.17%
Wants: 378
Gots: 1,144 | FT: 204
Brewed by:
Goose Island Beer Co. visit their website
Illinois, United States

Style | ABV
English Barleywine |  12.10% ABV

Availability: Winter

Notes/Commercial Description:
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 added by: jplopez21 on 10-04-2013)
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 3,336 | Reviews: 349 | Display Reviews Only:
Reviews by dbkdev:
Photo of dbkdev
4.25/5  rDev -6.2%

dbkdev, Dec 18, 2013
More User Reviews:
Photo of fgmiele
4.29/5  rDev -5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours rich mahogany with a minimal cream colored head that dissipates quickly. Thick and unfiltered look. Sep 24 2013 bottling date. Nose is malt, caramel, whiskey and cigar with background notes of brown sugary sweetness. Taste follows the nose..slow and sweet with just a little heat. Flavor is buttery and rich. Mouthfeel thick and gratifying. Overall, an outstanding barleywine with a lot to offer for the style.

fgmiele, Jul 31, 2014
Photo of minterro
4.64/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Served as the start to the goose island themed tasting (we did start with Fred from Hair of the Dog). Short notes from 7/27/14. Bottled 9/17/13. Served in a snifter.

A&S: The beer is a murky brown color. Pieces of unfiltered specks float around the bottom of this beer. No head present when poured. The aroma was amazing, it was the kind of smell you wish could be stuck in your nose all day. Caramel tones blended with raisins, sugary belgian candy sweetness, and boozy bourbon tones. Really about as good as I have seen it.

T&M: This beer was extremely complex, transforming and opening up continuously as it sat in the glass. It started with a characteristic that most decent barleywines share dark fruit tones. The dark fruits were primarily raisins but later on I think I got some plums. Towards the end I was odd enough picking up on some dark chocolate flavors. No real hop presence. The carbonation quantity was excellent, just right to make it not completely dead, but not too much to make it any bit sharp. Body wasn't as thick as it could have been, but I was for sure more than just a medium thickness.

Overall: The was the opener for the afternoon and I have to say I like it the best! All three (this one, the cherry rye, and the coffee) of the goose island specialties were spectacular, but for me, this one took the cake. I would be interested to see how this beer develops, however it would be a tough task considering it was so epic at this stage. One of my favorite beers I have had the pleasure to try this year.

minterro, Jul 31, 2014
Photo of jlindros
4.51/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Been saving this for a special day, and this was a long and very annoying day, so figured it was time to crack it. I hope it's as good as everyone makes it out to be.

Pours a small fizzy head that disappears almost instantly, typical for this high abv, with a super dark molasses brown colored beer with the faintest hint of light barely sneaking through.

Nose explodes out of the gate, tons of great malts, reddish candy malts mostly, at first... then big chewy caramel, molasses, then into toffee, even a little nutty cocoa, big sweet candy malts without being too candy like. Then barrel, plenty of nice barrel, some vanilla oak and a hint buttery oak, but lots and lots of bourbon barrel juice. It has the typical booze warmth aroma, but nothing too crazy.

Taste, anticipation... comes on rich, layered goodness with big sweet malts and bourbon, also bourbon and big sweet malts. the malts are the biggest layer, and varied layers of it, sweet candy and plenty of the candy malts, with lots and lots of caramel as well, varying darkness on the caramel, reddish malts too, and a mild nutty toffee. Booze comes in fairly hot too, with some warming almost tingly booze, but a clean booze. Next up is the bourbon, plnety of rich bourbon barrel juice, with the nice vanilla smoothed oak bourbon. Also in there is some candied raisins, brandy soaked like candied raisin and hint fig. Finish is smooth with a big butterscotch and toffee feel, little nutty, big candy like and tons of caramel lingering, a big caramel toffee butterscotch candy flavor lingering, with a bit more vanilla barrel, candied raisins, and bourbon.

Mouth is big bodied, rich, smooth, but somehow not syrupy, very mild warming booze for the abv, decent carb that isn't as much as I probably want and maybe the only thing keeping it from a 5.

Overall very nice, delicious with great malts, great dark fruits, nice warming booze that fits well, great bourbon and barrel, great overall beer, but not quite as orgasmic as most people make it out to be. I really think it will age quite well though and I can't wait to try it in a couple years.

jlindros, Feb 24, 2014
Photo of kojevergas
3.56/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2013 vintage 355ml brown glass bottle with classy iconic label design and branded black pry-off pressure cap acquired at a Colorado bottle shop and served into an Odell stem-tulip/snifter hybrid glass in me friend's gaff in high altitude Fort Collins, CO Reviewed live. Expectations are sky-high given its current 100 rating and my past experiences with Bourbon County Brand Stout. 12.1% ABV confirmed. Bottled 17 Sep 13.

Served chilled and allowed to come to room temperature. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

A: No bubble show forms as it's poured.

Pours a half finger head of khaki colour which recedes fully inside of ten seconds. That's a bit disappointing. Based on its brief appearance, the head was fairly creamy and nicely thick. No lacing, but it does leave a cognac-esque clear streak on the sides of the glass when you tilt it. I've seen that before in boozy beers like Utopias, and it's an effect I quite like.

Body colour is a dark murky opaque brown. Not real vibrant or open, but certainly distinguished. No floating yeast particles are visible. I'm looking forward to trying it. Not unique, but the boozy legs make it special to me. There are no egregious flaws here.

Sm: English oak, bourbon-derived vanilla, soaked wood barrel notes, dark malts, and some pleasant boozy notes that evoke a fine liquor. Sherry wine, maybe prunes or dates, some type of leather, and English brown malts.

I do worry that the barrel is overwhelming the base beer. It's not unique or special, and I did expect better, but I'm optimistic.

No yeast character or hop character is detectable.

T: The duration of flavour is quite brief, with average depth and intensity of flavour for the style. Tobacco, rich raisin, prunes/dates, a leathery note, sherry wine, well-integrated oak, faint vanilla, and soaked wood. Marshmallow. Caramel. Some faint wet cardboard notes are present - indicative almost of oxidation. The bourbon isn't as fully developed or complementary here as it is in bourbon county brand stout. Certainly on the sweeter side.

Pretty well balanced for what it is. The build is nowhere near as complex or subtle as I expected given it's a bourbon county brew.

Constructively, it seems like the base beer wasn't all that great to begin with, and the beer relies on the bourbon barrel as a crutch rather than a means of accentuating already present characteristics. Additionally, amplitude is quite low - the flavours don't blend together seamlessly but rather feel distinct and separate. The whole is not more than the sum of its parts.

Mf: Coarser and more dry than anticipated. Rough; it drags on the palate. Very chewy. Thick and full-bodied. A biteen syrupy. It's got what I'd call a pleasant boozy warmth. Well-carbonated.

Not oily, gushed, or astringent.

Dr: She's a sipper, alright. It demands to be appreciated with care. It's an armchair beer. I'm glad I have a few more bottles, but this isn't amongst the best in the style. A solid barleywine across the board, but I'm not sure I'll buy it again. I was ready to love this when I opened it, but unfortunately the execution wasn't quite up to par with Goose Island's best offerings.

Low B

kojevergas, Dec 15, 2013
Photo of BEERchitect
4.55/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Its with incredible resplendence that Goose Island even dares to follow up their King Henry that shared elements of both their famed Bourbon County Stout and their second-use Pappy 23 barrels. Yet, there's more life to the ale as Bourbon Barrel Brand Barleywine is borne.

Its pour would be easily mistaken for stout because of its black and ominous body, except for its tawny low-lights around the edges. As its initial pour yeilds a rich mocha-laden blanket of foam, the eventual collapse leaves the ale with an appetizing brandy-like appearance, equipped with streaming legging and all.

Its aromas are a culmination of all things both sweet and savory- black-strap molasses, toffee, maple, honey and sorghum all play a part in the beer's malty scent. Light coffee, nutty aromas, and a rich "umami" tone of something soy sauce and fudge wrapping around the sweetness. A trailing fruit liqueur note, similar of brandy, rum and bourbon all contribute to the beer's character and rich scent.

Its lavish taste is sultry, decadent and seductive with its very first scent as its booze-infused flavors of maple syrup, molasses, chocolate and coffee play equal parts in the beer's early complexity. After that, the taste really opens up to share savory port wine and aged sherry tones as the rich and "meaty" taste takes hold. Adding a sprinkle of salt to amplifiy its taste, a flavor of soy sauces joins with the judge-like richness for a taste that's spot on with the aroma. A trailing bitterness in lightly coffee-like and timidly signals its closure.

Silky smooth and lightly peppery, the ale's texture opens with a creamy film that coats the palate with a cling of sweetness. Its middle retains much of its richness while the mild acidity of seemingly wine lightens the body as the carbonation recedes. Finishing like port, its long linger of boozy sweetness is satisfying and rewarding to the palate like fine dessert or cognac.

The ale is alive with a tremendous amount of savory sweet notes- appealing to all that is sweet, earthy, boozy and salty all at once. Beers like this might as well be like catnip to a savory fiend like me.

BEERchitect, Jan 03, 2014
Photo of stakem
4.38/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Thanks Steve for the hookup on a 12oz bottle of this. Poured into a matching bourbon county snifter the brew appears dark brown in color with a fine ring of clarity around the edges. A tan finger is quick to collapse holding with a fine line around the perimeter.

The aroma is sweet of caramelized sugars: toffee, molasses, brown sugar, vanilla, creme brûlée, oak, raisins and prunes. Quite dark and fruity smelling with alcohol ever-present but integrated nicely.

Based off the aroma alone, one would think this is gonna be a sticky sweet brew. Luckily the residual sugars are tempered by the alcohol and a bit of hoppy bitterness. Flavors of raw oak blend into raisons, dates, figs, prunes...a whole gauntlet of dark fruity alcohol. Molasses, toffee, caramel, vanilla, slightly dusty wood and earthen to herbal bitter hops round the flavor profile out.

This is a medium to fuller bodied brew with a moderate amount of carbonation. A boozy sipper that is quite complex and certainly worth seeking out. Considering the amount of bourbon county stout that was/is made, I hope this means this brew will see greater volume/distribution in the future. This offering comes out with the bar set unreasonably high falling in the wake of King Henry...I wont draw any comparisons to that brew but wow is this good and everything I hoped it would be. Damn, I would like more of this.

stakem, Dec 02, 2013
Photo of Flight317
4.5/5  rDev -0.7%

This one is beyond good. An easy drinking brew with a sweet dark fruit taste. Very limited carbonation. I could drink this and still wonder if it contained alcohol even though it was laid to rest in a bourbon barrel. If you like barleywines this is it!

Flight317, Aug 28, 2014
Photo of brentk56
4.06/5  rDev -10.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Appearance: Pours a fudge brown, just a shade lighter than a stout; the modest head fades rather quickly. thought the lacing is leggy and viscous

Smell: Caramel and Bourbon, with tones of sugar cake, dates, coconut and vanilla

Taste: The closest thing to a Bourbon sundae I have come across, with Bourbon-infused caramel sauce topping vanilla ice cream; hints of coconut, milk chocolate and dates; the finish is treacly, with some ethanol

Mouthfeel: Full bodied with moderate carbonation; some warmth in the gullet

Overall: This is a very nice beer though a bit too sweet for my palate; perhaps it will settle down with some age

brentk56, Feb 01, 2014
Photo of DoubleJ
4.78/5  rDev +5.5%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

The Bourbon County line has become fashionable again. Heck, even the standard Bourbon County Stout has become popular among beer geeks and hoarders alike. So, what does one do when a barleywine is aged in barrels previously used for the stout? You sample it. I was lucky to spot a tap at Out of the Park Pizza, even if a 6 ounce pour would cost $12. Sometimes you just have to make the opportunity. On to the beer:

It's dark ruby brown and not topped with much of a head. Instead, it yields a few glossy legs around the glass (now we're being haute classe!). But that's nothing compared to the rest of this story. The aroma is very sweet, and in many ways resemble the classic Bourbon County Stout. There's no shortage of sweet bourbon, molasses, raisins, and toasted sugar, suck it all in.

Greatness is further achieved through a taste that few beers can match. Full flavored, but still balanced and sophisticated. The taste of raisins, brown sugar, bourbon, vanilla, sherry/oxidation make their mark and make the beer intriguing to keep you coming back to your glass for more. Although it's full bodied, the texture is very smooth, and to a great surprise the alcohol is hidden as well as any beer with a content this high (that's high praise right there!).

At the end of my glass, I felt like a relived my first moment with Bourbon County Stout. A thick, succulent big beer that I fear cannot get much better than it stands. At this stage, only Old Ruffian and J.W. Lee's Harvest Ale can compete with this monster of a barleywine. As a bonus, this becomes my favorite new beer of 2014. Amazing!

DoubleJ, Mar 25, 2014
Photo of Slatetank
4.46/5  rDev -1.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

I purchased this particular bottle in a four pack $6 per 12oz at wegmans, enjoyed cellar temp in stemmed glass.

The color is the deepest shade of tobacco brown with mostly opaque clarity, cascade when poured with thick crema type head which recedes to a ring of ultra fine beads with carbonation visibly rising toward the surface. The smell is rich with malt aromas - toffee and sherry-like scents meld with bourbon, vanilla and light cocoa and the woody ester blends with the dark caramel but the alcohol is very mild, actually it is almost not apparent at all. This barleywine is dense with malt and sweet but not cloying with light fruity yeast elements like fig -chewy bot still moderately dry with mild carbonation and woody tannin in the finish.

This is seriously complex! whew, I knew it wood be good -har har, but the rich toffee flavor with some vanilla notes of the barrel combine to bring a really delicious full flavor which leads to a tangy yeast fruitiness again bringing a fig-like richness to mind with a toasted oak goodness rounding out the taste with slight cocoa with gentle nutty creaminess toward the end. There is a slight alcohol taste but nowhere near 12%, it is hidden very well and halfway in it is not showing any heat or bourbon taste, yet the barrel influence is apparent. Overall I was not sure what to expect except the stout that previously resided in the barrels may have added to the flavor. I recommend this to anyone who considers themselves a fan of the style...I only wish I had purchased more - Kudos on a phenomenal beer that exceeded my expectations Goose Island!

Slatetank, Dec 13, 2013
Photo of mothman
4.39/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

Pours a light layer of tan head. Color is a copper hued brown.

Flavor profile: It tastes like a barleywine but I noticed it has stout-like flavors. Starts out with vanilla, toffee, caramel, and oak. Then chocolate and bourbon hit. A lot of malt flavors and some cherries. A bit of molasses and raisin flavors. A touch of heat shows in the finish. Some light tobacco flavors mixed in.

Mouthfeel: RIch and chewy. Full bodied. Right amount of carbonation. Ends with a bit of sticky molasses flavor... syrupy.

Overall, this is a really well done beer. Very complex. Only flaw is the finish. It ends a bit too syrupy. Otherwise, I really enjoy this beer.

mothman, Dec 07, 2013
Photo of seedyone
3.93/5  rDev -13.2%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

Another outstanding brew from Goose Island. What it lacks in appearance it makes up for in taste, twofold. Barleywines, nowadays, seem to lack that barley presence in favor of the coffee/chocolate tastes. This is not one of those. The head lacing are virtually nonexistent. So what? If you have no fear of the dark you will feel right at home here.

seedyone, Jul 23, 2014
Photo of yourefragile
3.78/5  rDev -16.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

2013 12 oz bottle served in a BC snifter.

Pours a dark, opaque near black with a thick but quickly fading dark yellow/khaki head; not much lace or retention. Balanced, restrained nose of oak, burnt sugar, caramel, toffee and molasses. Flavor is overly sweet; barrel heavy with vanilla, brown sugar and syrupy caramel combining with a sticky, malty English BW base. On its own this was interesting but next to a well aged King Henry seemed comically simple and boring. Body is pleasantly viscous and slick with minimal heat in the finish. Not sure this needs much age, but hopefully some time will rejigger these flavors into a more interesting combination. For price and difficulty in obtaining bottles, just go blow your money of BB4D or Central Waters or something.

yourefragile, Dec 08, 2013
Photo of ADU
4.75/5  rDev +4.9%

Incredibly flavorful baelwywine -- tastes strongly of carmel and/or molasses.

ADU, Sep 09, 2014
Photo of StonedTrippin
4.43/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

worthy of all the high praise, this is a social barleywine with a great bourbon complexion and so much body it drinks like syrup. the looks are the only part that didn't really turn me on, dark mahogany in color with almost no head, and even a vigorous twirl of the glass can't arouse one. thick and dense and viscous. the nose is very sweet, tons of layers of grain and sugar, but also a great deep char and vanilla aspect from the barrel, not unnecessarily complex, but dynamic to say the least. i feared a sugar bomb that would be close to undrinkable, and almost immediately wished i had shared the bottle, but after the first sip it eased up a bit, temperature helped it unfold, and by the bottom of the glass i was wishing for more. a toffee style sweetness starts off a long flavor journey that bounces from toasted marshmallow to vanilla extract to charcoal and rum raisin cake. some spice to this, classic english ale yeast, a bunch of residual sugar, and not much hops at all. the finish is long and smooth, and while the alcohol is there, it adds a layer rather than distracts. more body than i thought possible, almost gelatinous, slippery and slick, but chewy too. mild carbonation is all it needs. i like this at least as much as the stout, if not more. its a world class beer that showcases the barrel very neatly. id like to have one with some age on it just to compare.

StonedTrippin, Feb 08, 2014
Photo of KnowYourCraft
4.98/5  rDev +9.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A: I was a little surprised here, but not that surprised considering a stout was previously used in these barrels, it pours that magnificent dark ruby/burgundy color, but resting in the glass it is pitch black like a stout, left an espresso colored head as well, the beer looked great but I think it would have been just that much better if it was that dark ruby/burgundy color you got from the pour

S: Up front I got booze, bourbon, and dark fruits, then it mellowed out with some caramel, toffee, and coconut. I absolutely love how this beer smells, a perfect blend of barley wine and stout!

T: Initial flavors are bourbon chocolate and dark fruits, very reminiscent of BCBS, but then transitions to the barley wine side and you get booze, caramel toffee, and light hints of coconut, again I love how this beer tastes, stout/barleywine mix, it is crazy good!

M: Very much like the bourbon county line ups, syrupy, smooth, dries quickly, and the taste lingers but compliments the beer!

O: It is not a very traditional barley wine, but damn it is good!

KnowYourCraft, Jul 18, 2014
Photo of feloniousmonk
3.96/5  rDev -12.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Barley-wine Ale, malt beverage aged in bourbon barrels. 2013 release.12.1% alc. by vol. "Brewed and bottled by Goose Island Beer Company, Chicago, IL. Develops in the bottle for up to 5 years." I wish I had more than one bottle, but as it is, I have one, and I'm drinking it now. (Thanks to Brandon for the sample bottle.)

Strictly black. No head. Very still. Deep and mysterious.

Aroma: bourbon first, massive, thick, viscous, bourbon-y aromatics. Charcoal, vanilla, whiskey, chocolate-covered cherries….there's bound to be a barley-wine under there, too.

Taste: In the mouth, immense-ness, huge-osity, and mucho massive. I'll bring them back: thickness and viscosity. Giant. The bourbon covers everything in this, and I'm getting no flavors of the barley-wine below. Fullest of bodies here, long, long finish, stays forever in the mouth.

I do wish I'd have been able to taste the base beer in this one. Without that, I'm tasting tons of bourbon barrel effect over some kind of barley-wine that's not showing itself. What it is, though, is very tasty. It's the perfect beer for right now, my last of the night. Good way to go out.

feloniousmonk, Mar 30, 2014
Photo of don1481
4.5/5  rDev -0.7%

don1481, Apr 20, 2014
Photo of aszatk01
4.75/5  rDev +4.9%

aszatk01, Jun 07, 2014
Photo of DanGeo
4.75/5  rDev +4.9%

DanGeo, Dec 01, 2013
Photo of Smokesnotes
5/5  rDev +10.4%

Smokesnotes, Sep 16, 2014
Photo of tectactoe
4.75/5  rDev +4.9%

tectactoe, Jan 13, 2014
Photo of t2grogan
5/5  rDev +10.4%

t2grogan, Oct 08, 2014
Photo of MadScientist
4.69/5  rDev +3.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

A: A cloudy dark brown beer that looks super think as it pours and produces very little head. What head can be roused is made of fine expresso colored bubbles that leave a faint bit of lacing on the glass.

S: The smell is that of thick layers of malt and oak with the malt bring caramel, toffee, some bready notes and a moderate level chocolate while the moderately strong oak brings cinnamon and bourbon barrel character to the party. There are some fruit esters of raisins and a little orange. A floral, moderate alcohol sweetness noted.

T: The alcohol and malt dominate but are closely followed by the oak barrel notes and some chocolate flavors. The malt brings a medium sweetness with toffee character set against a medium-low hops bitterness giving a balance that is somewhat sweet. There are also coffee, raisin and light citrus flavors in there. The finish is sweet with a chocolate, oak and coffee aftertaste.

A full bodied beer with a moderately-low level of carbonation and a fair amount of warmth.

O: My first impression was if the beer taste half as good as it smells it's going to be pretty awesome and it is. Hovering somewhere in that land between Barleywine and stout the dark malt brings a nice chocolate character to the beer. It's a sweet beer but not enough to keep me from enjoying two in an sitting; the abv will do that for me.

MadScientist, Dec 10, 2013
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Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
100 out of 100 based on 3,336 ratings.