Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale - Goose Island Beer Co.

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Bourbon County Brand Barleywine AleBourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale

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434 Reviews
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Reviews: 434
Hads: 4,312
rAvg: 4.5
pDev: 2.22%
Wants: 575
Gots: 1,904 | FT: 301
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.
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Reviews: 434 | Hads: 4,312
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. (961 characters)

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. (228 characters)

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. (278 characters)

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. (1,195 characters)

Photo of dmgeng
4.28/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Got this one on trade since I needed to bridge the gap on a more expensive bomber.

A - Very dark garnet. Has a light tan head that subsides quickly to leave no trace of carbonation or head.

S - Sweet bourbon smell mixed with strong maltiness and some coconut and light chocolate notes as well. Very complex smell but predominately sweet and barrel forward.

T - The bourbon barrel is the main event. The full bourbon flavor is accompanied by the malt and the sweet caramel tones of the base beer. The barrel also carries with it oak, vanilla, and a distinct toasted coconut character. There seems to be no bitterness and the only slight salvation for the sweetness is the alcohol on the back end.

M - High mouth-feel with almost no carbonation. Very much like taking a shot of bourbon and dropping it into a tepid barleywine.

Overall, this is a very complex beer with a sweet bourbon forward flavor. If you don't like sweet beers or bourbon this one is probably not a good choice. I wouldn't pay $10 for this beer again but I could see someone wanting this beer occasionally. I do not feel that this is a good representation of the style and you shouldn't judge your experience of the past on this beer. This beer is a beast of it's own that you need to make your own decision on.

Glass- Snifter (1,301 characters)

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

2014 Vintage
Poured from a bottle into a snifter.

A - Pours an opaque ruby-brown with a one-finger tan head which quickly vaporized, leaving a thin, bubbly film behind. Rings of lacing consisting of teeny, tiny, bubbles.

S - Powerful aroma of toffee, fruit cake, date, plum, fig, and prune. Smells delicious.

T - Matches the nose well, with extra caramel, oak, and sherry/port notes not as prevalent in the smell. Rich sweet plums and cherries in the mid palate. Hints of tobacco, leather, vanilla bean, and molasses. Some earthy hop comes through in the long finish. ABV present as a bite in the finish but still well hidden. The flavors blend and swirl in seemingly endless complexities. Fantastic.

M - Full body with delicately low carbonation. Slick, slightly syrupy finish; coats the tongue completely Overall feel is smooth.

O - Lives up to the hype, and pretty much perfection. Certainly the best barleywine ever to grace my lips. 5/5. (950 characters)

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

Lives up to the hype. I consider this to be a pretty well balanced example of the style. Bourbon is present but not overpowering. I would think for someone that is looking for a "starter" bourbon barrel barleywine is would be a nice one to try. (244 characters)

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

A: Very dark ruby red. Almost black. Basically zero head and retention from a careful pour.

S: Vanilla, sweet molasses and caramel, chocolate, huge bourbon and slight earthy hops.

T: Vanilla, molasses, chocolate and dark fruit take a back seat to the huge sweet bourbon. Slight hoppy and bitter aftermath.

M: Medium to heavy bodied, decent carbonation. Little bitterness from the hops of a typical barleywine but barely detectable due to the bourbon.

O: Absolutely amazing. Usually I prefer this beer with a year or two on it but the freshness of the base beer coupled with the hands-down best bourbon barrel technique has this beer in a class of its own. Sucuba, sit back down. (682 characters)

Photo of jren
4.28/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4

I was very lucky to taste a growler a week ago. I know this had a great smooth feel, great smell and very unique (first time) taste to me but this style is too sweet for me. (174 characters)

Photo of Sparty1224
4.93/5  rDev +9.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Serving: 12 oz. bottle poured into a CBS snifter. Bottled on 9/24/14, making this just over 4 months old.

A: Pours a very dark mahogany. Some light getting through the edges. Lots of flakes and sediment in this one, unsure what it's from. Very calm, minimal head retention. Occasional bubbles rise from the depths when agitated.

S: Vanilla, oak, caramel, bourbon. Some dark fruits. Very, very sweet. Some maple syrup and toffee notes as well. The aroma doesn't quite "pop" like the other BC beers, but that may be due to the third-use barrels.

T: Oh, this is amazing. Tons of caramel and toffee up front. Vanilla, oak, some smokiness. Lots of molasses and maple syrup notes. Bourbon comes through mostly in the finish, and it's very subtle. The bourbon imparts more of a booziness than a flavor. Tons and tons of balance here. Not a single off note, really. Everything in perfect harmony from beginning to end.

M: Stunningly full mouthfeel. Perfect carbonation for this beer. Perfect amount of boozy sweetness.

O: So this is probably my #1 or #2 favorite BA Barleywine. The only thing that comes close is Kuhnhenn's BBBW, but it's been a while since I've had that. This beer is just great. Is does everything it's supposed to. Each taste reveals a new complexity and layer to the beer. So many flavors at once. Some might be scared by it's overt sweetness, but I think it totally works here. I think the nose could be a bit stronger, but I'm wondering if that's where the third-use barrels hurt it here. But for the most part, this beer is just so well balanced and constructed.

Recommendation: Must-try. Plus, this one isn't too hard to get. (1,653 characters)

Photo of ER527
4.91/5  rDev +9.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2014 release. Appearance- dark and deep ruby color, no head retention, has don't legs to it. Smell- beautiful and blended smells of vanilla, oak, bourbon, toffee, more dark fruits as it warms, and caramel, reminds me of its stout brother. Taste- wow, just wow. For a bottle with no age on it, it blends so well with some alcohol presence. Starts with a smooth vanilla and caramel which gives way to plenty of malt, oak, tobacco, dark fruits and bourbon, finishes with a nice hop presence temporarily which gives way to a creamy and boozy finish. Mouthfeel- holy crap, this is one of the best if not the best mouthfeels I've ever had with a beer. So syrupy and creamy, very dangerous, I really think I could session this with ease which is surprising given what it is. Overall- an amazing experience. I'm really surprised, I like this way better than bcbs, and I'm more of a stout guy. This lives up to the billing. (914 characters)

Photo of breakingbland
4.14/5  rDev -8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Served on tap at WOB (meh...) into a snifter. This beer is a nearly opaque brown with deep red highlights. The head is a handsome brownish tan.

Oddly, there wasn't much aroma: some vanilla and bourbon.

The taste was basically the usual bourbon and oaky vanilla. The interesting part was in the nuances: a trace of gingerbread, dried dark fruit with a definite and very pleasant caramelization. The aftertaste was a strong sweetness with a slight hoppy astringency.

The mouthfeel was perhaps my favorite part: very full and thick -- on the verge of syrupy. Perfect carbonation.

Overall, I'm glad I had a chance to try this. In many ways it was like other bourbon barrel aged beers. But what sets it apart were the nuances (for example, the hint of caramelized dried dark fruits) and the full, deep body. (806 characters)

Photo of orcrist_cleaver
4.41/5  rDev -2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

A: Pours a tawny brown with limited head, and perhaps some black cheery highlights.

S: Very malty and lots of dark fruits--raisins, prunes, blackberry. Extremely rich port-like qualities,

M: Attenuation is incredible. Feels a tad sharp at times. Pleasant warmth on the way down; it takes some time to develop.

T: Has a mellow character bordering on blasé. Moments of molasses. Some dark bready malts. Dried plums, grapes. Some oxidated metallic, Definition of balance. Would pair very well with cheese. A very mature beer. (528 characters)

Photo of TubaManJack
4.34/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

I have enjoyed both the 2013 & 2014 vintages on draft recently and found there was a fair bit difference between the two in the body and shear deliciousness.

While 2013 has a bit more "port" warmth, thinner body, earthy grain taste, and more bourbon compared to 2014 which had more plum/port fruit and fig sweetness to it. I'd be curious to see if it translated in to a side by side bottle comparison. (403 characters)

Photo of larryarms847
4.75/5  rDev +5.6%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Pours dark brown with a very noticeable mahogany red tone, with a thin layer of caramel kissed foam.

Vanilla, oak, tobacco, caramel, dark fruit, and some bourbon heat.

Dark fruits, vanilla, oak, earthy, all encompassed in a warm bourbon blanket.

Heavy-bodied, low carbonation, sweet, slightly fruity, bourbon warmth.

Overall, my favorite barleywine to date. (361 characters)

Photo of dutesanch
4.34/5  rDev -3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Tasted a '14 that wasn't as boozy and "hot" as I was expecting. A lot of dark fruit, dark sugar sweetness. Zero head and lacing with an oily mouthfeel. It was very good but drinks more like liquor than a beer. (209 characters)

Photo of HattedClassic
4.55/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

The beer pours very little caramel colored head such that it didn't even take over the complete surface area. The beer itself is an opaque, very dark brown with a little bit of dark purple notes. The beer isn't quite black as a result.

The beer has a very strong aroma that carries over quite a distance. The various notes that come out are mainly dark fruits with a vanilla note from the barrel. The dark fruit notes are plum, fig, and raisin; all of which mix very well with the vanilla. The vanilla note is wonderful because it doesn't overwhelm but does not let itself get trapped.

The beer taste is delicious and sinful. The beer has very strong dark fruit notes with a vanilla note that runs through it pretty well. The dark fruits that really come out are plum and raisin. Additionally, the taste has a bitter hop note that makes a strong contrast to the fruits.

The mouthfeel is very heavy bodied but feels lighter due to the carbonation. The beer itself is pretty smooth. Also, a slight alcohol is present in the beer.

Overall, this barleywine is fantastic. This beer has the right notes in the right places in the right degrees. (1,142 characters)

Photo of Way2drunk
5/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Excuse me! Why are they still selling this as if it wasn't the best of the whole collection! I was able to get one of all the bourbon county release and this by far has the most flavor of the collection!! By the way I don't noally like barley wines! Thank your bourbon county! My wait n line was well worth it!! (312 characters)

Photo of Pliny_the_Self-righteous
4.16/5  rDev -7.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Draft 1/12/15 @ Harry's Hofbrau RWC. Pours dark brown with limited caramel colored head. Some lacing present. Aroma of bourbon, raisins, figs, and a bit of vanilla. Good mouthfeel, although a little thinner than the other BC offerings. Taste is dark fruits, bourbon, oak, vanilla, and possibly a hint of chocolate. Solid bourbon barrel aged barleywine. (358 characters)

Photo of rangerred
4.48/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle into a snifter.

Pours a very dark brown, nearly black, with a smallish, thick dark tan head. Very good lacing for this strong a beer.

Aroma has some roasted character reminiscent of a stout but it is bolstered by plums and figs and somewhat of a sherry note. The bourbon is a bit subdued with just a touch of vanilla coming through.

The flavor really gives you a sense of everything these barrels have been through. Touches of vanilla, oak, and chocolate up front with dark fruit coming in a bit later. Sherry is more subdued. Big, thick mouthfeel with decent sweetness but it is not overly sweet. Alcohol warmth is present but the strength of this beer is well hidden.

Overall, I was very fortunate to be able to track this down in East Tennessee after years of wanting to try it. This beer does not disappoint as there is just so much going on. Truly world-class. (882 characters)

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

It pours a beautiful dark brown, nearly black, with a one finger head of caramel colored foam that slowly breaks away. The aroma is strong, boozy with vanilla and oak notes. Taste is unexpectedly as smooth as it is complex. It's boozy and very sweet. The bourbon barrels really come through again with those same oak and vanilla notes. There is also an element of dark dried fruit (raisins/figs). As it warms, the bourbon aspect becomes even more prominent. The feel is absolutely perfect, it's creamy and full-bodied, and it sticks to your mouth. Carbonation is perfect. Honestly, this whole experience borders on perfect. It's hard to imagine improving this beer, I just wish I could get more of it. (702 characters)

Photo of mr-jj
4.44/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

12 oz bottle split between 4 samplers. Notes from 12/28/14.

Color is dark mahogany with a thin tan head. Smell is dark fruit, vanilla, toasted oak and bourbon. No hop aroma. Flavor is pretty sweet - caramel malt with dark fruit, vanilla and bourbon. A bit boozy. Body is full with mild carbonation and a syrupy, viscous mouthfeel.

Overall, it's an excellent beer and I definitely enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to seeing how it ages. (445 characters)

Photo of bnes09
4.2/5  rDev -6.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Dark brown, milk chocolate color. Minimal head after an aggressive pour.

Sweet, candy-like aroma with toffee and dark fruit. A malt symphony.

Rich, malty flavor with figs, dates, toffee and molasses. Subtle oak and toasted almonds. Just a hint of the left over stout embedded in the wood. No hop character.

Full bodied, syrupy, sticky feel. Slightly low carbonation works well.

Solid barrel-aged barelywine. (419 characters)

Photo of Vogie
4.48/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A bold and complex beer. Flavors of Carmel, Toffee, Vanilla, Leather, and an alcohol burn. Takes on the consistency and flavor of a fine bourbon as it warms. Definitely recommend sharing a bottle as this beer is heavy. Look forward to aging a couple over the next five years as it develops. (291 characters)

Photo of metter98
4.48/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

A: The beer is clear but very dark reddish brown in color (black when viewed from afar). It poured with a short beige head that rapidly dissipated, leaving only a thin collar around the edge of the glass.
S: Moderate aromas of bourbon and vanilla are present in the nose. The smell becomes stronger as the beer warms up.
T: Just like the smell, the taste has flavors of bourbon and associated vanilla; these linger into the finish. Hints of the underlying barleywine are also apparent.
M: air feels medium-bodied and silky smooth on the palate, coating your mouth with a moderate amount of carbonation.
O: This beer is very drinkable considering its strength—the only alcohol you get is from the bourbon.

Serving type: bottle (732 characters)

Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
99 out of 100 based on 434 ratings.