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Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale | Goose Island Beer Co.

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Bourbon County Brand Barleywine AleBourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale
5,455 Ratings
Bourbon County Brand Barleywine AleBourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale

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

Style: British Barleywine

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 14.40%

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.

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 5,455 |  Reviews: 670
Reviews by NorthSideSean:
Photo of NorthSideSean
4.44/5  rDev -1.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

More User Reviews:
Photo of teromous
4.58/5  rDev +1.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

On the flag wrapped around the neck of the bottle: "2016"
On the rear label: "BOTTLED ON: 18OCT16 1107 13.6% ALC/VOL"

Appearance: The body of the beer is a dark tawny brown that mixes with black. The head is a short-lived fizzy and foamy light tan and tobacco stained yellow. No head retention although it does maintain a very thin ring around the glass.

Aroma: It has a very sweet caramel aroma that is strong. There is also a woody oak aroma. It smells very nice but not a lot of complexity.

Taste: The flavor is amazing. I am getting a wonderful chocolate flavor with a bit of coffee and a sweet rich caramel flavor. The caramel flavor actually tastes better than most caramels I can buy in candy stores. There is this sweet slightly vanilla tasting finish that is great. I'm sitting here trying to think if there is anything that I don't like in the flavor and I am left without a single thing. It's perfect. I could drink this forever and be happy.

Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel on this beer is perfect. It literally could not be improved upon. It is nice and thick without being heavy. It coats the mouth like liquid chocolate and the texture alone just makes you want to take another sip.

Overall: When I smelled the beer I wasn't very impressed. I have had other Barleywines that had a lot more complexity with a breadth of aromas to keep you lingering at the rim of the glass for days. This beer smelled nice but it just wasn't very diverse. All of this was shot out of the sky when I tasted the beer. It is fantastic. I was hit by this wonderful well rounded texture that just lathered my palate with wonderful flavors. Everything is just so well put together in this beer that it makes you want to stay in the moment and enjoy the bottle forever. I want to touch on the fact that this is a 13.6% ABV beer aged in bourbon barrels and at no point did it taste or smell like an alcohol swab. I would not only highly recommend this beer but I would go as far as to recommend going out of your way to get it if you can. This beer was bottled less than six weeks ago and it already has enough age on it to drink right now. I will be buying it again.

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Photo of Jeffo
4.28/5  rDev -5.1%
look: 2.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 4.5

Doopie brought out a couple of these a few weeks back. Thanks for sharing dude!

From a bottle into a snifter
Bottled 24 September 2013
Drunk with King Henry for comparative purposes

APPEARANCE: Pours a 1 ½ finger, slightly looser, crackly and fizzy, foamy, light tan head with half decent retention. Head quickly fades to a half wisp and ring. Clear deep maroon red or seal brown with a stream of carbonation up the middle. Wisp and ring eventually vanish making it look rather flat by the end of the show. Much like KH but perhaps a touch lighter in color.

SMELL: Bourbon, oak, lots of vanilla and caramel, with some milk chocolate as well. Notes of coconut as well. Bold and impressive for sure. Really lovely. Only the touch of pure chocolate in KH sets it apart. Excellent here.

TASTE: Oak, bourbon, notes of toffee up front, then lots of wood flavors and some alcohol at the swallow. Bold and lingering finish of bourbon, wood, caramel and toffee sweetness, dark fruits and spicy alcohol. Notes of milk chocolate and vanilla from the barrel make an appearance long after the swallow as well. Really good stuff. Enjoyable for sure.

PALATE: Medium body and medium levels of carbonation. A touch lighter on the palate perhaps, but very creamy smooth, surprisingly so, goes down fine with a little scratch and finishes rather sticky. Some heat lingers, but nothing off-putting. A touch lighter than desired perhaps, but plenty creamy and smooth. Same as KH here.

OVERALL: This was really good. Surprisingly enough, I enjoyed this one just as much as King Henry, and I wasn’t sure that would be the case. To be sure, people have said that KH has fallen off a cliff, but the bottle we opened was still in excellent shape and we enjoyed it immensely. Compared to the King, this one has more oak and toffee in the flavor, while it is also smoother and creamier in the feel. KH in a bit sharper in the barrel and alcohol flavors at this point and there is a hint of bitter pure chocolate that lends some nice balance. In any case, this is a quality barleywine and I wish Goose Island could somehow produce their stout with the same creamy feel that they’ve pulled off here. Good stuff, and would gladly drink more. Cheers Doops!

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Photo of ADU
4.75/5  rDev +5.3%

Incredibly flavorful baelwywine -- tastes strongly of carmel and/or molasses.

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Photo of Grinz12
1.45/5  rDev -67.8%
look: 2.25 | smell: 1.5 | taste: 1.25 | feel: 1.5 | overall: 1.5

Got a bad bottle, smell was almost like vinegar. Taste was extremely sour, could only take 2 sips. Called Goose Island and they were super cool about the refund. I'm just hoping that my coffee isn't a bad one.

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Photo of SomethingClever
4.78/5  rDev +6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 5

12 oz bottle poured into Spiegelau glass 2013 bottle

A: brackish brown color with bits of light escaping the edges of the glass head was decent but off white settles to a film

S: lots of caramel toffee vanilla and bourbon just layered then you get raisins figs and dates and light burnt sugars

T: lots of vanilla, and toffee not a lot of the dark fruits light hints of the burnt sugar lots of sweetness the barrel flavors are huge slight bit of alcohol heat.

M: cloying mouthfeel and bourbonesk watery feel

O: I am surprised I haven't reviewed this beer sooner. Fresh this beer is jaw dropping the plum fig and raisin flavors pound your senses while the soft vanilla and toffee of the bourbon caress your palate. 2 years later this beer is still a dynamo it has lost a little of the dark fruit flavor, but the toffee vanilla and light burnt sugars it has lost none of its nose. Easily the best of the bourbon county beers I have this is a leap over your neighbors dead body to grab kind of beer.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.46/5  rDev -1.1%
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 fgmiele
4.29/5  rDev -4.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Pours rich mahogany with a minimal cream colored head that dissipates quickly. Thick and unfiltered look. Sep 24 2013 bottling date. Nose is malt, caramel, whiskey and cigar with background notes of brown sugary sweetness. Taste follows the nose..slow and sweet with just a little heat. Flavor is buttery and rich. Mouthfeel thick and gratifying. Overall, an outstanding barleywine with a lot to offer for the style.

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Photo of Holderness
4.19/5  rDev -7.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

2017 vintage

L -- Pours a deep tawny brown with noticeably more carbonation and head formation than BCBS. Minimal retention or lacing thanks to the ABV. Seems like this year is lighter in color than previous years. Interestingly, the cap is the regular Goose Island black/gold, rather than the special Bourbon County bottlecap that the other variants get
S -- Molasses, oak, bourbon, char, plum, caramel, butterscotch, vanilla cola, dried fig, dried banana, and a touch of raisin. You can smell the sweetness
T -- Syrupy sweet. Lots of molasses, caramelized sugar, maple, roasty malts, barrel character, sherry, tobacco leaf
F -- Lighter feeling and more drinkable than BCBS, despite being higher ABV (this year is 14.4%). Same mouth-coating goodness with a slight velvety character produced by the minimal carb. Still a big beer, obviously. Very smooth finish
O -- This is the type of barleywine that's best consumed about five years after bottling. During that time, the intense, almost cloying sweetness of the malts will morph into a dark dried fruitiness that is more rounded and compliments the barrel notes more. At this freshness (bottled in October), it's a bit too sweet. Too bad these are in second-use barrels now to avoid infection.....


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Photo of TruePerception
4.48/5  rDev -0.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Barleywine 2015. 12.9% ABv.

A: Pours the color of dry caramel (those cooking shows are good for something...). Black in the glass with a little dark brown/cola towards the top; glowing red in the light. Medium brown in the dimple. Clear meniscus on top. Strong sheeting. No lacing, at all.

S: Slightly earthy toffee. Lighter caramel. Oak. Raisin, Oatmeal cookie. Slight sweet char.

T/MF: Still really sweet, but not quite as much as the Stout. More raisin and sweet oatmeal cookie, Toffee, brown sugar. Sweet char, even moving slightly into graphite territory. Raisin is more prominent upon swallowing. Dry baking chocolate on the finish.

This is more subtle than the stout, an because of that, more drinkable, though still a sipper.

Poured from a 16.9 oz. bottle into a Belgian tulip glass.

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Photo of minterro
4.66/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Served as the start to the goose island themed tasting (we did start with Fred from Hair of the Dog). Short notes from 7/27/14. Bottled 9/17/13. Served in a snifter.

A&S: The beer is a murky brown color. Pieces of unfiltered specks float around the bottom of this beer. No head present when poured. The aroma was amazing, it was the kind of smell you wish could be stuck in your nose all day. Caramel tones blended with raisins, sugary belgian candy sweetness, and boozy bourbon tones. Really about as good as I have seen it.

T&M: This beer was extremely complex, transforming and opening up continuously as it sat in the glass. It started with a characteristic that most decent barleywines share dark fruit tones. The dark fruits were primarily raisins but later on I think I got some plums. Towards the end I was odd enough picking up on some dark chocolate flavors. No real hop presence. The carbonation quantity was excellent, just right to make it not completely dead, but not too much to make it any bit sharp. Body wasn't as thick as it could have been, but I was for sure more than just a medium thickness.

Overall: The was the opener for the afternoon and I have to say I like it the best! All three (this one, the cherry rye, and the coffee) of the goose island specialties were spectacular, but for me, this one took the cake. I would be interested to see how this beer develops, however it would be a tough task considering it was so epic at this stage. One of my favorite beers I have had the pleasure to try this year.

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Photo of CHickman
4.69/5  rDev +4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

Bottled 9/17/2013: Pours black looking very dark brown color with a 1 finger creamy dark tan head was full of tiny bubbles and faded on the fast side, leaving minimal spotty lacing and a little ring around the edge on top.

Smells of bourbon, molasses, dark fruit, caramel, brown sugar, chocolate, red wine, bread, strong sweetness and booze; it’s very sweet with a mix of rum, bourbon and alcohol soaked fruit, similar to old almost rotting fruit or some really moist bread pudding soaked in rum and syrup. The booze is quite noticeable in a good way, and this is very complex and interesting to inhale.

Tastes follows the nose and is very sweet overall, and yet very rich and flavorful. Like the aroma, it’s a mix of bourbon, molasses, dark fruits, caramel, brown sugar, chocolate, vanilla, red wine like an oaky Merlot, toasted bread or wet grains, dark rum, herbs, alcohol soaked fruit, syrup, and more bourbon or booze. The sweetness is almost cloying, but the booze kicks it into another gear with the oaky and vanilla notes making it really, really tasty and complicated, getting different flavors as it warms up. It is similar but yet very different to the other Bourbon County Brand brews and the most dynamic flavored barleywine that I’ve ever had with so many taste variables that it’s almost too much to process. The ABV brings some heat, but it’s mild and works well overall considering it’s 12%.

Mouthfeel is very thick and chewy, literally a meal in a bottle, with a creamy slickness as it slides over the tongue with very light carbonation and a slight bitterness that almost seems hoppy or like a burnt coffee that trails off very sweet like toffee and brown sugar sprinkled in bourbon, ending on a sweet fade that warms you up as it settles in. Each sip provides a new twist on the sweet combo of fruit and booze, making it different every time.

Overall a damn fine beer, extremely tasty with an amazing array of sweet flavors that kept me guessing after every sip, which made this fun and very enjoyable to drink. It’s almost too sweet but manages to never cross the line and keep your palate preoccupied to notice the booze, and any fan of the Bourbon County Brand of beers would love this malty treat. Glad I was able to get my hands on a bottle as I really enjoyed it.

10/01/2014-Had it on tap in NYC last night and it was very tasty, complex and quite enjoyable again. Looks were much nicer on tap with a head that actually stuck around for a while, leading to strong boozy complex nose and rich, sweet flavors that were so complicated that each sip was slightly different. The heat was ever present again, making for a real nice slow sipper.

05/18/2017-Came across another bottle from 2013 (24SEP13 1717 listed) and the head and looks were even better...this beer gets better looking with age, which is moving the "Look" score up for me from 4 to 4.25 since the past few times I've had it have produced better heads that lasted and left decent spotty lacing. Smells and tastes basically the same as above but with zero alcohol burn, so it was actually smoother. "Overall" rating moved up from 4.75 to 5 as this aged beautifully. Rating of 4.62 moved up to 4.69, let's hope the Evil Giant ownership keeps making this a world class barleywine as I've got some 2016's aging now.

09/12/2018: Had a 2016 bottle dated 19OCT16, 1510, with 13.6% ABV listed, and it was sweet smelling and tasting with a lot of dark fruit (raisin, fig, black cherry, dates, etc.), rum, vanilla, bourbon and fruit that was soaked in bourbon or booze. Lots of caramel, boozed soaked malt and bread pudding with brown sugar and maple syrup which thankfully gets the sweetness slashed down by the alcohol presence which adds balance, as strange as that sounds. Overall it was really complex and tasty, another great year for BCBS-BW.

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Photo of cbutova
3.89/5  rDev -13.7%
look: 3.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4

Have had this in the fridge pretty much since November 2013. For some reason I am in the mood for it tonight. I have had this on one other occasion side by side with Artic Devil and many other Barleywines.

A- Poured to a tulip glass from the 12oz bottle with a dark brown body that appears pretty much black in the glass. Small light mocha tan head to about half a finger with a silky texture. Small ring leaves legs and only a few spots of lace stick behind.

S- Nose brings a mix of Bourbon whiskey barrels and a sweet, caramel Barleywine base. Hints of roast, toasted malts and oak wood. Vanilla sweetness from the barrel is high but there is also a slight soy sauce hint in the backdrop. Noticeable lack of alcohol (none at all) but also not the strongest aroma overall.

T- As the nose suggested, very smoothed out and it must have spend a considerable amount of time resting in the barrels. Major notes are caramel, raisin dark fruits, diluted whiskey (not in a bad way), vanilla sweetness and oak. Hints of coca-cola, soy sauce, oxidation, pepper, apple and something like banana (vanilla is a similar ester).

MF- Thick and oily/syrupy body. Texture is slick but somewhat creamy. Carbonation is perhaps a tiny bit high for me but not enough to disturb the flavor. Finishes with a moderate warmth.

Tons of credit to this beer for its super smooth flavor and lack of alcohol for 12%. One thing that I find a bit off-putting is the coca-cola/soy sauce hints that come and go. Great fresh whiskey and oak vanilla sweetness atop thick caramel and raisin.

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Photo of dbrauneis
4.33/5  rDev -4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Note: 2014 Vintage, 11.7% ABV, Bottled 24 Sep 2014

A: Pours an almost opaque yet still clear very dark brown (approaching black) in color with moderate to heavy amounts of active visible carbonation rising from the bottom of the glass along the edges and a hint of dark cola brown highlights. The beer has a half finger tall fizzy foamy dark tan head that slowly reduces to a medium to large sized mottled patch of thin film and a large patch of thick film with a thick ring at the edges of the glass.

S: Moderate to strong aromas of caramel and toffee malts with a moderate amount of sweetness, brown sugar, molasses, and bourbon. Moderate aromas of vanilla and oak with just a hint of alcohol.

T: Upfront there is a moderate to strong flavor of toasted, caramel, and toffee malts with a moderate amount of brown sugar + molasses sweetness. That is followed by moderate to strong flavors of bourbon, vanilla, and oak. Light flavors of alcohol and just a touch of coffee-like bitterness in the finish.

M: Full bodied with moderate amounts of carbonation. Smooth with a moderate amount of alcohol warming in the finish.

O: Truly a great example of a Bourbon Barrel Aged Barleywine, a style that sometimes is just too sweet for my palate to enjoy but this is one I would gladly drink over and over again. Wonderful complexity and balance to the flavors.

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Photo of caskstrength
2.74/5  rDev -39.2%
look: 4 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

Pours a dark brown. Or black. Probably black. looks like a stout

smells are pruney molasses with brown sugar. some oak/vanilla from the barrel, but too much malty brown sugar.

Damn, this is malty, sweet, and pruney. the other things I like are in the back. things like tobacco, leather, oak, coconut. But they're not driving the car. They're in the trunk.

Too gooey on the mouthfeel. But that's how bourbon county rolls. When tobacco and leather and barrel juice cut the gooey-ness, it works. It doesn't work here. It's like the yeast gave up 1/2 way through fermentation, and the 3rd use barrels didn't have enough bite left to cut the residual sugars.

I have one more bottle. I'll open it in 2017 and use it on my pancakes.

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Photo of Stolenface1
4.49/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

On tap @ The Answer Brewpub. Pours a deep black/brown and glows red when held to the light. Little to no head. Aroma of malt, vanilla, bourbon, raisin and fig. Flavor follows with added tobacco notes,slight nutty, smoky oak, warming bourbon flavor and coconut. . Caramel sticks to the tongue on the finish. Feel is almost spot on for the style with light carbonation. Super mellow and smooth. Overall a really really good barleywine.

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Photo of jlindros
4.51/5  rDev 0%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Been saving this for a special day, and this was a long and very annoying day, so figured it was time to crack it. I hope it's as good as everyone makes it out to be.

Pours a small fizzy head that disappears almost instantly, typical for this high abv, with a super dark molasses brown colored beer with the faintest hint of light barely sneaking through.

Nose explodes out of the gate, tons of great malts, reddish candy malts mostly, at first... then big chewy caramel, molasses, then into toffee, even a little nutty cocoa, big sweet candy malts without being too candy like. Then barrel, plenty of nice barrel, some vanilla oak and a hint buttery oak, but lots and lots of bourbon barrel juice. It has the typical booze warmth aroma, but nothing too crazy.

Taste, anticipation... comes on rich, layered goodness with big sweet malts and bourbon, also bourbon and big sweet malts. the malts are the biggest layer, and varied layers of it, sweet candy and plenty of the candy malts, with lots and lots of caramel as well, varying darkness on the caramel, reddish malts too, and a mild nutty toffee. Booze comes in fairly hot too, with some warming almost tingly booze, but a clean booze. Next up is the bourbon, plnety of rich bourbon barrel juice, with the nice vanilla smoothed oak bourbon. Also in there is some candied raisins, brandy soaked like candied raisin and hint fig. Finish is smooth with a big butterscotch and toffee feel, little nutty, big candy like and tons of caramel lingering, a big caramel toffee butterscotch candy flavor lingering, with a bit more vanilla barrel, candied raisins, and bourbon.

Mouth is big bodied, rich, smooth, but somehow not syrupy, very mild warming booze for the abv, decent carb that isn't as much as I probably want and maybe the only thing keeping it from a 5.

Overall very nice, delicious with great malts, great dark fruits, nice warming booze that fits well, great bourbon and barrel, great overall beer, but not quite as orgasmic as most people make it out to be. I really think it will age quite well though and I can't wait to try it in a couple years.

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Photo of Pourharddrinkslow
4.68/5  rDev +3.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Bottled September 2014, poured into a snifter on March 21, 2015. So about 6 months age on it.

Look - Probably the darkest barley wine i've ever seen, it looks more like a stout than anything, very dark brown, appears black in most lights. Gorgeous.

Smell - Very pleasant smell. Slightly sweet, mixed with a malty smell and a small amount of booze. much less of a boozy smell than most barleywine.

Taste - The best part of any beer (or else your drinkin' the wrong stuff). This is crazy smooth for an 11%+ barleywine. It is very earthy, nuts, figs, and maybe a little sugar cane. It truly is delicious. The burn of the alcohol is very discreet but it's definitely the flavor that stays with you the longest in between sips.

Feel - Not as thick as I was expecting, but that is most definitely not a bad thing. Based on the flavor profile the thinner mouthfeel is spot on to complement the flavors.

Overall - Can't think of many other beers of this style I would rank ahead of this. Maybe J.W. Lee's off the top of my head but this is an excellent representation of the barleywine style. If you find it, don't pay attention to the price just buy it. I promise it will be worth it.

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Photo of MN290Brew
4.83/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

2014 Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale Bottled on September 24th, 2014. I recently found this at a suburban store that is kind of out of the way. Trip was worth it! Not sure when or how they got it, but very surprised to see it in the "singles" section of the craft beer isle. I paid $8 or $9 for it. The color is great. Deep ruby, copper, mahogany tones. Smell is super balanced with malty sweetness, fruit, grape, toffee, slight vanilla, a little boozy, maybe just a bit of earthy chocolate? The taste is malty, boozy, sweet, toffee, vanilla, slight cherry, grape flavors. Mouthfeel is almost perfect. A little bready, with light carbonation that gives way to a very smooth, balanced, easy drinking experience. There is just the tiniest bit of a yeasty, grainy feel, but it's forgivable considering how smooth and balanced this whole beer is. I'm shocked I found it, and super grateful for the experience to drink it. Amazing beer!! Thank You Beer Gods!!

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Photo of Vixie
4.5/5  rDev -0.2%

Looks to be dark red as it is being poured, then looks black in the glass until you hold it up to the light. then you see it is a very dark ruby red color. Very nice looking, with just a small tan head that quickly dissipated to a little lacing across the top and on the side of the glass.

Smell is dark fruit, like raisin and prune, with hints of caramel, toffee, and brown sugar.

Taste is fruity, like dried dark fruit, mainly raisin and prune. There's come caramel and toffee, brown sugar, and Belgian candy sugar. The alcohol is mainly present as a warming at the finish.

The feel is smooth and silky, feels nice going down.

This is a really nice beer, it is a touch on the boozy side, but full of flavor, and hides the ABV well. It is a bit easier to drink than regular BCS, and a worthy member of the Bourbon County family.

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Photo of Damian
4.7/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Drank from a 355 ml - 12 fl. oz. bottle purchased at Pemberton Farms, Cambridge, MA
Served in a snifter

Review #950

A frothy, one-finger tall, cappuccino colored crown topped the shimmery, garnet-tinged mahogany liquid. The head quickly dissipated to a thin ring. A few small dots of lacing trickled down the glass.

The aroma was fantastic. Overtly boozy and sweet with intense bourbon and brown sugar notes. Very malt-centric and almost candy-like. Super fruity. Cherry and raspberry notes were apparent. Luxardo Maraschino cherry juice came to mind. Somewhat spicy. Fragrant vanilla bean notes were detectible as well.

The flavor profile was also incredibly rich and intense. Sweet and boozy with strong brown sugar notes. Touch of chocolate and roast. This beer is all about the malts. Loads of caramel and toffee. Quite spicy and very berry-like. As in the nose, notes of Maraschino cherry juice came through strong. Vanilla was also quite noticeable. The finish contained strong notes of bourbon and oak. Boozy, but in a really good sort of way.

Outstanding mouthfeel. The liquid was thick, rich and almost chewy. The beer turned super creamy and smooth on the palate. An ultra fine, fluffy, tongue blanketing effervescence gave the beer a perfect frothy quality. After every sip, the liquid left a sticky film on my lips.

Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale is an intense, bourbon-forward beer that would make for a perfect after dinner sipper on a cold winter night. Even though the barrels used to age this beer had previously aged two beers before it, they still lent an immense amount of bourbon flavor and complexity. I looking forward to seeing how this beer evolves with time.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.55/5  rDev -21.3%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 3.5

2013 vintage 355ml brown glass bottle with classy iconic label design and branded black pry-off pressure cap acquired at a Colorado bottle shop and served into an Odell stem-tulip/snifter hybrid glass in me friend's gaff in high altitude Fort Collins, CO Reviewed live. Expectations are sky-high given its current 100 rating and my past experiences with Bourbon County Brand Stout. 12.1% ABV confirmed. Bottled 17 Sep 13.

Served chilled and allowed to come to room temperature. Side-poured with standard vigor as no carbonation issues are anticipated.

A: No bubble show forms as it's poured.

Pours a half finger head of khaki colour which recedes fully inside of ten seconds. That's a bit disappointing. Based on its brief appearance, the head was fairly creamy and nicely thick. No lacing, but it does leave a cognac-esque clear streak on the sides of the glass when you tilt it. I've seen that before in boozy beers like Utopias, and it's an effect I quite like.

Body colour is a dark murky opaque brown. Not real vibrant or open, but certainly distinguished. No floating yeast particles are visible. I'm looking forward to trying it. Not unique, but the boozy legs make it special to me. There are no egregious flaws here.

Sm: English oak, bourbon-derived vanilla, soaked wood barrel notes, dark malts, and some pleasant boozy notes that evoke a fine liquor. Sherry wine, maybe prunes or dates, some type of leather, and English brown malts.

I do worry that the barrel is overwhelming the base beer. It's not unique or special, and I did expect better, but I'm optimistic.

No yeast character or hop character is detectable.

T: The duration of flavour is quite brief, with average depth and intensity of flavour for the style. Tobacco, rich raisin, prunes/dates, a leathery note, sherry wine, well-integrated oak, faint vanilla, and soaked wood. Marshmallow. Caramel. Some faint wet cardboard notes are present - indicative almost of oxidation. The bourbon isn't as fully developed or complementary here as it is in bourbon county brand stout. Certainly on the sweeter side.

Pretty well balanced for what it is. The build is nowhere near as complex or subtle as I expected given it's a bourbon county brew.

Constructively, it seems like the base beer wasn't all that great to begin with, and the beer relies on the bourbon barrel as a crutch rather than a means of accentuating already present characteristics. Additionally, amplitude is quite low - the flavours don't blend together seamlessly but rather feel distinct and separate. The whole is not more than the sum of its parts.

Mf: Coarser and more dry than anticipated. Rough; it drags on the palate. Very chewy. Thick and full-bodied. A biteen syrupy. It's got what I'd call a pleasant boozy warmth. Well-carbonated.

Not oily, gushed, or astringent.

Dr: She's a sipper, alright. It demands to be appreciated with care. It's an armchair beer. I'm glad I have a few more bottles, but this isn't amongst the best in the style. A solid barleywine across the board, but I'm not sure I'll buy it again. I was ready to love this when I opened it, but unfortunately the execution wasn't quite up to par with Goose Island's best offerings.

Low B

2015 vintage tried on June 9th, 2017:

Leathery. Prune. Caramel. Dates.

Chewy. Full-bodied. Aptly thick.

High B- / WORTHY

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Photo of BEERchitect
4.56/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Its with incredible resplendence that Goose Island even dares to follow up their King Henry that shared elements of both their famed Bourbon County Stout and their second-use Pappy 23 barrels. Yet, there's more life to the ale as Bourbon Barrel Brand Barleywine is borne.

Its pour would be easily mistaken for stout because of its black and ominous body, except for its tawny low-lights around the edges. As its initial pour yeilds a rich mocha-laden blanket of foam, the eventual collapse leaves the ale with an appetizing brandy-like appearance, equipped with streaming legging and all.

Its aromas are a culmination of all things both sweet and savory- black-strap molasses, toffee, maple, honey and sorghum all play a part in the beer's malty scent. Light coffee, nutty aromas, and a rich "umami" tone of something soy sauce and fudge wrapping around the sweetness. A trailing fruit liqueur note, similar of brandy, rum and bourbon all contribute to the beer's character and rich scent.

Its lavish taste is sultry, decadent and seductive with its very first scent as its booze-infused flavors of maple syrup, molasses, chocolate and coffee play equal parts in the beer's early complexity. After that, the taste really opens up to share savory port wine and aged sherry tones as the rich and "meaty" taste takes hold. Adding a sprinkle of salt to amplifiy its taste, a flavor of soy sauces joins with the judge-like richness for a taste that's spot on with the aroma. A trailing bitterness in lightly coffee-like and timidly signals its closure.

Silky smooth and lightly peppery, the ale's texture opens with a creamy film that coats the palate with a cling of sweetness. Its middle retains much of its richness while the mild acidity of seemingly wine lightens the body as the carbonation recedes. Finishing like port, its long linger of boozy sweetness is satisfying and rewarding to the palate like fine dessert or cognac.

The ale is alive with a tremendous amount of savory sweet notes- appealing to all that is sweet, earthy, boozy and salty all at once. Beers like this might as well be like catnip to a savory fiend like me.

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Photo of zeledonia
3.8/5  rDev -15.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Tasted 1 May 2014.

Pours deep brown, slightly reddish-brown at the edges. Just a thin layer of yellowish-tan head, gone pretty quick, not much lacing. Not terrible, but exactly stunning.

Smell is bright, full of fruit and whiskey and sweetness. It's a bit two-toned, not as integrated as I'd like, with the barrel and the barleywine striking slightly different notes. Plums, figs, tobacco. Pretty darn nice, but lacking the pop of the best -bal barleywines.

Taste is, again, good but could be better. It's harsh, which is expected for such a high-ABV beer, but it's harsh in ways that it doesn't need to be. More barrel, more bourbon bite, than I'd like. Deeply fruity. The pieces don't quite fit together, and the sharpness knocks it down a few notches for me.

Feel is decent. The occasional sip feels flat, but the majority are carbonated enough. Medium-bodied, kinda heavy and chewy.

I feel like I'm trashing this beer by not giving it lights-out ratings. But it's not a lights-out beer. Not like Sucaba, or Arctic Devil, or King Henry, or MoAS. Biggest flaw is the imperfect integration of the base and the barrel. It's good, not great.

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Photo of stakem
4.36/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Thanks Steve for the hookup on a 12oz bottle of this. Poured into a matching bourbon county snifter the brew appears dark brown in color with a fine ring of clarity around the edges. A tan finger is quick to collapse holding with a fine line around the perimeter.

The aroma is sweet of caramelized sugars: toffee, molasses, brown sugar, vanilla, creme brûlée, oak, raisins and prunes. Quite dark and fruity smelling with alcohol ever-present but integrated nicely.

Based off the aroma alone, one would think this is gonna be a sticky sweet brew. Luckily the residual sugars are tempered by the alcohol and a bit of hoppy bitterness. Flavors of raw oak blend into raisons, dates, figs, prunes...a whole gauntlet of dark fruity alcohol. Molasses, toffee, caramel, vanilla, slightly dusty wood and earthen to herbal bitter hops round the flavor profile out.

This is a medium to fuller bodied brew with a moderate amount of carbonation. A boozy sipper that is quite complex and certainly worth seeking out. Considering the amount of bourbon county stout that was/is made, I hope this means this brew will see greater volume/distribution in the future. This offering comes out with the bar set unreasonably high falling in the wake of King Henry...I wont draw any comparisons to that brew but wow is this good and everything I hoped it would be. Damn, I would like more of this.

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Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
Beer rating: 4.51 out of 5 with 5,455 ratings