Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale | Goose Island Beer Co.

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Bourbon County Brand Barleywine AleBourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale

Brewed by:
Goose Island Beer Co.
Illinois, United States

Style: English Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 13.60%

Availability: Winter

Notes / Commercial Description:
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.

Added by jplopez21 on 10-04-2013

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Reviews: 581 | Ratings: 5,089
Photo of NoYouDidnt
4.55/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

Pours a dark dark dark brown color. Thin head that goes to a ring. Aroma- raisins, cherries, plums. Alcohol, vanilla, brown sugar, caramel. Taste- Wow! Super good First of all. Little bit of those cherries and some of that brown sugar, and vanilla. But plenty of chocolate and dark chocolate. Bourbon finishing it off. The lingering flavor is that dark chocolate, bourbon taste. Mouthfeel is pretty smooth, velvety, somewhat low carbonation is perfect. Overall- very delicious beer. Very sweet. Quite the dessert. The flavors all mix real well. Loving this.

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Photo of JBowenGeorgia
4.68/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

My first Barleywine so apologies in advance if I do it an injustice. My virgin pallette has problems distinguishing this style from many of the BA stouts I've tried. Maybe a little sweeter and not quite as dark but I still can't quite see what divides the two (open to suggestions and I'll be reading more about what goes into and is expected of a barleywine).
Pours a really dark brown reddish color with a finger of tan head. Initial aromas of barrel, bourbon, dark fruit, some toffee like sweetness.
Taste is definitely bourbon up front followed with the plum figgy sweetness.
I took my time on this one (a little over an hour with a few sips to go), as it warmed it seemed sweeter, a little syrupy, maybe some cherry there too.
Regardless of my inability to distinguish the style this was quite tasty!

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Photo of BSiegs
4.53/5  rDev +0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Muddy dark brown in color, ruby around the edges when held to light. Half a finger of light brown foam that recedes quickly to a small ring around the glass. No lacing. The aroma is phenomenal. Big bourbon and oak character, slight spice notes. The barleywine gives notes of raisins, figs, molasses, brown sugar, vanilla. Absolutely delicious. Bourbon hits most powerfully. Also dark fruits, molasses, brown sugar, vanilla, caramel. Very rich, sweet, and a slight lingering bitterness of the finish. Full bodied, low carbonation, and a balanced finish. Some alcohol heat and again, that slight bitterness on the aftertaste. Unquestionably a top tier BA barleywine.

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Photo of rmpic82
4.54/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

If the Bourbon County line does nothing else correctly, they will ALWAYS be the best at building a beer with pristine density and mouthfeel. Color was deeper than most BWs, nice bourbon and 'nilla flavors. Nice drink.

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Photo of BucannonXC5
4.49/5  rDev 0%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Type: 16.9-oz. bottle
Glass: AleSmith Barrel-Aged Reserve snifter
From: La Mesa Wine & Spirits in La Mesa (San Diego), Calif.
Price: $14.99
Purchased: Feb. 25, 2017
Consumed: Feb. 25, 2017
Reviewed as: English Barleywine
Misc.: Bottled on Oct. 18, 2016; 2016 version is 13.6 pct. alcohol

Huge get to see this in the stores earlier today. Said I would come back and did about 10 minutes later. Wasn’t mad about the $14.99 price. Seemed fair considering the style and it being the first time I had seen this variant in stores. Super excited for this beer.

Poured a dark-to-light black brown color (almost black) with 1-to-2 fingers of fizzy tan head. Light bubbles coming up from the bottom of the glass at certain spots. Average watery lacing. Below average retention. (Sight - 3.25)

Smelled dueling notes of boozy bourbon, leathery oak and earthy tobacco up front. Also got chewy caramel squares, toffee, smooth milk chocolate, thick molasses, subdued vanilla, and hints of dark fruits. Seemed just a tad hot early, but was smoothing out toward the end. (Smell - 4.25)

Tasted much better than the nose initially. Got chewy caramel, tobacco, oaky bourbon, vanilla, toffee, sugary milk chocolate, rich molasses, honey (wishful?), maple syrup, dark plum notes and subtle hints of woody anise. (Taste - 4.75)

Full body. Sticky texture. Average carbonation. Long, smooth, warming finish. (Feel - 4.75)

Very good. Was all over the place on the ratings. Not as good as I was hoping, but still just an exceptional beer. Would like to see a bottle of this sit for a bit. (Overall - 4.50)

4.49 | 99 | A

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.46/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.75

Goose Island Beer Co. "Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale"
16.9 fl. oz. brown glass bottle, "BOTTLED ON: 19OCT16" and sampled on 8 MAR17
$12.79 @ Spaz Beverage, West Chester, PA

Notes via stream of consciousness: 2016, listed at 13.6% ABV. Not a lot of head. I had to force it up and then it dropped away fairly readily. I find that odd. It's got to have a lot of malt to it, and it's not that much alcohol. Odd. What I got was beige, about a finger thick, and fairly creamy. The body is a hazy dark mahogany brown with some ruby and orange highlights when held to the light. No surprise in the aroma. It's malty, reminiscent of Ovaltine, and Bourbon soaked - Bourbon itself, and oak - a little dark skinned fruit as well. The flavor is much, much bigger! It's almost too much. I don't really see this as a barleywine, it's more of a Bourbon barrel beer. Not that I can't see the barleywine aspect of it, but the Bourbon and wood ride roughshod over it. Wow! It's a head turner, and eye opener, whatever you want to call it, it's BOLD in capital letters. Notes of cereal grains, Bourbon, caramel, coconut, oak, toffee, vanilla, subtle dark skinned fruit, brown sugar, almost burnt sugar, molasses, raw honey, grass, cherry pit, almond, and perhaps leather. I would imagine that I could keep going on, that it'll evolve as your palate adapts to it and its alcoholic strength, which, by the way, helps to balance it. It's pretty strong, and with the sweetness it's reminiscent of Bourbon to me. I had an Even Williams last night, and I can see a similarity. Ahh, I see the bottle also mentions tobacco, I get that. I think I like the Bourbon County Stout better, but then again that's really a Bourbon barrel beer as well, rather than a stout that's Bourbon barrel aged, although closer. Is it possible to have too much Bourbon barrel goodness? I think... both the stout and the barleywine... there's not another beer in the world like them. Some may come close but none have the richness. Leave it to Americans to take it to the limit, right? Thomas Hardy's or Samichlaus used to be my big beers, and then came Sam Adam's Triple Bock and World Wide Stout, (now I'm showing my age) but these beers are just that much better - "These go to eleven".

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Photo of rodbeermunch
3.96/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 3.25 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Wow can't believe I haven't reviewed this gem yet. An interesting color, has that earthy presence of brown, dark red going on for it. Beige head only props up to about 1/4" and quickly recedes. Aroma is very little bourbon actually. Goes more for the earthen dirt, tobacco, vanilla in the nose.

Taste is nice. Nice and smooth. The barrel notes come out a little more, this is a nicer, easier drink than the bourbon county stout. Not as hot either it seems. Just less barrel impact on this one, but still a worthy contribution. Carbonation is spot on in the mouth feel, a mild dark fruit presence and bitterness, comes out more as it warms. Brown malt and toffee notes. Its weird, as heavy as BCS stout goes in on the barrel power, this one is much more restrained. Both good, but each year, becomes less and less of a good value as the cost per oz goes up and the formatting goes meh.

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Photo of jmasher85
4.39/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

This is as fine a barleywine as I've had, and one that truly lives up to its name. 2015 bottles came full speed out the gate with flavor, while 2016's needed a good 20 or 30 minutes to oxidize in the glass before it's full flavor potential was reached. Either way, chill it, pour it, let it sit around for a bit, and then dive into a smooth, thick, luxurious pool of sweet malt, cherry esters, and just enough vanilla and oak bourbon barrel impression to make this one a standout.

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Photo of ManapuaMan
4.5/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

A personal whale of mine. Excited to finally get my hands on a bottle. Pours a deep garnet, ruby-red with tinges of lighter hue at the edges. A small head surfaces after a rough pour but quickly fades. Looks like flat cola. Aroma is stewed dark fruits, roasted malt, oak, bourbon and vanilla. Outstanding aroma. It pulls you in like a tractor beam for your first sip. Taste is dark rich fruits - raisin, plums, dates, figs - dark roasted malt, sweet bread, toasted coconut, vanilla, oak. The bourbon is there as warmth not heat but it slows you down. Luscious mouthfeel as the liquid coats your palate. Slightly sweet due to the fruits. Amazing beer; second in style only to Sucaba, and that would probably change depending on my mood. Epic.

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Photo of thebeers
4.09/5  rDev -8.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Reddish brown with a thin half-finger of tan head that's quick to dissipate into a crown.

Bourbon forward aroma with strong vanilla notes, followed by fig, plum, toffee, black bread and a touch of alcohol.

The tastes are less distinctive, with chocolate, dark bread, vanilla, caramel and fruit blended together into a smooth and creamy concoction that's cut by strong carbonation. The fruit stands out more when I lick what's caught in my whiskers, and there's a strong bourbon alcohol burn and a nice balancing bitterness on the backend. Gives way to a cough medicine cherry sweetness in the aftertaste.

A bit of the leather I like in an English barleywine peaks through from behind the vanilla, chocolate and cream as it warms. Honestly, the chocolate surprised me.

I love regular BCBS for its smooth, creamy goodness. To my taste, for a barleywine, this is too smooth. There's not enough depth of flavor here. It's too polished. I'm not getting any tobacco, oak or much else to really hold my interest. Goes down way too fast and easy. With a beer this big, and this expensive, I prefer slow sippers that keep me pondering.

I'm not saying this isn't excellent. I just prefer something a little rougher around the edges.

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Photo of ccg
4.44/5  rDev -1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2014 12.3% ABV BCBBW, opened 2017-02-17.

It's the densest barleywine i've ever seen. Dark brown and translucent, almost like maple syrup. Barely any sign of carbonation.

Smell is rich and savory. Figs and raisins, caramel, honey, brown sugar. A little bit leathery.

Same flavor notes, but super smooth.

Feel is excellent. Dense and oily. Smooth and creamy. Alcohol is almost completely hidden. No heat or burn despite the 12.3% ABV.

This is the best BA barleywine I've ever had. We're drinking this 2014 BCBBW side-by-side with Sucaba 2015 and Central Waters 2015 BA barleywine. They all good, but BCBBW is the clear winner, by far.

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Photo of BeantownBrews
4.51/5  rDev +0.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Dark amber, small light tan head that dissipates quickly
Smells sweet like molasses, brown sugar, dark ripe fruit and some oakiness to it
Sweet but not overly so, again ripe fruit/sugary the barrel heat cuts into the sweetness some and adds a nice finish
The mouthfeel really makes this standout, coating but not oil and builds sip after sip
Good stuff can definitely tell GI's been at it a long time

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Photo of Wiffler27
4.59/5  rDev +2.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2016 Bottle, bought one to drink soon and one to age.

13.6% so dwamm

pours a deep deep mahogany to the point of it nearly being black. solid head to this as well, looks good.

smell is beautifully sweet. clearly a barleywine and also clearly a barrel aged beer. notes of barleywine and whiskey shine through. the aroma is nice too, mellow notes of whiskey with barleywine sweetness.

the taste is like velvet. like sweet barleywine with bourbon creeping in. very smooth and nice, light alcohol burn at the end but this is really nice.

i LOVE beer and i also LOVE bourbon but i usually hate barrel aged beer (for some odd reason). this is really nice. obviously a BIG beer at 13%+ but this is smooth and velvety. tons of flavor to this and easy to drink, quite the nice sipper

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Photo of jopezu
4.75/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2016 variant. pours a dark, opaque mahogany with a thin head that poofs. nose; oak, caramel, & ethanol. taste; thick caramel malt, molasses, toffee, vanilla, oak, ethanol, fig, tobacco, & mellow hops. the huge abv is tamed as well as you can expect. heavy carbonation & heavy mouthfeel. complex and maybe a touch sweet, but it's a treat. fantastic!

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

If you manage to find it, please try it. Fantastic one-off barleywine. Strong and robust, bourbon aging really comes through. Shared it at a testing with three friends and all agree it's a winner.

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Photo of spark3148857
4.39/5  rDev -2.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Pours a murky mahogany verging on brown with a dark khaki head. Aroma of brown sugar, caramel, dark plummy fruit, oak, bourbon, and vanilla. The sweet aroma leads to a blast of caramel and burnt sugar on the palate with bourbon and dark fruit in the palate. Sweet but not too sweet. Wonderfully complex with a finish that brings notes of tobacco leaf, fig, plum, milk chocolate and vanilla.

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Photo of bwood06
3.91/5  rDev -12.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

I was lucky enough to score this at my local liquor store without having to go to one of the big chains that are around here. Finally getting around to trying this beauty after buying it over a month ago. This beer pours a dark ruby color that is mostly opaque so that I cannot see what type of carbonation is present. The head is dark khaki and a fizzy froth that dissipates quite quickly to a rocky layer with a neck that is retained. 4/5 The aroma is very fruity and malty with red wine grapes, dates, rains, toffee, caramel, charred wood, dark toasted bread, and plums as the primary notes. The aroma really is much more like a wine than a beer. As the beer sits, a bit of smokiness comes out along with a hint of tobacco and baker's chocolate. Very complex and deep. 4.25/5 Toffee, caramel, and candi sugar come out right away before exploding into red wine grapes (more of a sweet red table wine than the dry reds), plums, dates, and raisins. This fruitiness is very powerful and dominates that palate. The dark chocolate does not really come out in the flavor for me like it did in the aroma, but the charred wood and tobacco do come out, mainly in the final third. There is an earthiness/mustiness (sorghum) that runs concurrent with all other notes throughout the profile along with just a slight booziness. This thing is after all 12.9%, so that's not surprising. Bitterness is incredibly light, with the mustiness and booziness being the lingering notes. 3.75/5 A very light carbonation tickle develops on the tongue before leading into the full bodied nature of the beer. A light dryness develops on the back of the tongue over time which lingers on the tongue just a bit. 4/5 I like this beer, although it's not my favorite. The sorghum mustiness and earthiness throws me for a loop, even with everything else that is going on here. Very complex and a great beer to sip on one in a while, but definitely not something that I would go for on a consistent basis. 3.75/5

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Photo of Cfred371
4.71/5  rDev +4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Look: Pours out a medium to dark brown, and is opaque. Light in the edges of the glass is able to pierce through the beer. For the first time ever, I can see actual alcohol legs on a beer. Carbonation seems minimal, as the head was small and I don't see much activity bubble wise

Smell: Bourbon is what I initially get, as well as raisin. swirling brings out more caramel/toffee notes to the forefront.

Taste: Bourbon, dark fruit, some toffee peaks it head, as does brown sugar

Feel: I get a nice syrupy feel, minimal bitterness, and some carbonation. This is a nice feel, and typical of the style.

Overall: I've had BCBS a few times, and I'd say that the barleywine holds up. I like the bourbon flavors imparted, and some of the complexity, but it's not my top BA Barleywine

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Photo of Zoomslowik
4.06/5  rDev -9.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

L- Dark brown with a slight reddish hue. . Whatever head there is fades quickly.

S- Caramel with hints of chocolate, bourbon and vanilla.

T- It's pretty sweet. Heavy on the caramel. A bit of a chocolate and bourbon, but less than the stout. Some vanilla notes and a little dark fruit towards the finish. Basically no booze taste.

F- Smooth. Medium thickness.

O- Not really my thing. It's not quite a stout, but not quite a barleywine either. I'd rather just have a stout or a different barleywine.

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Photo of Korbynlehr
4.75/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

I begrudgingly tried this as I'm not a barley wine fan...., but glad I did. The flavor is superb and to be honest I might need to become a convert. The taste is truly excellent! Pours deep and dark. The head is thin if existent. Nose has an obvious bourbon smell. Taste hints at bourbon n, but not overwhelming to my delight!

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Photo of MurphDog14
4.6/5  rDev +2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

This beer is darkish amber and is extremely inviting. Smell is chocolatey with a note of bourbon. The smell is not alcoholy at all. Taste is similar to the smell, chocolate and bourbon. The taste also lingers which is great. The feel is smooth and strong with a little carbonation. Finally, this is a great beer that is complete and full of flavor.

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Photo of Sabtos
4.05/5  rDev -9.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Dark, dark reddish-purple nearing black, with a thin tan blanket that completely dies off. It begins to take on an immensely viscous appearance as it warms, almost as if it has solidified.

Smell is toasty toffee and nuts, graham, heavy and dark raisin, deep but faint char, and an abundance of dates.

Taste is very deep--almost as if roasted--raisin, with gingersnaps, molasses, chocolate covered dates, and charred oak, finishing with a hint of raspberry and bourbon toffee.

Feel is sticky up front, thick for a barleywine, with a nice light froth, a little sting on the way down while a bit sticky again.

BCBW almost transitions into a stout at room temp. Almost. It is definitely more intense and rich than most BBBWs.

2014 vintage


What follows is a separate review for the 2016 vintage, as it is the first time this beer has been aged strictly in second-use barrels which had only held bourbon. Prior to this vintage, BCBW had been a blend of barleywine aged both in regular bourbon barrels as well as bourbon barrels that held BCBS.

Appearance isn't all that different, possibly darker, much darker than most Barleywines, almost like melted dark chocolate.

Smell is smooth, delicate leather, oak, vanilla, bourbon, then it gets a little hotter in aroma, to almost brandy levels, with molasses, spiced date, and sassafras.

Taste is sweet grape, date, dark cherry, and prune, with charred oak, dark ginger snap, and bourbon, as hints of coconut and raspberry rise back up through the nose. Deep, dark, complex spiced raisin is always present in the background with a little rich toastiness and woodiness.

Feel is thick and almost gooey, enveloping the palate, with a little sting and some minimal tangy fizz, going down warm and finishing slightly dry, slightly sticky. Wow, for a big ole Barleywine, this is exceptionally smooth and drinkable. So rounded.

I actually think I like the new version better than the 2014 I'd had, and considering my belief that Barleywine's tend to get better with age, this is saying a lot!

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Photo of BethanyB
4.01/5  rDev -10.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4

A majestic deep ruby in the light, with a moonlit rim of a head. The aroma is plenty nice, but light for the style. Candied dates and maple syrup mature under the impression of oak and black cherries. Dark berries and figs are both sweet and sophisticated. However, were it not for the delicacy of the overall flavor profile, the melanoidins' sticky candy characteristics would carry things into cloying territory. Less complex than other barleywines, this beer pleads for a dash of spice and/or or bitters. Some additional layers of smoke and vanilla bean can be appreciated, however, as it opens, and a real-deal maple syrup flavor hunkers down in the aftertaste. The mouthfeel is excellent: medium-full bodied, with a chewy creaminess which makes the flavors stick to the lips, the teeth, the tip of the tongue. This beer needs some time and warmth to show it's full colors, which may not be the absolute best the barleywine world has to offer, but are certainly not without unique merits.

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Photo of PUbeer
4.99/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

I was super impressed with this beer. It far exceeded my expectations. I'm not normally a big barley wine fan but Goose Island nailed it with this perfect example. It's pretty sweet but not in a bad way. You get all the bourbon flavors in just the right amounts.

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Photo of miniditka77
4.99/5  rDev +11.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Look: darker than I expected for a barleywine. Very dark brown, not a lot of carbonation or head.

Smell: The warm malty-toffee-vanilla smell you expect from a barleywine with oaky bourbon smell too.

Taste: A little sweet, malty-toffee-vanilla. And the bourbon really shows through, much more than the stout. You even get a little burn (very little, but noticeable), which normally I don't like, but it works with this one for some reason.

Feel: goes down surprisingly easy for a beer that has a little bit of a burn from the bourbon.

Overall: Fantastic. I really don't know how this beer could be better. Say what you want about Goose Island, but they are at the absolute top of the game when it comes to barrel aging. A lot of breweries just take a good beer and put it in a good barrel, and it ends up good. Goose Island seems to design the beers and select the barrels specifically so they will go well together, and it ends up fantastic.

This beer is just awesome.

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Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
4.49 out of 5 based on 5,089 ratings.
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