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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.

462 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 462
Hads: 4,481
Avg: 4.5
pDev: 24.89%
Wants: 636
Gots: 2,024 | FT: 311
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
Sort by:  Recent | High | Low | Top Raters
Reviews: 462 | Hads: 4,481
Photo of Budlum
4.6/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

The top of barrel-aged barleywine. Strong charred vanilla with dark fruits and smooth smoky bourbon. Wonderful nose and velvet feel with a small hint of alcohol for 12% ABV.

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

A dark brown/red look, this beer has an amazing smell/taste. Bourbon, vanilla, caramel, toffee. There are so many well balanced tastes in this beer. One of the best I have tried.

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Photo of emyers
4.56/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

12 oz. bottle poured into a Great Lakes snifter. Bottled on date 9-23-13

Appearance: Pours cloudy dark brown with a very thin off-white lacing which dissipates quickly. Similarly to King Henry it looks somewhat lifeless.

Smell: Bourbon, tons of dark fruit - raisin, fig, plum - oak, vanilla, hints of coffee and chocolate. Extraordinary complexity. Tons of depth. Despite everything that is going on it melds beautifully.

Taste: Everything suggested by the smell and then some. Very big bourbon presence up front (which is extremely smooth, virtually no alcohol heat) which transitions into fig, raisin, chocolate covered cherries. Once again just a touch of coffee presence from the residual BCBS in the barrels. Nowhere near enough to come off anything like a stout but enough to add another layer to an already complex barleywine. Finish is more bourbon and dark fruit with a touch of alcohol heat.

Mouthfeel: Full-bodied, smooth, viscous. Very low carbonation.

Overall: After King Henry I had pretty enormous expectations for this beer, and it was exactly what I hoped it would be. Not quite at level of King Henry, but captures all of the components that were present. Another example of Goose Island's world class skill with barrels.

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Photo of Awolter
4.95/5  rDev +10%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

2014 release

Granted this is my first barrel aged barleywine, it seemed a bit more like a stout to me. I loved it though!

Great smell, fantastically smooth. Drank at cellar temp, and no hint of booze the entire way. Can't wait to see how this one develops.

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Photo of EveningCordial
4.74/5  rDev +5.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Dank dark fruits like raisons, cherries, and plums on the nose, along with a nice faint bourbon. Taste is outstanding for the style. Again, dark fruits with just enough bourbon to make this a great barleywine. Nice notes of vanilla, oak, and tobacco. Perhaps my favorite BW.

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Photo of apasternak
3.5/5  rDev -22.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Not enough bourbon, too much sticky sweetness. Most people I know point to this when I say I don't really like barleywines, but this beer just does not live up to the hype for me.

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Photo of mabermud
4.56/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2013 bottle poured into a 15.5 oz brandy snifter.

Look: Pitch black body that is more dark brown around the edges. The darker mocha head is thin and very fine. The initial pour created a smallish, skinny head that quickly retreated to a thin film over the top, then to a slim halo around the glass. Lacing is slick.
Smell: Bourbon barrel, cherries, prunes, vanilla, bakers chocolate, molasses, and Big Red chew...Very rich aroma.
Taste: Big. Bold. Robust. The taste follows the nose. Among the other tastes, dark fruit is apparent. This becomes syrupy as it warms.
Feel: Thick and silky in the mouth. Lower level of carbonation. The lather is very thin and fades away smoothly.

Overall - A superbly crafted, fine piece of art.

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

amazingly complex beer, its staggering that goose island continue to improve year after year on these world class beers. the barleywine definitely distinguishes it from the original stout and its simply the best barleywine ive ever tasted.

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

The beer poured a deep opaque brown to black with slight ruby hints and an almost imperceptible head. The pour left some strange whitish oil slick like traces on the top which I found odd but that wasn’t going to stop me from forging through this phenomenal beer. The aroma was very similar to the Bourbon County Stout that was heavy on the bourbon with slight hints of vanilla but mostly Bourbon. The taste had those familiar Bourbon County flavors of Bourbon and vanilla with the slight coconut hints coming at the tail end. Very malty and very bourbon forward the Bourbon County Brand Barelywine is one beast of a beer. Another barrel-aged masterpiece from Goose Island that takes over your palate as it warms and becomes a divine drinking experience.

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Photo of Ian_B
4.24/5  rDev -5.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Innocent and mundane in appearance, the insane raisin-y sweetness smacks you across the face with a solid, almost cloying strength. It was almost enough to turn me off, but the taste comes through very well-balanced in comparison, with loads of sweetness handsomely accompanied by earthy roastiness. A smooth, spicy burn from the alcohol thins the mouthfeel a bit and let's the bourbon really shine. This style isn't something I am in the mood for too often, but this is a damn solid recipe.

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Photo of Fux
4.51/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

2013 bottle.
A: Very dark brown with a quite large but fizzy mocha head which doesn't last. No lacing to speak of.
S: Smell is sweet and boozy with tons of vanilla, chocolate, ripe and dark fruits. It gets more mellow as it opens, with the vanilla dominating the scent.
T: Chocolate, caramel, vanilla, oak, leather, prune and fig. Complex with a good balance but with a quite boozy aftertaste, with ashes and cold tobacco lingering in the back of the throat. It really get better and better as it opens but the booziness also gets more overpowering as it warms up.
M: High bodied, with a thick, oily mouthfeel, which fits the style very well. The booziness on the finish is a bit harsh though.
O: This is pretty much focused on the barrel treatment (as expected for a bourbon county variant). Very good, not in par with King Henry but still a very enjoyable sipper.

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Photo of StinkyFishBoys
4.94/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Pours dark golden brown and sits in the glass much darker. Smells the opposite of dead fish. Has an incredible mild fruit taste at the end, this is seriously the best barley wine you will ever have. All fins up.

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

12oz Bottle.

Appearance - Dark brown hue.

Smell - Bourbon, caramel, smokiness, very complex...

Taste - Brown sugar, caramel dred fruits. No preceivable alcohol. Delicious.

Mouthfeel - Incredibly drinkable. Medium attenuation. Perfect carbonation.

Overall - Highly recommend. Best barleywine I have ever had!

Grade (A+)

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Photo of TonyLuvsBeer
4.49/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

I was able to try this at the 2015 World Expo of Beer in Frankenmuth, MI the other night. Had BCBS and BC Vanilla Rye to compare it to. This was my least favorite. All three smelled very similar - incredible aroma. I felt this one was a little syrupy for my liking. Overall - still very solid but I preferred the other 2 a lot more.

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Photo of Pete_IV
4.18/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

2013 bottle. Pours dark brown mahogany color with a small tan head. Might have poured too aggressively but bits of yeast sediment throughout. Smells of sweet malt, fig. Tastes like a sweeter barleywine up front then leads to flavors of regular bcbs. Slight bit of booze going down, but all around smooth.

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Photo of kkleu357
4.43/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

On tap at Coopers Tavern during Madison Beer Week. Dark brown body with a small head. Big sweet aroma. Very sweet tasting. Hints of dark fruits, oak, some vanilla. Mild bourbon bite. Had this right after Vanilla Rye so it’s tough to appreciate, but still very good.

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Photo of hopsputin
4.78/5  rDev +6.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

A: a rich muddy ruby red color with some mahogany color

S: dark fruits, bourbon, licorice, oak, dark chocolate. Loads of sweet caramel. Very lovely smelling beer

T: sweet dark cherries, fig, sweet sugary syrup, vanilla, sweet bourbon, a hint of roasted malts, rich milk chocolate. Ends with a bit of bourbon and some alcohol in the flavor

M: medium mouthfeel. Carbonation level is medium, but works nicely

O: a fantastic beer. Well harmonized and complex. Not much alcohol in the flavor which makes it dangerous. Get some.

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Photo of uvachief
4.49/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Damn Jeanna! Poured from a chilled 12oz bottle into a snifter glass. Brownish merlot color that is opaque when held to the light. Minimal head during the pour that quickly dissipated. Smells of fruit, vanilla and sugar sweet grapes or raisins. Beautiful aroma. Tastes like a traditional English barleywine but thick and full in the mouth. Big blast of raisins, vanilla with subtle undertones of bourbon aged in oak barrels. Huge abv and slight burn. Amazingly doesn't taste like bourbon. Sweet. Grapes, raisins and vanilla. Chewy almost. Really complex. Struggling to identify flavors. Really smooth and drinkable for such an abv bomb. One of those "Let's get everyone up in here pregnant" beers. Will definitely acquire more! Got this as an extra for crying out loud! Dang this is good!

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Photo of GarthDanielson
4.76/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2014 vintage. Poured in a snifter, the beer is a very dark, cloudy, opaque, brown coloring with no head. The beer pours thick like liquor. Aromas of rich caramel and molasses forward, solid booze undertone, notes of pineapple and cream, vanilla, woody highlights, and subtle char notes. Very rich and sweet nose. Flavors are richly sweet forward, with a heavy dose of vanilla, molasses, and caramel, all rich and sweet, on a roasted backbone with a booze kick and building warmth. Amazingly balanced, with old world fruit notes of date, plum, and raisin layering on. Woody and bourbon highlights, with some char notes, too. This is layered, yet balanced and super smooth. The body is robust and velvety smooth, with a building warmth adding to the molasses and toffee rich aftertaste. The finish is heavy and smooth, with a sugary sweet and boozy linger. Fantastic beer, and amazingly drinkable despite the depth, weight, and robust flavors. Wow!

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Photo of bgold86
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Lots of dark dried fruit tones, prunes, raisins, slight apricot, candid sugar, maple syrup.. smoother than a ride in your favorite sports car, but with oomph and balls.

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Photo of chrisjws
4.85/5  rDev +7.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2014 vintage poured in a snifter glass. Refrigerated and left at room temperature for 15 minutes before pouring.

A: Dark, dark brown. Hints of ruby at the edges. Brownish head is less than a finger. Some alcohol legs when I swirl.
S: Tobacco, caramel, dark fruits, small amounts of chocolate, spiciness, bourbon.
T: Slight bitterness with caramel, followed by strong whiskey combined with dark fruits. Tobacco and bourbon in the aftertaste.
M: Slight carbonation, coats your mouth. Heavy but smooth.
O: Excellent barleywine, made better with bourbon.

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Photo of danieelol
4.47/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks Wyatt. Bottled 17 Sep 13

Pours dark black but with the occasional red/purple when swirled. Head looks nice, decently tanned. It's not that aggressive but can be summoned with a swirl and becomes markedly more vigorous.

Nose is first off plum. Then chocolate. Lots of chocolate actually. Bourbon and muscatel grapes. Comes across like a Christmas pudding with stewed fruits and lots of brandy. And chocolate veers into caramel at times.

Appearance and nose are truly exceptional.

Taste has lots of grapey muscatel, hint of chocolate but more subtle and fruits. Definitely can feel there's a lot of sugar there but it's kept in check to some extent by the barrel char and a bit of booze.

Plummy sweetness does creep up a bit in the mouthfeel but it stops short of cloying.

Overall an amazing beer. Nose is potentially the best of a barleywine I've ever had. Just love the huge dark fruits, bourbon but also chocolate and caramel. Best of both worlds.

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Photo of robgutie
4.72/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

I enjoy barleywines but tend to be more of a fan of stouts. This really blew me away. Poured, 6 months after bottling) dark as night, virtually no head. Smell was pleasent but mild. Taste sweet with big burbon notes and raisin.

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Photo of dboon
4.36/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bottle. Dark brown pour with a kaki head. Dark fruit and barrel aromas. Big bourbon, dark fruit, brown sugar, caramel notes dominate. Vanilla, and oaky low lights. Average body. Very good mouthfeel. Doesn’t drink like a 15%er. A little time in the bottle might help this beer.

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Photo of Pourharddrinkslow
4.68/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottled September 2014, poured into a snifter on March 21, 2015. So about 6 months age on it.

Look - Probably the darkest barley wine i've ever seen, it looks more like a stout than anything, very dark brown, appears black in most lights. Gorgeous.

Smell - Very pleasant smell. Slightly sweet, mixed with a malty smell and a small amount of booze. much less of a boozy smell than most barleywine.

Taste - The best part of any beer (or else your drinkin' the wrong stuff). This is crazy smooth for an 11%+ barleywine. It is very earthy, nuts, figs, and maybe a little sugar cane. It truly is delicious. The burn of the alcohol is very discreet but it's definitely the flavor that stays with you the longest in between sips.

Feel - Not as thick as I was expecting, but that is most definitely not a bad thing. Based on the flavor profile the thinner mouthfeel is spot on to complement the flavors.

Overall - Can't think of many other beers of this style I would rank ahead of this. Maybe J.W. Lee's off the top of my head but this is an excellent representation of the barleywine style. If you find it, don't pay attention to the price just buy it. I promise it will be worth it.

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Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
99 out of 100 based on 462 ratings.