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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.

511 Reviews
no score

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Reviews: 511
Hads: 4,720
Avg: 4.49
pDev: 8.02%
Wants: 667
Gots: 2,280 | FT: 332
Brewed by:
Goose Island Beer Co.
Illinois, United States | website

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: 511 | Hads: 4,720
Photo of sittinggc
4.46/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2015 poured into tulip.

Look: Dark brown with a brown head. Darker than expected. Medium retention.
Smell: Strong bourbon aromas. Also get some caramel. Surprising amount off vanilla and oak.
Taste: Much like the aroma bourbon, caramel, vanilla. Also get leather, toffee and dark fruits.
Feel: Heavy bodied. Not as chewy as BCBS but almost there. Slight sharpness from alcohol.

Overall: Not usually big on barleywines but this one is really great! I'm sure it's because of the barrel aging but damn is this good! Just wish this wasn't so difficult to acquire. Cheers!

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Photo of DavoleBomb
4.45/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 3 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2015 bottle poured into a snifter.

3.0 A: Deep deep amber color that looks black unless held to a light. A short fizzy head formed with an aggressive pour and vanished almost immediately leaving no lacing.

4.75 S: Like BCS, the nose is overflowing with bourbon. Leather, brown sugar, molasses, and light smoke. Oak and vanilla. The base offers a thick goopy caramel and toffee backbone. Next comes a bevy of fruits including raisin, fig, date, sugar plums, and black currants (and then more black currants). Despite the strong bourbon, the booze is well hidden. Complex and powerful, everything I want in a Bourbon County beer.

4.5 T: So many potent flavors. Molasses comes out even stronger than the bourbon with black currants and dates almost as powerful. Then caramel, leather, raisin, figs, prunes/plums, toffee, chocolate, and brown sugar. Woodiness, smoke, and vanilla follow. It's sticky sweet, perhaps too much so.

4.25 M: Heavy, viscous body. Quite sticky and almost chewy. Moderate carbonation level. Sticky finish with some warming booziness.

4.5 D: It's insanely complex and powerful, but I feel that it's much stickier than BCS and because of that it's less drinkable. Still, it's a wonderful beer!

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Photo of enrique_m
5/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Kudos to goose iskand, this is the best brew I've had, I poured this 2014 in 12.19.15 into a snifter and it's full of aromas. I get the aromas of dark fruits like fig, prunes, grape juice, maple syrup, and everything tasty. This brew has no head and it's pitch black like motor oil but it's good and tasty. Overall this is black gold.... this is one of the best brews I've had since the flavors are not overwhelming, but just right.

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Photo of DoctorZombies
4.68/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Black pour with thick tan foam; cap disappeared quickly leaving minimal, spotty lace; good clarity under cap. Caramel candy and whisper of black licorice nose. Flavors of Carmel candy, toffee and licorice; very little bourbon or barrel; mellow bitter roast finish. Velvety, rich, full mouthfeel; lite to moderate carbonation. Outstanding overall, lite roast malt and toffee with boozy linger.

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Photo of RonaldTheriot
2.59/5  rDev -42.3%
look: 2.75 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine has a thin, yellowish, cream-colored, head, very little lacing, and a brown to dark-brown appearance. The aroma is of highly sweet & sour, duck sauce, bread, bourbon, and strong alcohol. Taste is of chewing tobacco, alcohol. wood, nut shell, coconut, duck sauce, sweet and sour sauce, brown bread, wet bread, dark bread crust, faint bitterness, cloying sugar, alcohol, and bourbon. The mouthfeel is heavy and Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine finishes sweet and boozy. I found it to be unpleasant. Sorry.


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Photo of HopBomb515
4.82/5  rDev +7.3%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Dark brown with ruby hues, small tan head with alcohol legs but not much lacing. Notes of bourbon soaked dark fruit, cherry, fig, anisette, plum, oak, bourbon, leather, vanilla, coconut, wood, and sweet dark fruit. Full body, little dry, no alcohol heat, and coating on the finish. This is up there with one of the best beers I ever had at 2 years old. Super smooth and mellow for a BBA Barleywine. I'm not sure you could improve this.

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Photo of Umdrunner
4.75/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Pours rich dark brown, not quite black. 1" tan head poured into snifter. Immediate aroma of malt, raisins, and bourbon. Bourbon flavor is much less intense than BCBS though it creeps up near the finish. Heavy malt flavors with noticeable raisins and other dried fruits. Perfect amount of heat to finish! One of my favorite beers!

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Photo of TruePerception
4.48/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Barleywine 2015. 12.9% ABv.

A: Pours the color of dry caramel (those cooking shows are good for something...). Black in the glass with a little dark brown/cola towards the top; glowing red in the light. Medium brown in the dimple. Clear meniscus on top. Strong sheeting. No lacing, at all.

S: Slightly earthy toffee. Lighter caramel. Oak. Raisin, Oatmeal cookie. Slight sweet char.

T/MF: Still really sweet, but not quite as much as the Stout. More raisin and sweet oatmeal cookie, Toffee, brown sugar. Sweet char, even moving slightly into graphite territory. Raisin is more prominent upon swallowing. Dry baking chocolate on the finish.

This is more subtle than the stout, an because of that, more drinkable, though still a sipper.

Poured from a 16.9 oz. bottle into a Belgian tulip glass.

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Photo of SomethingClever
4.78/5  rDev +6.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 5

12 oz bottle poured into Spiegelau glass 2013 bottle

A: brackish brown color with bits of light escaping the edges of the glass head was decent but off white settles to a film

S: lots of caramel toffee vanilla and bourbon just layered then you get raisins figs and dates and light burnt sugars

T: lots of vanilla, and toffee not a lot of the dark fruits light hints of the burnt sugar lots of sweetness the barrel flavors are huge slight bit of alcohol heat.

M: cloying mouthfeel and bourbonesk watery feel

O: I am surprised I haven't reviewed this beer sooner. Fresh this beer is jaw dropping the plum fig and raisin flavors pound your senses while the soft vanilla and toffee of the bourbon caress your palate. 2 years later this beer is still a dynamo it has lost a little of the dark fruit flavor, but the toffee vanilla and light burnt sugars it has lost none of its nose. Easily the best of the bourbon county beers I have this is a leap over your neighbors dead body to grab kind of beer.

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Photo of Barnoloid
4.74/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Stellar BBA Barleywine. Fine sherry, dried fruit, English christmas cake notes with vanilla and oaky notes. Sweet but not cloying with a stone fruit rind mouthfeel. Smooth and rich in texture. So many layers and so much complexity here that you find something new with every sip. A delight, and one that I can see being the absolute best on a cold night by the fire.

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Photo of HopHunter19
4.5/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A - 4.5 - nice dark brown/black colored opaque beer, tan head that dissipates quickly not much lacing
S - 4.5 - caramel, toffee, vanilla, coconut, oak, chocolate, sweet malta, cherries, figs, plums
T - 4.5 - cherry, figs, plums, caramel, toffee, coconut. Less of the dark malt character (chocolate) and straight Bourbon character than the smell.
M - 4.5 - medium to heavy mouthfeel. Alcohol completely covered at 12%. Aftertaste is cherries, vanilla, figs, plums, bourbon, sweet.
O - 4.5 - definitely not as good as the stout. Apparently this is aged in barrels that once held the stout, and you can actually taste the similarity that results, but this is definitely the inferior beer. FW sucaba outranks this in my opinion.

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Photo of leobageo
3.18/5  rDev -29.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 1 | overall: 3.25

Had 2015 vintage poured in a short, stemmed, goblet from Congregation Ale House in Pasadena.

Look: Great color. Dark as night. Very little head and little lacing.

Smell: Smelled of coffee notes, no hops on the nose. Feint dark fruit notes, stone fruits.

Taste: Slightly sour. Mostly tasteless. Didn't get anything out of it.

Feel: Watery. No alcohol.

Overall: Highly disappointed. It lacked any character.

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Photo of nizzle8287
5/5  rDev +11.4%
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 +4.5%
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 -2.9%
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 +4.7%
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 +11.4%
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 +5.3%
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 +2.7%
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 +3.1%
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 -28.7%
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
4.49/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap @ The Answer Brewpub. Pours a deep black/brown and glows red when held to the light. Little to no head. Aroma of malt, vanilla, bourbon, raisin and fig. Flavor follows with added tobacco notes,slight nutty, smoky oak, warming bourbon flavor and coconut. . Caramel sticks to the tongue on the finish. Feel is almost spot on for the style with light carbonation. Super mellow and smooth. Overall a really really good barleywine.

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Photo of Reds76
4.17/5  rDev -7.1%
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 +3.8%
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 +9.1%
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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Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
99 out of 100 based on 511 ratings.