1. The wait is over! Download the BeerAdvocate app on iTunes or Google Play now.
  2. Get 12 issues / year of BeerAdvocate magazine for only $9.99!

Rare Bourbon County Stout - Goose Island Beer Co.

Not Rated.
Rare Bourbon County StoutRare Bourbon County Stout

Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse.

1,206 Ratings
no score

(send 'em beer!)
Ratings: 1,206
Reviews: 343
rAvg: 4.8
pDev: 6.46%
Wants: 1,745
Gots: 471 | FT: 17
Brewed by:
Goose Island Beer Co. visit their website
Illinois, United States

Style | ABV
American Double / Imperial Stout |  13.00% ABV

Availability: Limited (brewed once)

Notes/Commercial Description:
This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

Aged 2 years in 23-year old Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrels.

(Beer added by: alcstradamus on 10-07-2010)
View: Beers (210) | Events
Beer: Ratings & Reviews
Sort by:  Recent | Likes | High | Low | Top Raters
Ratings: 1,206 | Reviews: 343 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Rhettroactive
4.47/5  rDev -6.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

From 22oz bomber to snifter on 8/9/11
*From notes

Bottle 1489, bottled on 11/19/10

I must again thank siege06nd for sharing this "rarity" with me. I have and always will appreciate your generosity. You truly are an advocate of craft beer.

A: Rich mahogany brown along the edges to lights-out black in the bottom of the glass. The edge delineation here is spectacular. .25 finger head that dissipates quickly and zero lacing.

S: The bouquet is insanely concentrated. Like a fine red cuvee, this packs a massive quantity of black fruit and dark molasses into the nose. It reminds of an American Barleywine. Hints of vanilla bean and freshly ground nutmeg add to the complexity.

T: Like the nose, this one is so condensed it's crazy. Heavy handed notes of dried black fruits and tannic alcohol are all over this thing like Jackson Polock. It's a beautiful beer now, but still rather hot. It could easily take a few more years in the cellar. The alcohol numbs the tounge on the mid, as brown sugar, cola and robusto cigar tobacco come together on the finish in the most beautiful of ways. The 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle acts as the spine of the beer - it's generously prevalent yet balanced and delicately nuanced. Simply wonderful.

M: I went in thinking this was gonna be the thickest damn beer I'd ever had, that it was gonna be such a viscous monstrosity I could barely get it down. In reality it's not, and I say that in the best of ways. Instead, it's like drinking silk. You couldn't afford the thead-count of these liquid sheets. It's luxurious beyond compare. The carbonation and texture are meek yet voluptuous - they aide in delivering the visceral experience which is Rare.

O: Goose Island's Bourbon County Rare is one of the few beers that not only lived up to, but surpassed my expectations. This is religion in a bottle, an "ah ha" moment that will forever be seared into my brain. My tombstone will read, "Here lies Rhettroactive. The man, the myth and lover of the Rare."

This is more then a beer, it's an experience.

Photo of ehammond1
4.88/5  rDev +1.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 5

Bottle (2010)

Thanks for sharing this, Tim!

Midnight black with a thin ruby brown head that doesn't stay for long. Some spotted lacing down the glass. As expected, this beer is gorgeous.

A glorious and strong combination of aromas. The first and most in the forefront is the distinct bourbon: toasted coconut, rich vanilla, earth and wood, and molasses, then dark malts which add a touch of chocolate and coffee, along with the slightest tinge of alcohol burn. It does not get better.

The flavor is just as magnificent. More coconut, vanilla, molasses, maple syrup, and bourbon, some earth and wood, alcohol heat (but just a touch!), some dark chocolate, all come together for a divine drinking experience.

Though certainly a thick, rich stout, this one seems just a touch too thin--I suppose this would be my only complaint, though it's an afterthought.

The best bourbon-barrel aged stout I've had to date.

Photo of Azurescens
4.85/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

22oz bottle #3096 bottled on 11/19/2010 poured into snifter, reviewed on 6/19/11

A: Pours black with thin brown head that quickly dissipates and leaves no lacing around glass.

S: Smells fantastic, full of oak, vanilla, chocolate, dark malts, some coffee, alcohol, bourbon and dark fruit.

T: Wow, an extremely rich perfect blend of dark malt, oak, vanilla, sweet and bitter chocolate, bourbon, caramel, coffee and dark fruit with only a touch of alcohol. Extremely little heat for a 13% ABV barrel aged stout. Flavors mingle so well with one another yet I can pick out each flavor separately as they linger in my mouth. Simply incredible.

M: Ridiculously smooth and creamy full body with low carbonation, nice sweet finish.

O: Easily the best stout that I have ever had. Everything that I want in a big barrel aged stout and then some. A true masterpiece. Amazingly drinkable for a beer this big, I want more!

Photo of SpdKilz
4.83/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Enjoyed at the Bavarian Lodge with fellow BA Duffman929.

Appearance – Poured into a sniffer at the bar. With a finessed pour into the glass, almost no head is achieved. The color is an utter dark viscosity that no light dare penetrates. Just the slightest hint of lacing on the sides of the glass as I slowly sip this beer.

Smell – As with “fresh” BCS, there is normally a heavy alcoholic aroma up front. Not the case with this beer whose base is the 2008 (which is drinking beautifully right now I might add). Vanilla and milk chocolate up front. The bourbon comes in and dominates midway through, which honestly then continues through. Slight coffee and bittersweet cocoa at the end.

Taste – In your face bourbon. However, there is NO noticeable alcohol. As the bourbon warms my mouth and throat, a wonderful array of flavors become apparent. The sweet milk chocolate mixed with bittersweet cocoa, lively and pure vanilla, and a nice oaky woodiness. At the end you get a hint (less than in normal BCS) of licorice and molasses. Honestly, this is all about the PVW bourbon. Having many, many years and variations of Bourbon County Stout... I just can’t get over how damn smooth this is. Fantastic.

Mouthfeel – What do you think? Thick, creamy, and full bodied. Lower carbonation. Oily and slick.

Overall – I tried. I held out for over half a year. I try not to buy into hype, but what can I say? This was a fantastic beer. To put it into perspective, it was 90+ degrees outside when I had this. I hate having beer when it is hot out (even if it is cold inside – it’s a psychological thing I swear). Needless to say, I am very happy I have a few of these in the cellar. I can’t wait to enjoy one with family this Christmas. Just freaking good.

Photo of sixthglass
4.33/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

A: Thick and black with a dark head.

S: bourbon and vanilla, dark chocolate, roasted malts and chocolate.

T: bourbon, vanilla, and chocolate, smokey,and molasses.

M: Really coats the mouth and leaves small amount of burn in the throat.

O: It's expensive, but if you have two or three friends go in on a bottle with you its well worth it. Its a nice break from the usual.

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

Thanks to Ryan for sharing this one.

A: The pour is thick and black with a finger of tan head.

S: Wonderful bourbon and vanilla aromas with lots of rich, dark chocolate. Solid amounts of roasted malts with more chocolate and bourbon. A bit of molasses, caramel, and maple syrup, and oak.

T: Decadent is a good way to describe this beer. Fantastic bourbon, vanilla, and chocolate flavors throughout. Wood and roasted malts with a bit of caramel and molasses. Nowhere near as boozy as regular Bourbon County, which is a big plus.

M: Full in body with a smooth, silky feel on the tongue.

O: I had put off looking to try this beer due to the cost (still don't think it's worth $45), but it is a really great one.

Photo of PeprSprYoFace
4.35/5  rDev -9.4%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Finally got one in a trade. Thanks man. Poured into a snifter. Pours a deep black. No head even when poured hard. No lacing. Some legs though.

Aroma is nice. Pretty bourbony. Not as much as I remember regular bourbon county being. Stouty a bit. Bit of caramel. Could use a bit more aroma.

Taste is best part but I'm a bit disappointed based on reviews and score on here. Nice stoutyness with a nice caramel taste. Has less bourbony than the regular I remember but I like it better this way. Bit of dark fruits.

Mouthfeel is smooth. Lower carb but still nice.

Overall this is a pretty good beer but not worth the hype. People have been holding this thing for ransom for what reason? It had a high bottle count and is good but not that good. Worth the try but was slightly disappointed.

Photo of dboon
4.78/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle # 2439. Joan Jett black pour with a tiny off white head. Holy bourbon batman, what a freakin’ nose... Insane molasses, toffee, chocolate, and vanilla flavors blend perfectly with the silky smooth king of bourbons (PVW) and the rich roasted malts. Great body. I can’t imagine this bad mutha after a couple years in cellar...

Photo of TStron
4.85/5  rDev +1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A - Has a quickly dissipating coffee head over a black body with light edges of brown.

S - Vanilla and oak. Heavy on the oak. Boozy but par for the course with the Bourbon County beers. There is also a very slight licorice note to the aroma.

T - Similar to regular BC but take it up a couple of notches in quality. I'm not a bourbon connoisseur but I can tell this is better as the flavor is richer and smoother. The bourbon really dominates this beer in a way that its hard to pick out other flavors you'd expect from a stout but it is so good overall I can't dock it points for that.

M - A lot of stouts are described as smooth, especially all of the BC varieties. This one takes that description to a whole other level. Just the right amount of carbonation adds to this.

O - If bourbon is your thing and that is what you want highlighted in a bourbon barrel aged beer then this is that style taken to perfection.

Photo of iconoklaztor
4.25/5  rDev -11.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Tasted at DLD 2011

I was handed a sample of this brew!

It was a very dark black color with a nice caramel lacing. My first impression was this beer is HOT! It was very warm tasting and the whiskey needed to mature a little in the beer.

This would be fantastic at about 1.5/2 years of cellaring IMHO

Overall a great beer to try if you can get some! I wont be paying what they are asking for it though!

Photo of pwoody11
4.28/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

From notes:

Aroma was mostly chocolate with hints of vanilla, caramel and leather.

Taste was sweet without being cloying. Follows the nose for the most park. Chocolate, caramel, vanilla and toffee. Not as boozy as I expected. Not picking up as much PVW as I expected either. Definitely there, just not profound.

Mouthfeel was smooth and rich.

Really enjoyed this one. Have one more bottle left. Think I'll sit on it for awhile.

Photo of nightwing002
4.78/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Appearance – Poured into my tulip a motor oil black with a slight tan head that dissipated fairly quickly

Smell – Wonder aroma of odor came from this glass. First to my nose was a heavenly chocolate smell, then hints of vanilla, caramel, and wood.

Taste – I nice bourbon kick at the front end of this showed me the difference from its regular BCBS brother. The scents that I first smelled bringing the glass to my nose are now prominent on my tongue. Strong chocolate taste blended with vanilla, coffee, and oak. The great thing about this is that all the flavors blended and complimented each other nicely.

Mouthfeel – Just like other BCBS this had the right amount of carbonation that made it feel perfect in your mouth.

Overall – I think regular BCBS is great. Having BCBS Rare is AMAZING. I didn’t think that Pappy Van Winkle barrel aging would make this much of a difference, but I’m glad I was wrong. I would not hesitate to have this again. I have two more bottle that I will now hoard to myself and hopefully I will be able to add a few more into my cellar.

Photo of Pencible
4.78/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Thanks to Adam for sharing!

A: This poured a nearly opaque black with a little dark tan head.
S: It smelled like loads of oak and vanilla and rich brown sugar, with coconut and molasses and dark chocolate, and a hint of leather.
T: The flavor came in waves. Up front, it tasted like sweet brown sugar and caramel, followed by coconut and oak and molasses, followed by rich chocolate and chicory. It had a sweet and dry and super clean aftertaste with a little alcohol warming.
M: It was oily with a bit of carbonation. Nice and slick.
D: This was a pure treat to try. The scent and taste were just about perfect, with tons of complexity and balance. The body was nice too, although it could have been a bit fuller. The alcohol was noticeable, but it seemed fitting as I delicately sipped at my snifter. Not sure if cellaring would help, but it probably wouldn't hurt too much. One of my all-time favorite bourbon stouts. (I'm secretly curious if my opinion would remain so strong in a blind tasting with other bourbon stouts.)

Photo of Franch
5/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

this may be my favorite beer. a group of my friends and i split it for a graduation party. we poured it up and it was motor oil black. the aroma was perfect - a jumble of smells that instead of being jarring all worked together perfectly. the taste didn't disappoint either. the pappy van winkle came through strongly, but not overwhelming everything else. and everything else there was - vanilla, coffee, raisins, and all that is good in the world.

instead of hiding its ABV shockingly well (like CBS) it embraces it - sip this beer, and savor it.

Photo of jnn4v
4.83/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A: Black, thick and viscous. Next-to-no head, but what little head there was appeared to be a tan / light brown color. Almost completely opaque, even toward the edges, when held to light.

S: Holy crap, this just knocked me for a loop. I could smell this for the next 10 minutes without even taking a sip. Caramel, toasted coconut, and chocolate. Perfection? Can't imagine any way to improve it.

T: Absolutely fantastic. Without any negative character (eg. not boozy, not too sweet, no old coffee taste, etc.). Sweet and savory throughout, without being cloying. Toasted oak, caramel, vanilla, coconut, coffee, toffee and chocolate. A slight chicory flavor develops in the mid to after-taste after the first several sips.

M: Very viscous and thick, but without being at all syrupy. As it warms, and the more I sip it, the more I wish it was just a bit thicker and had a silkier character. Comes up short of perfection here.

O: One of, if not the best bourbon-barrel aged imperial stouts I've ever had. However, it's next to impossible for me to say it's completely perfect either. Slight room for improvement, but I considered it a privilege to even taste it.

Photo of Deuane
4.6/5  rDev -4.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed this twice. Thanks to petesuphi and Hojaminbag for sharing bottles with me. One of the bottles was number 1628.

A-Deep, lustrous, black with dark ruby highlights. A thin, tan head vanishes to nothingness and leaves a shimmering pool of liquid behind.

S-WHOA! The unmistakable aroma of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon comes though with one hell of a punch. Lighter notes of vanilla and oak with a subtle alcohol burn in the finish.

T-Mmmm, mmmm, Pappy Van Winkle through and through! Simply delicious to say the least. Rich and decadent and never tiresome. I was so interested in savoring this beer I could barely find the time to take notes.

M-Medium-heavy, rich and superbly lucious. Velvety smooth beyond belief.

D-Well, take a great beer like BCS and age it in 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle barrels for two years and what do you think? One of my most favorite beers aged in a barrel of my VERY most favorite bourbon equals instant classic!

Photo of afksports
4.95/5  rDev +3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I am a lucky son of a bitch and have 3 more bottles of this and there is not a chance in hell I'm trading any of them. Oh wait, this is a review...

Goose Island Beer Company makes this thing called Bourbon County Stout. And it's a fantastic beer.

But then "Rare" comes along and blows it out of the water. And then Rare decimates its competition. And then it laughs. Because Rare can do that. Because the stout is aged in even more specialer barrels of even more specialer 23-year Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.

The appearance of the beer is black. Tan head with a few bubbles that go away fairly quickly in my tasting glass. This is a murky inky ocean of stout. Nevertheless appropriate for the style. The smell is rich chocolate, heavy bourbon, ever-so-sweet molasses, memorable from the first inhalation 'til the day you die. The taste follows suite with a perfect creamy exceptional mix of a burn and a caress. The finish - somehow with all the alcohol - is remarkably clean.

Smooth as silk, heavy as velvet, warming like no other imperial stout.

Drink it on a Wednesday by yourself in a diner, or at your wedding. Either way, it will be a beautiful experience.

Photo of Brez07
4.58/5  rDev -4.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Sent to me as a birthday gift by my regular trading partner Scot (oach). Crazy awesome generosity there. 22oz bottle split into snifters

A: Super dark chocolate pour. There was a brief amount of mocha colored head, about 1/4 finger. Oily presence left on the glass with each swirl

S: Quite a nose on this one. Fairly boozy, with a tinge in the nostrils upon initial investigation. It calms down a bit and the other massive scents start coming out. Lots of vanilla and wood. Dark chocolate, caramel, dark fruit/molasses

T: Huge bourbon presence. Rich, decadent flavors. Tons of dark chocolate in the front, but it also finishes with it too. Caramel, toffee, oak, molasses and vanilla bean. This is certainly a big beer but doesn't necessarily drink that way

M: Body is not quite as full as I expected. Creamy with a small bite of carbonation. Dark chocolate and roast finish this off. Warming feel from the booze

D: Superb beer. A little sweeter then I was anticipating, and more of a dark fruit/molasses sweetness. One can only assume the bourbon heat will fade with time and make this close to perfect. Right now, it will have to settle for amazing

Photo of DNICE555
4.9/5  rDev +2.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Split a bottle with R Moe Nay at Lazy Boy saloon on our ring trip. $48... not a bad price for a bar. Beautiful day outside sitting on the patio. Looks stunning. Smells so rich and mature. Tastes heavenly. So deep and complex. Just gets better as it warms. Wow. Top 5 stouts for sure.

Photo of rlee1390
4.85/5  rDev +1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Bottle number 2444, cracked open to share with my grandma while watching Citizen Kane.

A-Motor oil black, not much carbonation, but 1/2 a finger worth of head.

S-Alcohol, wood, chocolate, coffee

T-The bourbon is in your face and tasting great. Chocolate and some alcohol is present as well. Some smoky flavors as well. The end is bitter, with 60 IBUs listed on the GI website. Great balance.

M-Thick but smooth as all hell

O-Wowzers, a wonderful beer. I wish I could get another bottle of this. It is a top notch beer. I haven't yet had the BCS and look forward to having it. One of the top notch stouts out there.

Photo of mothman
4.63/5  rDev -3.5%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Bottle 3580

Pours very little head. Color is a deep caramel brown, near black, but not as dark as I expected.

Aroma: Awesome bourbon flavors with a vanilla sweetness. Oak, caramel, chocolate, and a light roast with some coffee flavors. So sweet and inviting.

Taste: Bourbon, oak, vanilla, and some caramel sweetness. Chocolate and coffee with a light roast. Dark fruits.

Mouthfeel: Warming, smooth, and creamy. Not hot, but the bourbon shows nicely. Full bodied with a lower amount of carbonation. Ends with bourbon flavors.

Overall, this was a really solid beer. More smooth than regular bcs. The bourbon was spot on providing a warming layer that wasn’t hot and distracting from the beer.

Thanks Joe for sharing this treat!

Photo of jlindros
4.7/5  rDev -2.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Had at SMBDC growler/bottle tasting thanks to BlessedBeBeer.

A: Super dark creamy head, pitch black beer with long legs, nice and thick.

N: Awesome, nice dark malts, chewy oats and malts, chocolate malts, dark chocolate, roast, caramel, roasty molasses, light oak and vanilla, bit of bourbon.

T: Wow! Awesome bourbon dominates, aged bourbon, cocoa, tobacco, oak and some vanilla, light smoke, chewy malts, light oats, dark choc, baker's choc, light spicy booze, some warmth from the booze, Finishes a bit dry, some booze, lots of great bourbon and dark malts.

M: Heavier bodied, some warming booze, decent carb.

O: Amazing, great malts, light booze, whisky, bourbon, oak, vanilla, chocolate flavors, great beer, aging would do well but I'd be afraid the bourbon will fade a bit.

Photo of falcozappa
4.93/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Tried this during the Black Friday at Goose Island. Well worth queuing up for.

Ultra dark, and very viscous looking. Aroma very similar to BCS, but even more rich. Bourbon, vanilla and oak on the tongue, but almost all bourbon in the finish. Delightful!

The serving temperature was a little colder than it should be for a beer like this. We finished it off over the course of an hour, and the flavour improved as it approached the proper temperature.

Photo of tewaris
4.65/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Bottle # 3580 shared by UMNBeerHunter at a great tasting. Thanks Joe for the chance to try this beer!

Poured into a tasting snifter.

Looks identical to its siblings (BCBS, Coffee, Vanilla) --- inky black, viscous, no head, no lacing. Yet pure awesome. More than a review, this is just comparison to the regular BCBS, and the most noticeable feature in this great brew is the *absence* of booze, at least in comparison to the regular.

Chocolate, more chocolate and spice (like a lightly spiced hot chocolate if I am making any sense), vanilla, dark fruit, and huge malts akin to a fine barleywine.

Fleeting tartness on a massive dry fruit and chocolate base. Long, rich, very luxurious, and still neither cloying, nor boozy. Perfect taste. Feels a tad sharper and thinner than regular BCBS and I suppose this is where the trade off lies --- the regular BCBS, fresh, is a monster that I find utterly undrinkable at room temperature. This one, although slightly less silky, is a delight. By the old rating system, the drinkability is a perfect 5.

A great beer that I got to try because of Joe. I wonder though that how much does it differ from a well cellared 08 BCBS? Is it really worthy of the tag? I doubt it.

Is it good? Fuck yeah!

Photo of TheDudeRules
4.83/5  rDev +0.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Cracked open and generously shared by UMNbeerhunter. Thank you sir.

Bottle 3580.

My jet black pour stains the sides of my glass as it fills. Light is nonexistent. One and a half fingers of mocha head sit atop. Lacing remains as I let this beauty sit. I slightly swirl my glass before I breathe it in. Big bourbon notes. Slight coconut and vanilla round it out. I'm a touch worried it could be hot. False. Incredibly smooth. Start to finish. Bourbon and vanilla flavors meld nicely. It wasn't thick or thin, dialed in to perfection. You tasted bourbon but there was no burn whatsoever. Outstanding.

Rare Bourbon County Stout from Goose Island Beer Co.
100 out of 100 based on 1,206 ratings.