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): 12.10%

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: 572 | Ratings: 5,057
Photo of ArrogantB
1.18/5  rDev -73.7%
look: 4 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 1 | overall: 1

Update 2015

Soured and infected, scores updated accordingly

I was able to get a bottle of this before black Friday, $5.99. Color is super dark brown, head died quick fast. Aroma is whiskey, sweet, fruity. Flavor is fruity, boozy, and might even have a touch of bourbon county stout but maybe that is the power of suggestion. Overall, pretty solid bourbon barrel barleywine but to me not as good as Bligh's or Abacus. I never had the original King Henry either so I can't speak to that one. Still, glad I bought a couple bottles.

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Photo of nola1988
1.37/5  rDev -69.4%
look: 3 | smell: 1 | taste: 1 | feel: 2.5 | overall: 1.5

2015 vintage in a tulip (infected)

L: light darkness, red hue, no head.
S: sharp and sour, not unlike cherry. No notes of bourbon.
T: follows smell. A tart sourness. No maltiness, no notes of bourbon. Still syrup sweetness. Everything is masked by a sour funk and it holds none of its original features.
F: viscous but very thin for the style.
O: as GI releases BCBS today, I revisit this brew to reminded myself of last year's failure. Under normal situations, this barley-wine is a fine brew. But I can only review what is given... and it is a mess. Frankly, it is a sour, sweet mass that shows the horrors of "spontaneous fermentation." Any bourbon flavor has been destroyed. The sweet maltiness? Transformed into some sort of rotten cherry. While lines form at bottle shops around the country, I doubt few would wait for this offering despite GI's claims that some may enjoy it. Perhaps they right the ship this year. last years venture is certainly worth forgetting.

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Photo of JoeySchlitz
2.37/5  rDev -47.1%
look: 4 | smell: 2 | taste: 2 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

Bottled on: 28OCT15 1439.
Definitely infected. Earlier bottle had a slight cherry taste - this bottle has fully developed sour and cardboard flavored. Highly carbonated but looks fine - dark root beer color with some garnet at edges. Smell is larger yeast, cardboard and a sour aroma. Taste follows with an acidic carmel blend with some cherry at the finish. Not enjoyable. Overall not a good follow for the big-beer/craft alliance. Thought qc was their strong suit..

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Photo of RonaldTheriot
2.59/5  rDev -42.2%
look: 2.75 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 2.75 | overall: 2.75

Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine has a thin, yellowish, cream-colored, head, very little lacing, and a brown to dark-brown appearance. The aroma is of highly sweet & sour, duck sauce, bread, bourbon, and strong alcohol. Taste is of chewing tobacco, alcohol. wood, nut shell, coconut, duck sauce, sweet and sour sauce, brown bread, wet bread, dark bread crust, faint bitterness, cloying sugar, alcohol, and bourbon. The mouthfeel is heavy and Goose Island Bourbon County Barleywine finishes sweet and boozy. I found it to be unpleasant. Sorry.


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Photo of caskstrength
2.74/5  rDev -38.8%
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 MOVERTON1284
3/5  rDev -33%
look: 3 | smell: 3 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

I am not a BW fan, but I keep trying to be. 2013 vintage poured into a small snifter, aged over a year. I just get straight booze from this beer. Everything else is muted and the beer is unbalanced.

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Photo of leobageo
3.18/5  rDev -29%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3 | feel: 1 | overall: 3.25

Had 2015 vintage poured in a short, stemmed, goblet from Congregation Ale House in Pasadena.

Look: Great color. Dark as night. Very little head and little lacing.

Smell: Smelled of coffee notes, no hops on the nose. Feint dark fruit notes, stone fruits.

Taste: Slightly sour. Mostly tasteless. Didn't get anything out of it.

Feel: Watery. No alcohol.

Overall: Highly disappointed. It lacked any character.

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Photo of alanamato
3.2/5  rDev -28.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

As awesome as it was to find this beer and as girly as it sounds, I am happy to have split one 3 ways. It was far to rich to have had an entire 12oz myself. Not to mention the buzz and the mouth taste the next morning. A worthy adversary, but I'm still not certain who won that battle.

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Photo of ivegot3Dvision
3.2/5  rDev -28.6%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.25

I may be in the minority here but this didn't hold up to my expectations. Keep in mind I'm reviewing a 2015 bottle.

I have the give it to Goose Island, these bottles are pretty rad. The pour was nice, a little darker than I was anticipating. It smelled pretty good, like a good English Barleywine aged in bourbon barrels should. The taste left me a little unhappy though. I could taste the sweetness from the malt, a nice oaky, vanilla, caramel flavor, but it was missing something. As I let it warm, more of the flavors came out, and I enjoyed it a bit more. Honestly, its still pretty hot, so I think it could stand a bit of aging. Overall, it's a good BBA English Barleywine, I had heard so many glowing reviews about it I was expecting something life changing.

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Photo of gjoker321
3.25/5  rDev -27.5%

Hmm, this is a review of the 2014. It is a bit weak in it's maltiness. A nice bourbon barrel character but doesn't really have the beer to back it up. Wow, really a disappointment after last years.

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Photo of BWood
3.31/5  rDev -26.1%
look: 4.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3

2015 vintage. Not a fan. I feel it needs at least a year to become a drinkable brew. Honestly I poured half of it down the drain please wait a year to drink.

2017 update. Infected bottle

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Photo of Sludgeman
3.33/5  rDev -25.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 2.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.5

2013 vintage. Served in a snifter.

A disappointment for me. Glad I didn’t run all over town to find this beer. 3.5

A - Dark, opaque, with a one-finger head, alcohol legs. - 4.25

S – Whiskey and sweet maltiness . Dark fruit. Raisins more than any beer I have ever had. This beer also had an odd faint (but definitely there) soapy smell. I asked the bartender to throw away the first glass and give me another (which he gladly agree to do). He rinsed the glass an extra long time but I still had that faint soapy odor. Bartender could not smell it. - 2.5

T – Sweet, malty, dark fruit, not enough bitterness, bourbon (not overwhelming) and a tinge of tobacco 3.5

MF – Syrupy, smooth, slick, full bodied. 3.75

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Photo of mynie
3.4/5  rDev -24.1%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.25

Points I have sought to prove in the past:

-English Barleywines aren't very good.
-Accordingly, it's good to barrel age them, so you taste the barrel whiskey instead of the cloyingly sweet syrupness that limeys apparently enjoy so much.

The best BAEBW's, then, would be the ones that take the barrel-agedness to the extreme. Which means that Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Bidness should logically make an excellent BAEBW, since their barrel nodes are, to put it bluntly, intense.

Instead, nope. We get this. Big super sweet English Barleywine against aggressive vanilla nodes and a depressing lack of booziness or burn. NOTHING cuts into the sweetness. Nothing.

It's still not a *bad* example of its style. It's just that the style is bad. The beer's midwest hype and semi-rareness has inflated its score, no doubt, but seriously it's not worth whatever you're being asked to pay for it.

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Photo of apasternak
3.5/5  rDev -21.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Not enough bourbon, too much sticky sweetness. Most people I know point to this when I say I don't really like barleywines, but this beer just does not live up to the hype for me.

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Photo of br3wmeister
3.52/5  rDev -21.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.75

Served from bottle into Surly darkness snifter.

I love bourbon county stout so I was really excited for this beer. I poured the beer do find a dark brown beer with little head that faded quickly, the beer was slightly hazy as well. The aroma was subtle, malty, some vanilla and dark fruits. Nothing spectacular or out of the ordinary for a barrel aged beer so far. This beer tasted plain. It was syrupy and strong but really lacked complexity. Over all I would have to say this was a disappointing beer. I am not sure if I had to high of expectations or if it really is just meh, but I can say there are several much better barrel aged beers out there.

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Photo of Auracom
3.53/5  rDev -21.2%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.5

Old review from notes: 8 oz. into a generic snifter on December 18th, 2013.

A - Very typical coca cola coloring, but a nicely frothy light tan head that lingers an reduces to a solid ring around the edges. Okay lacing and predominant legs.

S - Sugar cookie, dark cocoa, oak shavings, slight alcohol, prunes, slight char.

T - Slow arrival. Dates, luscious caramel, hint of vanilla meld in mid-palate. Further prune, oak barrel, and softer bitter notes in the finish. Very little residual alcohol.

M - Medium-heavy body, great carbonation level, reasonably long, dry finish.

D - It's not up to snuff with the other 2013 variants, but it's worthy of your time. The palate isn't hitting quite as heavily as I'd anticipated. I'd be lying if I said I didn't find this a bit boring compared to a staple like Sucaba.

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Photo of kojevergas
3.55/5  rDev -20.8%
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

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Photo of ryan1788a5
3.63/5  rDev -19%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

12oz bottle poured into a large snifter.

A: Deep chestnut brown. The tan head is knocked out almost as soon as the pour ends. Small, spotty lacing.

S: Dark caramel, molasses, malt syrup, tootsie rolls. Wildberry and sweet cherry esters. Whiff of bourbon and faint wood.

T: Wave of chewy dark caramel. Fudgey tootsie roll tastes. Over the top sweetness. Blackstrap molasses. Brown sugar. Berry esters. Bourbon and faint wood build toward the back end, but are still no match for the malt sweetness. Blackstrap molasses and faint bourbon on the finish.

M: Huge syrupy malt body. Thick, round, and smooth in a slick sort of way. Warming alcohol. Little to no carbonation.

O: I may be in the minority here, but this was just too much for me. As with everything in the Bourbon County series, this beer has a massive malt body. However, there is no attempt at balance, and the malt sweetness is allowed to run amok. It builds to near sickly, cloying levels. At times it feels as though I'm drinking straight molasses. Even a bourbon barrel is no match, and it slowly drowns in all the sweetness. I was ready to be done halfway through the bottle. Not worth the hype or the price tag at all.

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Photo of goochpunch
3.72/5  rDev -17%
look: 3 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

Pours out murky and brown with no head. Bourbon, wood, and vanilla are the strongest aromas. Not getting a whole lot of the base beer. The bourbon barrel works better in the flavor than with the imperial stout. I'm getting a lot of vanilla and wood. Brown sugar from the barleywine base. Hints of roasty malts from the stout that was in the barrels before this? Mouthfeel is sticky, thick, and soft. Tasty bourbon barrel aged barleywine.

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Photo of Rifugium
3.79/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

First had: on tap at the Beer Shoppe, Ardmore, PA

Served in a snifter. Deep, dark brown color, a short, stout head of tan receded to a thick ringlet, leaving maybe just a few oily spots of lacing on the glass. Aroma was expectedly malt-heavy, caramel and brown sugar, more burnt and less smooth than I expected, based on my experiences with King Henry. In the taste, burnt caramel, bourbon, heavy with earthy oak, dark fruits, and a strange herbal bitterness that lasted right through to the end, somewhat detracting from the sweet smoothness that I like in the "big boy" barleywines. Hmm. There was a tiny reprise of sweetness giving a slick finish. Body on the heavier side of medium, but not as fleshed out as I would have liked. Came off kind of messy and immature, so maybe it just still needs some time. Disappointing in the end, but I'll let my bottles sit for a while and revisit them in several months.

*Note: this DOES significantly improve with time. About 4.25 rating after 8-12 months aging.

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Photo of vicinandp
3.79/5  rDev -15.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

Let me start this by saying I have only had this batch of BW and some of the BW I have had were clearly infected. Had a very strong lacto taste on the end. I also am not a huge BW fan in general its just not my go to style. This pour from the 500ml bottle into a teku glass, it pours a dark ruby color with minimal head and translucent. Just off appearance and taste this is much thinner than the regular BCBS. SImilar bourbon and vanilla oaky notes like other BCBS variants. Tons of dark fruit and raisins on the taste, some heat to this with a bad lacto finish that clearly wasnt supposed to be in this beer. I would try this again for older vintages to see how it was supposed to taste.

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Photo of zeledonia
3.8/5  rDev -15.2%
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 yourefragile
3.8/5  rDev -15.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 3.75

2013 12 oz bottle served in a BC snifter.

Pours a dark, opaque near black with a thick but quickly fading dark yellow/khaki head; not much lace or retention. Balanced, restrained nose of oak, burnt sugar, caramel, toffee and molasses. Flavor is overly sweet; barrel heavy with vanilla, brown sugar and syrupy caramel combining with a sticky, malty English BW base. On its own this was interesting but next to a well aged King Henry seemed comically simple and boring. Body is pleasantly viscous and slick with minimal heat in the finish. Not sure this needs much age, but hopefully some time will rejigger these flavors into a more interesting combination. For price and difficulty in obtaining bottles, just go blow your money of BB4D or Central Waters or something.

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Photo of n2185
3.84/5  rDev -14.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.75

A: Pours a dark brown with barely any light shining through and a finger of light tan head that fades into a thin ring with no lacing.

S: Caramel, toffee, vanilla, and bourbon dominate here. There are also some sticky bun aromas.

T: Caramel, toffee, oak, and bourbon throughout. There are some bready notes underneath with vanilla and a moderately boozy finish with light bitterness.

M: Medium-thick body with low carbonation, this beer is sticky sweet and coats the mouth with a sugary layer.

O: An enjoyable beer, overall. I'd like it if it weren't quite so sweet and if it were a bit smoother, but it's not so cloying and boozy as the BCBS line.

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Photo of CraigP83
3.85/5  rDev -14.1%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Deep ruby red, no head, semi transparent. Sweet, bourbon isn't real prominent, slight tart but not objectionable, some candied raspberries flavors. This is probably not the way they anticipated this beer to taste.

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Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
4.48 out of 5 based on 5,057 ratings.
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