Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale
Goose Island Beer Co.

Bourbon County Brand Barleywine AleBourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale
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English Barleywine
4.55 | pDev: 8.57%
Goose Island Beer Co.
Illinois, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Bourbon County Brand Barleywine AleBourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale
Notes: 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.
Reviews: 686 | Ratings: 5,497 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Photo of BeardedWalrus
4.93/5  rDev +8.4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

A nearly perfect Barleywine. Sweet, hoppy, and bitter in equal measure. Perfectly drinkable, and commanding in all respects. Beautiful in look and taste alike. I urge all fellow beer affecianados to grab as much of this as you can, since Goose Island has decided that adjunct heavy BCBS variations are more profitable than this fine brew.

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Photo of Wolvmar
4.54/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

March 2020 review
2016 vintage. Basically same review as last. Bumped nose rating to 4.5 from 4.25! This is amazing. Only possible criticism is looks but it’s over 3 years now. Absolutely awesome. Wish I had more.

Dec 27 2019
2017 vintage. Poured into hotel glass at Crystal Mountain. Basically same as Jan 2018 review of 2017 vintage. Definite molasses, burnt toffee, dark stone fruits, with booze, chocolate and a slight bitterness on the backend. Still looks just ok but taste is awesome.


Dec 31, 2018. 2016 vintage poured into a tulip glass.

Pour: dark amber, no head, no clouds, no lacing.

Nose: see 2017 review but in a tulip glass this time. Even better!

Taste: similar to 2017 but maybe even more subtle and balanced. Lots of chocolate, still plenty of bourbon heat even after two years. Caramel, burnt toffee. Brandied dark fruits. Awesome.

Mouthfeel: very mild carbonation. Luscious, velvety, oily. Awesome.

Overall: hard to say if it’s better with age but this was exceptional. Might have one more 2016...hoping, hoping, hoping. If not, 2017 will be two years old soon!


Jan 2018. 2017 vintage (4 months old) poured into. Highball glass (best available at hotel).

Pour: beautiful amber and rose color. Small head but pour was small and not aggressive. Minimal lacing.

Nose: dark brandied fruits, brown sugar, toffee, bready malt. Lots going on and really nice. Poured into a snifter would have been even better.

Taste: sweet, dark fruit, some bourbon, oak, smooth malts. Hints of toffee, brown sugar. Really complex but the sweet dark fruits dominate. Slight alcohol burn. Hops are present but not bitter.

Mouthfeel: great viscousity, oily, rich. Light carbonation. Wonderful.

Overall: this is great beer. Get any you can. Great complexity and easy drinking despite the big ABV.

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Photo of Msp004
4.24/5  rDev -6.8%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Bottle date 18sep14
Pours a deep amber brown with no head or lacing.
Nose is dense with dark fruit (figs, raisins) sweet tobacco, vanilla and toffee.
Mouth is rich and semi thick again with dark fruits, charred oak and undertones of a subtle bourbon. Light carbonation . A dry slightly bitter sweet long lingering finish.
Very nice Barleywine that aged well.

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Photo of beersampler6
4.51/5  rDev -0.9%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Got lucky and obtained a bottle of this beauty online. 2016 vintage, date printed on bottle was 10/18/16. Hung onto this one for as long as I could before cracking it open. Pours a beautifully honeyed rusty brown-light amber color with a little film of white head and some spotty lingering lacing. Honestly, the appearance was the worst part of this beer. Smells great, deep rich aromas of malt, fig, toffee, butterscotch, caramel, vanilla, bread, raisin, a little bourbon and oak. Tastes even better, amazing balance and richness and complexity and depth. And this is not even one of my favorite styles of beer! Everything melded so well together. Definitely a sipper but the incredibly high ABV wasn't overwhelming. Smooth, sticky, slightly luscious mouthfeel with just enough carbonation. Beer tasted and felt even better as it warmed towards room temperature. A real treat.

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Photo of DokiDokiLitFam
4.42/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

A bottle of 2017. Seeing as this is a retired brew, this may be the only time I can experience this. Let's dive in.

Pours a dark ruby. Very little light shines through. Half a finger of off white head. Medium lacing. Dissipates quickly.

Nose is strong bourbon up front. Brown sugar, malt, dark fruit. Bourbon definitely dominates. You have to agitate it a little bit to get more scents.

Taste is certainly more complex. Bourbon and wood still coming through strongly, but not taking full control. Follows through with brown sugar/toffee, malt, raisin/prune or perhaps dark cherry. Very mild hop bitterness which eventually fades to a sweet and bready malt finish. The sweetness is consistentry present, but never overwhelming. A nice balance.

Mouthfeel is medium bodied with fine carbonation. A little too thin to be considered smooth, but not disappointing. It serves the brew well, but not much more.

A very enjoyable brew. Maybe not better than Sucaba, but a worthy contender. Perhaps mellowed too much by time. Regardless, I drank this with a Thanksgiving meal and it complimented it nicely. Cheers!

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Photo of Tony210
4.7/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Pours a very dark and dense reddish brown, minimal head. Fantastic aroma of dark fruits: raisin, dried figs, molasses, brown sugar, bourbon. Tastes amazing. Lots of raisin, dried And bourbon soaked figs and dates, sweet and sticky, slight bitter finish. Full bodied, thick and syrupy.. Overall an amazing BA barleywine.

500 ml bottle, 2016 vintage
4.75 rating

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Photo of 5toutman75
4.4/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Drinking a ‘17. I’ve always liked the lighter brown color compared to the regular BCS. It seems a bit thinner than the stout too. It has a nice sweet smell that’s inviting. You can taste the sweetness as well, but it’s not overpowering like a pastry stout. The carbonation is very low. Perhaps it could be a bit higher, but it should be low. This ranks up there with my favorite BA barleywine along with Sucuba. I’d have to drink them back to back to see which I prefer the most. I need to crack open a wheat wine too to see if that’s better. I’m glad that Goose is doing that again for ‘19. Don’t pass this up if you see it on a shelf!

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Photo of Joe_Tool
3.23/5  rDev -29%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3

This bottle has been in the cellar for 6 years. Sept '13 on the bottle. Very low carb. No head. I'm not going to waste any more time on this beer describing it. Suffice to say it was much better 6 years ago. A well made BW ages well. This got worse. Perhaps it went past its prime. However, I have numerous barley wines that have and continue to improve. Maybe give it a year but no more. Off to the sink.

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Photo of userPOOK
4.77/5  rDev +4.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Bottled 18 Sep 14

Look: Dark brown, approaching black. Very little head, which quickly dissipates.

Smell: Can smell this as soon as the bottle is cracked. Sweet malts, dark fruits, woody bourbon, chocolate, some oxidation. Excellent.

Taste: Follows smell. Sweet caramel, dark fruits, bourbon, chocolate, coffee. Mildly boozy. Oxidation is present but integrates well. Bourbon County Stout barrels are apparent. Shame they stopped using those barrels; they really elevate this beer.

Feel: Thick, smooth

Overall: Delicious, one of the best barleywines

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

L: Pours dark red/brown, but in a glass it is nearly black. The head was over a finger tall of loose bubbles, sizzling down to a thin half cap and ring of decent retention and clumpy lace.

S: Bourbon vanilla, roast and char, toffee, and caramel and burnt sugars, and dark fruits such as raisins and dates.

T: As complex as the aroma. Oak and a tiny bit of heat as well.

F: Smooth syrupy medium stout body, light but right carbonation.

O: I thought this was my least favorite until I had a 2016 in 2017 and it was sweet and beautifully creamy. Not a traditional barleywine but very nice nonetheless.

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Photo of BlackBeerPirate
4.26/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Taste: Intense, spicy, oak, woody, bourbon, dark stone fruit, semi sweet, boozy, wine, hint of smokey notes. Same with the nose. Mahogany brown, clear, not much head but that sticky film to glass when you get a barrel aged ale. Full body. The 2016 vintage was smoother than the 17 as I expected being in the bottle longer. 60 IBUs

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Photo of Bitterbill
4.78/5  rDev +5.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2017 edition, bottled October 6th 2017.

A rather vigorous pour brought a finger of tan foam, quickly dissipating, very dark brown liquid with reddish hues.

Smells...English. caramel malt, burnt sugar, toffee, dark pitted fruits. Aromas worth remembering.

Vibrant flavours of caramel, burnt sugar, toffee, raisins, plums, oh my! All working in unison and hiding the ample abv very well.

Almost full bodied with perfect carbonation.

Amazing! World class!

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Photo of oberon
4.44/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.5

Came in a sifter a deep rich amber color with a minimal off white head atop.Aromas of vanilla,toasted oak,raisin,and caramel,just a big time smooth malty aroma.Leather and vanilla upfront on the palate followed by oak and a little more dark fruit sweetness although for me it doesn't get too sweet.One to savor and sip on,the alcohol is big and the flavors are smooth.

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Photo of AllOfTheCats
4.58/5  rDev +0.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2016 bottle consumed in late 2018, so about 2yrs old. This was almost as good as some of the best BA Scotch Ales I've had. Outside of what you get from a typical, great BA barleywine, I was getting a bitter, lingering finish. I have some 2017s to try later and will definitely keep buying and aging if it keeps coming out. Really enjoyed this!

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Photo of Victory_Sabre1973
4.44/5  rDev -2.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

2017 Vintage
Pours a nice reddish, brown color. There's a slight brownish head that doesn't last too long.
This beer has a nice boozy aroma. There's a caramel aroma. A hint of raisin, and other fruit.
Taste - It starts off with a slight sweetness. A bit of caramel in there. It finishes up with a crisp dark raisin, fruit, flavor.
The body is thick. It is smooth, and it just the slightest boozy feel. Not harsh boozy, or strong.
Damn solid, and easy drinking barleywine.

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Photo of ajm5108
3.9/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

Pours a muddy black, flat. Big wave of butter toffee on the nose - supporting notes of wet oak, mild fudge, roasted malt, earthy vanilla bean meat and bourbon caramel. That butter toffee is a tad muscular in comparison and especially coupled with the vanilla bean pit leans a bit heavy on the umami flavors.

Taste is very bourbon / booze heavy - lots of barrel characteristics but can’t quite shake that umami note. Notes of dark fudge, burnt treacle, blackstrap, charred oak. A little huskier than what I personally like in an English, needs some softer, sweeter needs to round it out.

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Photo of TH28
4.06/5  rDev -10.8%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4

2017 vintage. 10/14/17 bottle date. Appearance: Dark mahogany brown, opaque, with a minimal light khaki head.
Aroma: Rich molasses, vanilla, oak, and a touch of vanilla
Taste: Intense, syrupy, molasses sweetness. Vanilla oakiness evolves on the back end. A touch of oxidized maltiness creates tobacco like flavors. Minimal perceived bitterness against the rich maltiness
Mouthfeel: Heavy bodied with an extremely light carbonation that leads to a syrupy like mouthfeel.
Finish: Strong vanilla and toasted molasses maltiness linger. Intensetmalt forward.
Overall: An intensely rich, malty barleywine with distinct bourbon barrel characteristics of vanilla, oak, and oxidized tobacco. This beer is 16 mths old and the carbonation has essentially vanished, which accentuates the malt character of the beer. Barrel character adds a lot of complexity to this barleywine, but the lack of carbonation makes it cloyingly sweet

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Photo of colts9016
4.84/5  rDev +6.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2016 Goose Island Barley Wine. The beer is 54 degrees and served in a tulip glass. The pour on the beer produced a two finger dark tan head with a reddish tint. The color of the beer is SRM 33 a dark amber brown with a mahogany hue. The barley wine head dissipated quickly, due to the high alcohol content. I am stoked to try this beer. The appearance of the beer is beautiful.
The initial aroma of the beer is a cloying malty sweetness with caramel undertones. Additional aromas in the beer are bourbon, wood, vanilla, toffee, bready, alcohol, molasses, and oranges. I love the way this beer smells.
The flavors of the beer develop across the palate. It starts with an immense amount of toasted malt follows by the malty sweetness. The beer turns a corner in flavor town. and toffee, bourbon, vanilla oranges, and molasses burst on the tongue. Lastly, bready, yeasty, wood, stone fruit, and caramel.

The mouthfeel of the beer is chewy and intense.

The body of the beer is full, low carbonation, and strong finish.
OMFG. This is a beer to get excited about. The age of the beer makes it drinkable. This beer is the reason why I drink beer. It is phenomenal.

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Photo of Zythophile
4.26/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Bottle Date: 2016
Palate Contaminants: other beer

Dark brown, but not totally opaque. Minimal late-arriving head. Well, it's reputation isn't based on looks...

Onward to the smell. Lots of butter, some molasses, and a little cola. Actually, more cola, plus some cilantro. I know I frequently get these scents out of aged barleywines, but the butter and cola are notably strong here.

Nice spicy kick right up front in the taste. Then it settles into a nice smoky, sweet flavor, like my perfect rum would. Mahogany. Following the spice, there are herbs, somewhere between bay and tarragon. And here's something I don't get much, it's a bit metallic. Not to the degree of being a detriment, but it's still surprising. The finish is anise and shockingly, barley.

Even though it doesn't show up on the pour, there's a reasonable amount of fine carbonation. It's surprising difficult to agitate out, though. (So, points for that, maybe?) Aftertaste reminds me most of chicory. The woodsiness and cola also stick around for quite a while. Alcohol is fairly well hidden for a thirteener.

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Photo of opieo
4.73/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

An American bourbon barrel aged Belgian Quad. Beautifully complex and bourbon strong. The dark multi flavored brew is well balanced so, other than the bourbon, nothing overwhelms the flavors. A top quality brew. Too bad Goose Island sold out to Big Brew Industry.

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Photo of JSMench
4.41/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

2014 Vintage, bottled 9/18/14. Poured with almost no head. Extremely balanced smell, notes of caramel, chocolate and a touch of berries balance out the booze. It drinks very smooth for its 12.3%. Nice mouth feel, thick, and finishes smooth.

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Photo of buschbeer
4.09/5  rDev -10.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

12 FL OZ bottle
Served in a snifter

This beer pours a deep shade of brown. It is topped with less than an inch of tan head that leaves no lacing.

I get some dark fruit aromas, fig comes to mind. I definitely get some booze. There is some oak.

The taste is dark fruit with caramel and vanilla from the bourbon. I get a woody/oaky dry finsh.

Full bodied. Thick, sticky mouthfeel

This is my first taste of ABIs famed barleywine. While my first taste of the stout equalled if not surpassed my expectations this beer did not. It is good. It just has such mythilogical status that I expected more like I did out of the stout. Maybe it is better fresher. I can think of an Ohio barleywine that absolutely blows it away. Hell, the JW Lees I had last week was better. Good beer. Not worth chasing but grab it if it is convenient.

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

Dark mocha colored pour with reasonable head. Smells of barley, oak, and mild vanilla. Sweet Tate’s of caramel and bourbon. Very drinkable despite its very high ABV.

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Photo of Thomas_Wikman
4.41/5  rDev -3.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I loved Bourbon County Brand Barlewine Ale from Goose Island. In my opinion it lived up to the hype.

Look: dark brown slightly reddish with a thin mocca colored head

Aroma: caramel, dark fruits, bourbon

Flavor: It's sweet raisin bread, caramel, dark fruits, bourbon, red wine, amazingly the alcohol isn't very prominent. It's quite sweet, but this is more than terrific.

Feel: full body, syrupy

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Photo of Samlover55
4.43/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

16.9oz bottle into Tulip
Bottled on 10/19/16 basically two years old
It Appears a dark black with dark tan head, but is closer to brown when held up at the light
Aroma is caramel, brown sugar, bourbon
The taste is caramelized brown sugar, subtle leather, even more subtle heat, with smooth vanilla bourbon finish
The feel is thick and smooth, no alcohol burn
Overall I can't ask for a better BBA barleywine, smooth tasty, not much more to say

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Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
Beer rating: 100 out of 100 with 5497 ratings