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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.

453 Reviews
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Reviews: 453
Hads: 4,417
Avg: 4.5
pDev: 25.11%
Wants: 606
Gots: 1,964 | FT: 305
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: 453 | Hads: 4,417
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Photo of keithmurray
4.88/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2013 vintage bottled on 9.24.2013

Appearance - dark mahogany/ruby red color with dark tan head

Smell - caramel, toffee, oak, bourbon, chocolate

Taste - this is complex and full of flavor - toffee, caramel, chocolate, coconut, oak, bourbon

Mouthfeel - full bodied, medium carbonation, sweetness upfront from the candy like toffee/caramel/chocolate notes, complexity is apparent on the backend as the flavors stick around for long after the initial swallow, barrel characteristics are well integrated into the flavors as well. So silky smooth.

Overall - this is a hell of a beer, full flavored, bold, complex yet easy to drink and enjoy. Much better beer than Bourbon County stout. Every beer lover owes it to themself to try this.

Price Point - $25/4 pack 12 oz bottles

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Photo of wedge
4.33/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5


Deep, dark brown color. Despite the solid hiss when prying off the cap, it pours with an almost still look, only a slim tan head forming before quickly dissolving to a fine collar. Smells highly oaky right out of the gate before giving way to brown bread, molasses, dates, nuts, and raisins. The wood mellows out a bit as it warms, developing more sticky breadiness, cherry, and slight oxidation. Flavor is less wooden, which is a definite improvement. Rich, malty flavors like figs, dates, toffee, raisin bread, tobacco, and chocolate coated in coconut and vanilla Bourbon notes. Sweet, but complex and layered. Amazingly silky, oily feel that is chewy, if not super thick (which is fine by me). Not a huge fan of the aggressive barrel in the nose, but the flavor and mouthfeel are excellent. Accomplishes being rich and decadent without being cloying or hot. Excellent!

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Photo of breadwinner
4.3/5  rDev -4.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

I'm just all over the place with the BC series these days. Some nights they're stellar, others just good. For me, this one's relative thinness and growing sweet/fruity character really impinge upon its drinkability. 6-8oz is right about the, er, sweet spot for me. Nose is very nice, some of those great coconut notes you get from really well done BA beer, some caramel/vanilla too. Rich, decadent, you get the idea. Palate has a bit of dark, caramelized malt, then the dark fruit swings into play. Eventually, that character threatens to get a touch cough syrupy. I'm not sure it ever gets there, but the threat is enough to keep this from being a true upper echelon beer for me. A little thin for my tastes as well. Overall, if you like BA barleywines, you'll almost certainly like this. It's always solid. Whether it's a killer experience or not seems to depend a bit on the bottle (or tap line) and the night.

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Photo of OrangeMen
4.97/5  rDev +10.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2013 Vintage - Aged 1 year 3 months

Appearance- Pours deep and dark murky brown, blackish mahogony. Razor thin, slight off white head, bubbly. Fantastic lacing on sides of glass.
Aroma- Rich caramel, molasses, toffee. Intense dark fruits, figs, dates, raisins, plums. Sweet bourbon mixed with oaky, earthy, leathery aromas. Creamy vanilla, rich malts, very sweet.
Taste- Rich sweet caramel malts, swirling creamy vanilla sweetness. Beautiful bourbon notes kick in, with a nice woody/oakiness to accompany. Sweet dark fruits, dry port finish.
Mouthfeel- Full bodied, slick, creamy, and smooth. Lower amount of carbonation.
Overall- An incredible treat, so sweet and delicatable. Creamy vanilla notes play wonderfully off the rich malts and fruits. Barrel characteristics shine and mix in a nice dryness. Drinks incredibly smooth, but very sweet. Mellow yet intense like a fine port, but very sweet.

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Photo of embass
4.33/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Drank on 2014 xmas eve...

A: Poured a very reddish-black (almost burgundy looking for me) with a pretty substantial amount of head at first but it quickly dissipates.
S: Strong bourbon smell with lots of vanilla mixed in. If I try to go a bit deeper there is some dark fruit, caramel, and slight toffee essence there as well.
T: Lots of sugary-sweetness, toffee, caramel and a strong bourbon flavor.
M: Thick, full bodied. A small amount of carbonation.
O: A very good barleywine. It was a little too sweet for me; although the sugary taste did calm over time as it warmed. I'd drink this again however next time I would drink it substantially warmer.

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Photo of snaotheus
4.4/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

12oz bottle split into four samplers (of various size, shapes, and materials).

Pours dark brown, slightly translucent. Aroma is alcohol and wood, slight cherry, slight smoke.

Taste is dominated by alcohol, but fades into a lighter fruitier, sweeter flavor. Mild roast bitterness.

Mouthfeel is smooth and mild. Overall, very good.

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Photo of T-34-85
4.66/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Amazing Beer, but not your everyday fare.

Pours inky dark and opaque with no head/foam.

An amazingly deep aroma, with the presence of dark dried fruits, leather, and sweetness.

The taste again exhibits a rich and complex mixture of flavors including dark fruits and a healthy level of sweetness. The high ABV is well masked by other characteristics present in this beer, and thus does not come off as being overly boozy.

The beer coats the mouth with a syrupy consistency and has no perceptible carbonation.

Overall, this is an amazing beer, and should be experienced by all those interested

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Photo of riTLce
3.98/5  rDev -11.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

Poured from a 12oz into a tulip, bottled 9/24/14

A: Rich mahogany, cognac tint in the shallower areas. Thick looking with mini suspended bubbles, minimal cola like foam dissipates quickly. Viscous coating on top

S: Malt bomb, earthy sweetness. Strong bourbon and oak scents, vanilla as well.

T: Sugar cane like sweetness, toffee, caramel, strong bourbon flavor. As the beer warms it seems the sugar cane is either less present or I got used to the flavor, which is for the best.

M: Thick, full bodied and heavy. Very little carbonation.

O: Good barleywine, although I was a little bit underwhelmed on the hype. Through the duration of drinking this I could not shake the strong sugar cane sweetness that was a bit overpowering. Personally I think the Uinta Anniversary barleywine is a more balanced example of the style.

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Photo of infinitebruner
4.29/5  rDev -4.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

December 24, 2014

12 oz bottle, red wine glass

A – Very dark brown, with a light brown foam head of less than a centimeter. Very short retention. Thick, viscous, sweet-looking.

S – Sherry, port wine, dark raisins, dark semi-sweet molasses. Seems to have taken on a lot of the BCS character. Bourbon and booze are strong, but don’t seem to be hot. Some cherries, toffee, and other fruity esters. Not much bitterness or hop aroma.

T – A ton of sweet, malty sugars, dark but not roasty. The sherry and port are prominent here, as well as golden raisins and perhaps cooked apples. Bourbon, BCS, booze are very apparent but very smooth. Some mild bitterness but not a lot of hop flavor. Very sweet, perhaps slightly unbalanced in that direction.

M – Very sweet, thick but somewhat light considering the depth here. Bitterness comes through on the finish. Alcohol warmth lasts throughout.

O – An incredibly well-constructed, complex beer. However, I would like to revisit after additional aging. There is a bit of a bite that I didn’t get in the ’13 vintage that should smooth out over time. Still, quite fantastic as is.

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Photo of leantom
4.86/5  rDev +8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Boy, this one was great! I liked it more than the BCBS. Here goes:

A: Good. Beer pours reddish-black with a massive head (far larger than BCBS) that readily dissipates, giving way to substantial lacing.

S: Excellent. Lots of vanilla from the oak. Substantial darkly-kilned caramel and amber malts give off dark fruit, caramel, and toffee flavors

T: Perfect. Taste follows the nose. Lots of vanilla from the oak; toffee, caramael, plum, and raisins from the malt. The flavors, however, are perfectly balanced - nothing feels excessive or out-of-place.

M: Sticky, thick bourbony mouthfeel. Great.

O: Great beer. Liked it slightly more than BCBS

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Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
99 out of 100 based on 453 ratings.