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Imperial Brown Goose - Goose Island Beer Co.

Not Rated.
Imperial Brown GooseImperial Brown Goose

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162 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 162
Reviews: 122
rAvg: 4.18
pDev: 12.2%
Wants: 98
Gots: 11 | FT: 2
Brewed by:
Goose Island Beer Co. visit their website
Illinois, United States

Style | ABV
Old Ale |  9.00% ABV

Availability: Rotating

Notes & Commercial Description:
Beer added by: BeerAdvocate on 07-29-2004

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Blend of Goose Island's 2004 and 2005 Christmas Ales, both of which were aged in 4-year old Jim Beam and 12-year old Heaven Hill barrels.

Bottled once in 2006.
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 162 | Reviews: 122
Photo of DawnL
4.12/5  rDev -1.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

Brown ale with amber highlights and sticky lacing.

Bourbon and vanilla - just an incredible amount of bourbon and vanilla.

The palate has, shockingly, more bourbon and vanilla, but with the sweet malt backbone that balances the bourbon so nicely.

Actually had this up against Brooklyn Manhattan Project. Manhattan Project tasted like water in comparison.

Really well-made beer with full flavor of the barrels. Much more tame than Bourbon County Stout. The mouthfeel was a little lighter - Bourbon County is like drinking molasses - it's just so rich. This one was more like having a light syrup - very good.

Not as drinkable just because it's like having bourbon with your food - but I am a huge fan of this beer and would order it any time it's available.

Photo of champ103
3.22/5  rDev -23%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

I can't believe I have not reviewed this yet. I found a review from some notes after an Old Ale BA tasting (about a year ago now).

A: Pours a fairly clear brown color. A minimal bubbly beige head forms with light lace.
S: Sweet malt with a light fruitiness. Alcohol from the start. Not a lot of depth.
T: Follows the nose. Sweet malt and some dark fruits. Alcohol overpowers.
M/D: A medium body that is way over carbonated for my tastes. Pretty hard to sip on. Lots of alcohol shows itself everywhere.

I was a little disappointed with this. One of my favorite breweries, and one of my favorite styles. Though this just did not do it for me.

Photo of MasterSki
4.1/5  rDev -1.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

On-tap at the GI Clybourn brewpub. This batch was listed as 7.2% ABV. Served in a snifter.

A - One finger of slow-dissolving light tan foam, with attractive solid lacing. Deep ruby red color - almost like stained wood - that is transparent when held up to the light.

S - Bourbon, butterscotch, caramel malts, tart apple, and tannic woodiness. It was served to me far too cold, but it really came alive as it warmed.

T - A mixture of bourbon, butterscotch, caramel, and nuttiness. The finish is dry and tannic with a touch of tart Braeburn apple - however it doesn't have the slight sourness that some other barrel-aged brews develop.

M - This serving seemed overcarbonated - the harshness and burning off my lips and palate interfered with perception of the texture as well as magnifying the barrel characteristics. Body is medium and seemed a little gritty.

D - The mild aftertaste and lower ABV help the drinkability factor for this one. It's not a booze bomb, but more of a bourbon-infused brown (as the menu calls it).

You can tell this has been in the barrel for quite a while - I'm guessing the base beer is Naughty Goose these days (or perhaps it's still the Christmas beer?), but there's almost no trace of the original brew. It drinks like a lighter version of BA Fantabulous Resplendence X, and certainly has more gravitas than your typical 7.2% beer.

Photo of RJUGA03
3.82/5  rDev -8.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

I found this on tap at Hop Leaf in Andersonville 9/24/09. $6.50/ 8oz snifter. The menu at Hop Leaf claimed 7.2% abv.

A-Extremely dark and rich textured with a 1" off white beautiful head. (minimal lacing)
S-Very strong choclate, dark malts, and an overpowering bourbon/ whiskey aroma.
T-You notice the burbon/ whiskey flavor throughout the entire sip, but it settles down iun the middle to give you the essence of the wonderful brown, then calming much like a burbon/ whiskey on your tongue.
M-Rich and holding minimal carbonation.
D-It is very drinkable, but price might restrict me on this one.

Photo of dirtylou
4.69/5  rDev +12.2%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

on-tap at Romans' in Milwaukee. I believe i've had this once before but was very happy to see it again...

cellphone notes

appearance: served in one of those silly Goose Island mock-chalices...muddy mahogany body with a creamy tan ring

smell: just one whiff of this one reminded me instantly of my love for this beer. smooth bourbon, vanilla and oak, creamy caramel. a divine aroma

taste: great things going on here - everything plays out harmoniously - the effects of barrel aging are perfectly executed. The bourbon is smooth and warming without being abrasive. Vanilla and oak compliments are presented flawlessly. Support is provided by smooth caramel and cream, milk chocolate, toffee, brown sugar and dark fruit

mouthfeel: superb smoothness

drinkability: good

Photo of botham
4.05/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3

on tap at the Clybourn Brewpub in Chicago. this batch (Sept 2009) has 7.2% APV. pours an amber/caramel brown color with a single finger of eggshell colored head that has great retention and leaves no lacings.

aroma is rich with malts (almost barleywine-esque in its richness) with notes of bready malt, grain, and thick earthy notes that is super concentrated in character and nicely composed in the nose. no alcohol is present.

taste follows the nose with the character of a barleywine. this is a huge brew with notes of thick bready malts, grain, caramel, wood, and a touch of smooth vanilla. the earthy tones are pulled back here when compared to the aroma. chewy in its richness with a solid profile

mouthfeel is full bodied and thick with a chewy texture and an aftertaste of residual thick malts.

drinkability is decent. a brew this thick is inherently less drinkable due to its rich nature, and it goes down semi-smooth with an aftertaste that is thicker than some beers. you could call it a barleywine and no one would notice. cheers!

Photo of JohnGalt1
4.15/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

I got this one a while back from Czoch75 during the 2nd Round of the Fight Club BIF... I shared this with a few Boise peeps and a couple out of SLC during an epic tasting.. Thanks Clint... This was very very well received and everyone was sorta astounded that an Idahoan would have one..

2006 bottle poured into my small La Trappe goblet.. slightly hazy brown... nice lite tan head with great retention.

Nose has a bunch of well mixed bourbon notes that melt into some brown sugar and other brown malts... toasty and very nutty.. yet the barrels just merge so well into the base beer.

Flavor is more balanced than the nose with vanilla and lite wood ... the brown sugar is still there with a good mix of dark dried fruits... the body is a tad lighter than expected, but the carbonation is spot-on.

As it warms, a little bit of EtOH still shows.... I'm amazed about that... the bourbon is softer so is the dark sugars... more complex after it has been open for a while... Very very interesting and more complex than I was expecting.. definitely not a "bourbon delivery device" .. instead the wood and long time in the bottle has has made this pretty damn nice.

Thanks again Clint... the Fight in the Fight Club was certainly worth the bruises.... I still need time to recover for Round 3 though :-)

Photo of Florida9
4.59/5  rDev +9.8%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Was lucky enough to try this one at GI's pig roast. What an absolutely amazing beer, truly one of a kind. At first sight, you notice the mahogany brown color and the light tan head. Its not an overly impressive head, but maybe the setting was right. Then again at 9%, I guess I shouldn't be expecting much anyway.

A whiff of this elixir reveals the strong, unyielding aromas of vanilla, oak, and boozy bourbon. The aroma itself is intoxicating; both sweet and innocent from the vanilla, while the bourbon reveals the sly, debaucherous side.

By the time this beer hits the lips, spills over into the mouth and crawls its way over your tongue that pungent aroma has punched you in the nose again. The aggressive flavors of the sweet malts and raisin start off the show, yet, not to be outdone, the caramel vanilla flavor of bourbon overtake the dense sweetness in a much more aromatic fashion. One taste begs for another. And then another. Maybe a good long draw of that funky bourbon breathe in between, but it definitely needs another sip. Yet, that is the way this beer is. Its meant to be a sipper. A warming, comforting ale. But that sweet, raisin malt plays so well with the vanilla, sips just aren't cutting it.

In short, this is an excellent beer. Anyone who thinks BCS has bourbon characteristic should seek out this beer. Whereas BCS has a huge, malty backbone, this ale is lighter and alcoholic, much the way bourbon is. Both are excellent beers and are quite fine for their styles, but where the bourbon accents of BCS are used to fine tune that beer, this beer is more of a love child being much more aggressive and straightforward in its flavors.

Photo of emerge077
4.47/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

ON TAP @ Goose Clybourn. This has to be batch #2/3, as it hasn't been available for a year or so. Aged one year in bourbon barrels according to the menu.

Served in an 8 oz. snifter, this murky, tawny brown old ale had a slim cap of foam at first, that retreated to a thin skim after awhile. It took about half an hour to drink it, I was too busy inhaling (not huffing). Vanilla, tobacco, brown sugar, and fruity bourbon notes take center stage. No alcohol that I can smell, just the distilled essence of sweet bourbon perfection.

Flavors were rich and malt dominant, plenty of strong bourbon flavor, fruity with drying oak bitterness in the finish. The heat is there, but it's not all that boozy. You get all the complex flavors of the bourbon without the burn. Vanilla, apple, pear, brown sugar, tobacco flavors are all intertwined nicely, wrapped in a malty blanket. Carbonation was low, and the ale was full bodied. A slow sipper, the small snifter was just the right size.

Photo of mwilbur
4.15/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2006 batch. Poured from 750 mL bottle into snifter.
A: Pours a very dark, ruddy brown with 2 inch tan head. Good retention. Very little light comes through with backlighting.
S: Bourbon, vanilla, and charred wood. Strong alcohol here...gives you fair warning. Very nice.
T: Softer than you would expect from the aroma...which is a good thing. A good balance of bourbon, vanilla, and roasted malts. Unfortunately, a bit thin on the taste when compared with the ABV...wish it was a bit bolder like their Bourbon County Stout to hold up better to the alcohol content. Still quite good.
M: Fairly soft and smooth with a mild alcohol bite and bourbon burn.
D: Definitely a sipper. Overall a good beer, but not a great one. Goose Island continues to churn out quality brews.

Photo of kiddynamite920
4.55/5  rDev +8.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2006 batch, poured from a 750 ml bottle. Deep hazy amber in color. Head is intense at first, but diminishes quickly to a thin rim of small bubbles. Aroma is strong of alcohol, for an 8% beer. Smells strongly of bourbon and raisins. Very malty and sweet, some vanilla notes. Taste is out of this world, my first Imperial Brown ale or "old ale" as the site says. Strong raisin flavors but very well balanced. I'm reminded of Brooklyn's brown ale with a kick. Fantastic beer, glad my friend let me indulge in a glass of his beer.

Photo of Lothore
4.06/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2006 edition

A- This is what i've been looking for in an old ale's looks. Deep blackish red with a gigantic, light brown, creamy head, that fades very slowly with lots of lacing.

S- Smells very strong of dark fruits, raisins, bourbon backbone.

T- Wow, the taste is very unexpected. Dark fruits, raisins, figs all the way through, slight hops in the middle, sharp bourbon note at the end.

M- A little too much carbonation, fairly thick and creamy.

D- Very nice one to sip on. Theres something in the taste that doesn't fit very well but I dug it overall. I think the carbonation will die off in a few year and make this an awesome brew.

Photo of SammyDavisJrJrJr
4.47/5  rDev +6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 4.5

Lucky break found me this bottle recently, haven't had it in two years. Split with Jyp, into the Chimay goblet...

A - Dark, rich amber that can almost pass for brown. Real good retention on this cream-colored head.

S - Glorious sweet bourbon! Oak, vanilla, cherry, alcohol. Very, very, very minute toffee and caramel malt flavor. Chocolate cake like sweetness.

T - Wow, this is much different than I remember. The bourbon is still present, but is secondary to the rich dark fruits and smoke than one expects in a good Old Ale. Starts out with a slight rock sugar sweetness with good roasted malt to back it up. Cherry, apple, maybe pomegranate-like sweet/tartness become more present in the midpalate, but only as highlights. Bourbon notes do make an appearence right before the swallow, but does not last too long, and allows for the smoke and alcohol to dominate in the finish.

M - Very carbonated for it's style, would not have minded a thicker, silkier, less lively mouthfeel.

D - So this evolved from a fun, although one-dimensional product to a deep, complex old ale. The bourbon is a nice touch to a flavorful old ale. If you can tract down a bottle, it's worth it, but don't expect it to be a bourbon bomb.

Photo of rallison
4.5/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2006 bottle.

Pours a beautiful dark brown with a 3 finger off-white head that never fully dies and leaves extensive lacing.

Smells of sweet bourbon with pleasant waves of vanilla and hints of chocolate and oak. Beautiful.

Layers of bourbon and oak dance on top of a smooth layer of this imperial brown. The base beer seems to only serve as a staging ground for the bourbon barrel aging; that said, it works. Molasses, light candied fruits and a finishing touch of alcohol warmth round this out.

Mouthfeel is very smooth with a slight bit of lightness on the tongue. Just enough carbonation to keep the beer from dragging itself down. Nicely played here.

Drinkability is, all in all, quite good.

I've had many samples of this beer - but, only fresher bottles. Fresh, it is rich in bourbon, but there is no subtlety and no balance. With age, it appears that, while the bourbon is still the strongest player, the supporting actors finally get their voice and get to bring a promising beer to greatness. Age this one a couple of years, you won't be disappointed.

Highly recommended (2+ years old).

Photo of armock
2.76/5  rDev -34%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.5

A - Poured a brownish amber color with an off white head that leaves lacing

S - Is of a lot of bourbon dark fruit fights to come through

T - Very unbalanced more bourbon and alcohol than anything not much beer taste some dark fruit comes out but not much

M - This beer has a thinner body with medium carbonation to it

D - Low drinkability just way too much bourbon if thats what I wanted then I'd buy some bourbon just an unbalanced beer thats not for me

Photo of Beertracker
4.32/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

GI's Imperial Brown Goose pours up with some cascading effect that creates a wafer thin tan head that neatly crowns the slightly hazy, deep reddish brown body. Lots of sweet, treacle/toffee notes from the caramel. Bourbon noted along with some spicy hops, oak, roastiness & cherry-vanilla. Starts off with some brown sugary, chocolate maltiness that dries out towards the complex, warming bourbon-laced finish. Medium-full bodied, smooth, creamy. This was a lucky find on cask to fill out my MBA Passport! I'm still partial to the Naughty Goose, but big brother makes a fine "cheek warmer" on a cold, blustery winter's day in Chicago. Here's to Clybourn's new lease on life!

CHEERS! Beertracker

Photo of illidurit
4/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Thanks to illinismitty for sharing this at the RBSG 08 Grand Tasting. Dark rust color with a nice light tan head. Aroma of bourbon, caramel, and spice. Flavors of caramel, burnt brown sugar, raisin, oak, and dark chocolate. Great complexity but not overly heavy on the palate.

Photo of Crosling
3.31/5  rDev -20.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

Dark ruby/burgundy color. Small head. Aroma shows a light touch of caramel and bourbon, with some dark fruit. Flavor is mainly barrel dominated, with corn whiskey, butterscotch and caramel flavors. Lighter body, with no texture. Smooth, fairly decent beer.

Photo of Floydster
4.35/5  rDev +4.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

750 ml bottle covered in a black wrapper, 2006 batch, purchased at Walnut Liquorette for twenty dollars two months ago, split with my buddy last night during Lost, poured into my Duvel tulip glass

A-Very dark brown with hints of mahogany, 3/4 inch super creamy light tan head that stuck around for close to five minutes, decent retention, some very sticky lacing

S-Bourbon and more bourbon, oak, vanilla, various spices, milk chocolate, toffee, caramel, sweet malt, brown sugar, and did I mention whiskey

T-Tons of bourbon all the way through, my buddy thought I was messing with him and poured a few shots in his glass when he was not looking, showed him the bottle and he still did not believe me, overpowered most other flavors in the beer until it really warmed and settled down a bit, booze were strong but they made this beer good, probably was a little too much when it was fresh, which makes me glad I drank this two years later, nice strong brew overall

M-Spicy and boozy mouthfeel, this one should sure made the tongue tingle, not much carbonation, not syrupy though, medium to thick body, felt like a glass of Buffalo Trace at times

D-Had about fourteen ounces of this and could have had more, surprisingly smooth, not very heavy on the stomach, only problem is that the alcohol is not hidden well, still very drinkable

After seeing that this was part of Michael Jackson's beer club I had to try it, blend of their previous two Christmas beers from 2004 and 2005 aged in whiskey barrels, bourbon lovers would go nuts over this brew, worth trying at least once even with the hefty price tag

Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.27/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2006 Batch. Tobacco with a great deal of rust orange and carmine red when backlit with sunshine. A loud rush of CO2 on crown cracking led me to expect a Belgianesque amount of carbonation and a massive head... and that is exactly what occured. The sandstone colored cap is whipped frothy, is softly rocky as it melts, and is a better lace generator than anticipated.

If you like bourbon, then you'll like the way this ale smells. The brewery describes IBG as a 'strong brown ale' that has been aged for nine months in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels. Barrel-aged beer is great, but they could have picked a better whiskey. There's a lot of carmelized sugar and oak, as well as dark fruit and cocoa.

This is delicious beer because Goose Island aged it for exactly the right amount of time. Although bourbon is dominant, it doesn't dominate. A fine distinction, perhaps, but an accurate one. The base beer is still easily appreciated and passes muster with ease.

Despite a mouthfeel that is too light and fizzy, there is no question that a considerable amount of lightly toasted and moderately roasted malt is in the house. The flavors that result include brown bread (maybe even pumpernickel), dark toffee, ripe figs and cocoa.

The star of the flavor show, however, is bourbon. The key to the final product's success is that the base beer was left in the barrels long enough to be saturated with their previous occupant, but not so long that it became overly oaky and harsh. Kudos to whoever made the decision to crack the barrels open at just the right time.

The biggest disappointment is the mouthfeel. Bottle-conditioning can sometimes be hit or miss. This one is clearly a miss. That said, it's much better now that I'm into the middle of the '750'. Still, it will never reach the point where it's worthy of the flavor profile. The drinkability score can't help but suffer as a result.

It might be an unfair comparison, but I would rather go home with a $20 4-pack of Bourbon County Stout (or two... or three) than a $14 bottle of Imperial Brown Goose. Either way, if you love bourbon whiskey, you'll be in seventh heaven. Nice job Goose Island.

Photo of RblWthACoz
4/5  rDev -4.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4


Pours dark brown with a big creme head. A vanilla alcohol nose leads to a strong vanilla flavor profile with an almost mint edge to it. The vanilla screams louder than anything else. Alcohol is slightly noticeable. Feel is smooth with a full carbonation. Nice to drink, yes. a fairly interesting old ale.

Photo of charlzm
3.7/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 4

Bottled, consumed on 1/31/08.

Slightly cloudy dark brown pour yields one finger head that reduces to thin skin. Bubbles cling to insides of glass throughout tasting. Aroma: sweet molasses, dark fruits, and something else... oh yeah, BOURBON. Mouthfeel is a hair thicker than water. Flavor is intense, if somewhat unnuanced. There is some sweet caramel flavor in the beginning and a finish marked by raisins. And BOURBON. Alcohol burn present from the moment beer enters mouth to long after it's gone down the hatch.

Not really all that fun or satisfying to drink, but I have to admire it anyway.

Photo of Viggo
4.37/5  rDev +4.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

As noted in previous review, this one is 11%, served in a snifter at Clybourn.

Pours a cloudy and opaque muddy brown, thin brown head forms, settles to a thin ring, leaves behind some lace spots, decent legs. Smell is intense, toffee cake, bourbon, sweet and bready malt, alcohol, more toffee, touch of chocolate, some figs and dark fruits. Taste is similar, very rich toffee cake, chocolate, bourbon, vanilla, wood, raisins, fruits, alcohol, very nice. Mouthfeel is thick, syrupy, really coats the mouth, low carbonation, pretty easy to drink for 11%, warmth going down, very nice!

Photo of DavidEddie
3.68/5  rDev -12%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

2006 vintage. Cellared for about 1 year.

Dank ruby brown in appearance with a soft white head. Huge aromas of bourbon/whiskey mainly. Followed by oak and dark fruits. Strong flavors of oak, vanilla, booze, apples, and raisins. Finishes with a bourbon bite and then becomes crisp. Very boozy and warming. Mouth feel is smooth and soft with lots of carbonation. Drinkability is good, if you like bourbon. A 750 ml was a bit too much though. There is no doubt about it, this one's a slow sipper for sure!

Photo of ppoitras
4.5/5  rDev +7.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

750ml bottle obtained via trade with kmpitz2. Thanks for the opportunity... Black foiled, capped, 2006 vintage.

Poured into a heavy glass chalice, formed a 2" tan head above the cloudy reddish brown brew. Head is rejuvenated by a river of bubbles flowing from the bottom, with heavy coating lace. Aroma is dark malts and bourbon. Taste is creamy malt sweetness upfront, a tinge of fruitiness in the middle, and vanilla and bourbon to close. Moderate flavors all, nothing overpowering another. Mouthfeel is smooth, and drinkability is way easy for an Old Ale. Good stuff.

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Imperial Brown Goose from Goose Island Beer Co.
93 out of 100 based on 162 ratings.