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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.

470 Reviews
no score

(Send Samples)
Reviews: 470
Hads: 4,512
Avg: 4.5
pDev: 8%
Wants: 643
Gots: 2,080 | FT: 315
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: 470 | Hads: 4,512
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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Photo of Hop_God
4.77/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

A:Dark murky brown. kinda cola like. little bit of burgundy hues also.
S: booze, brown sugar, oak, caramel, very subtle vanilla, dates, bourbon.
T: See Above. Lots of perfect balance with this. Boozy in the best way, sweet stone fruits and syrupy.
F: thick, chewy, smooth like velvet. almost no carbonation
O: This is the best representation of an English Barleywine. Lots of others try to duplicate but can not match the great execution of this.

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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

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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 aroma. 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.

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Photo of buckslayer50
4.66/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Really good, really sweet, my girlfriend said it tasted like liquid chocolate. Pours a dark brown with absolutely no head. Could only drink one in a sitting but will try and get it every year, to age and drink throughout the year.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
99 out of 100 based on 470 ratings.