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: 580 | Ratings: 5,088
Photo of aleigator
3.87/5  rDev -13.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Bourbon County Barley Wine 2014

Pours a dark brown color with glowing ember hints, woven into the beers appearance, which comes along with almost no head at all. It produces a small, bubbly ring of lacing, revealing alcohol legs after swirling.

Smells of bright, sugar coated malts and boozy, ripe plums. Bakers chocolate blends into molasses and a warming oak quality. Roasted walnut shell compliments dried, scented wood and sun burned earth.

Has a pleasantly low carbonation, while featuring a decadent huge, sweet body, defined by sweet malts together with a spicy, oaken dryness. Does not have the thick, creamy mouthfeel the regular version provides, although it offers a pleasant silkness on the tongue.

Tastes of soft earth, hazelnuts, toasted malts and melted caramel among dried, sweet plums. Creates a pleasant sweetness of milk chocolate, wild honey, rock sugar and licorice, finding its balance in the dry, spicy Boubon barrel. Finishes with caramel, fudge and more molasses and a pleasant, boozy dryness, with a nice, bubbly refreshment from the carbonation, preventing the beer from becoming cloyingly sweet.

Comes very well together, its prominent, taste defining sweeter qualities find their balance in the perfect nuanced Bourbon barrel, which provides enough body to the malts to make this interesting till the last sip.

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Photo of FinestCityBeerGuy
5/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

OK, first of all: this is the best BBA beer I've ever had.

Once you open the bottle, the aroma is intoxicating. Maple syrup, toasty bourbon, caramel, molasses, have mercy. Once of the best-smelling BBA beer's I've ever had, too.

Taste So good. Thick, dense, formidable. I've had a lot of BBA's, and many times, the bourbon is simply ttoo overwhelming, taking away from other base ingredients. Not so with Goose Island's. The bourbon is smack-your-lips tasty, sweet, and residual. Aftertaste is very pleasant; I was going to smoke a cigar with this one, but I didn't want to do anything to change the flavor. Caramel chocolate, mocha, vanilla. Wow.

Very warming. I got shivers from drinking it.

Overall, I'm glad I picked it up. I love great beers, but I normally avoid going over $15 for a bottle - still, I'm very happy with this selection. A must-try. Definitely looking forward to trying the other Bourbon County's by Goose! (I stumbled upon this one in a janky, sketchy-looking liquor store on the way home. Can't judge a liquor store by the outside!)

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Photo of SayBoom
4.81/5  rDev +7.1%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Sucaba 2014 vintage vs Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale 2014 vintage.
L: Sucaba <BCBBw. Pours a deep ruby, brownish. Cloudy, not much head, disappears quickly.
S: Sucaba >BCBBw.
T: Sucaba <BCBBw. Hides the alcohol, and is sweet but not cloying. Ultra smooth and balanced.
F: Sucaba >BCBBw.
O: Sucaba=BCBBw. Two outstanding barleywine. Balanced and well executed, overall.

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

2013 vintage.

This beer is simply amazing. It has great thickness and feel, and the nose and flavors are phenomenal. Notes of vanilla, oak, and chocolate shine through. The bourbon heat is perfect. It was so good that I had trouble letting it warm up further to see how it changes.

Overall, an amazing beer and something I will look to attain at all costs.

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Photo of FriedSlug
5/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

This beer is stunning. Almost black and smells like heaven. Sweet aroma with vanilla, oak, chocolate notes, raisins. The taste is all of this with a silky mouthfeel. Giving this beer a 5. Can't see how it could be improved.

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Photo of BiaSongThan
4.96/5  rDev +10.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

2013 vintage growler enjoyed 5/16 Deep brown with slight khaki head. Aroma of rich molasses, dessert, frangelico, figs, raisin bread, oak, bourbon. Taste is rich molasses, bourbon, oak, toffee, dark fruits, figs, raisin, bread, coffee, chocolate, leather, tobacco, hints of bcbs stout. Mouthfeel is full and light carbonation. Overall, one of the best beers I've had. So rich and complex, but so smooth and enjoyable.

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Photo of spacecake9
5/5  rDev +11.4%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

2014 vintage, kept this in the cellar for a little over a year.
Poured into a snifter.
A - Pours a very dark brown, maybe black, with a small tan head that settles quickly to a very thin ring.
S - Aroma is molasses and raisins and bourbon.
T - There's a lot going on here. A lot of raisin or prune, vanilla and bourbon. If this beer was hot when new it has certainly mellowed over the year into warm perfection.
M - Carbonation is low. Mouth feel is creamy and a little sticky.
O - I like barleywines and this is the finest I have ever tasted. I don't know how anyone could do better.
*** Just opened a 2 year old bottle. So smooth.

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Photo of stortore
4.61/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

2015 12 ounce bottle into a snifter. First review after a few years of enjoying.

Pours a deep ruby, brownish as well. Cloudy, not much head or lacing. Smell brings malt, plums, dates, prunes, figs, bourbon, some oak, some vanilla. Smells great. The taste is where this baby really kicks in. Malt, bourbon- more as it warms, vanilla, figs, dates, prunes, some oak, raisins, caramel, some cherries. The depth of the flavor is what I think sets it apart. Very smooth, great body, the taste lingers on the tongue.

This one is a Hall of Famer, for me. So well blended, such depth in both the flavor and aroma. Still not easy to get, but if you have the chance, and it's at the intended price, go for it.

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Photo of mtomlins
4.37/5  rDev -2.7%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

Big thanks to JasonR1975 for the bottle.

This is just a great BA BW but what I really liked about it was the nose and mouthfeel. the big boozy bourbon nose and all that malt with a thick round mouthfeel was great.

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Photo of Harrison8
4.36/5  rDev -2.9%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Pours dark brown/burgundy with a medium-thin beige head. Not much head or lacing left behind. 8oz from the tap poured at 45 degree angle into a snifter. Aroma is ripe with sweet toffee and caramel notes with a blast of malts. Huge notes of caramel and toffee in the taste. Sublime, but a little sweet. As it warms up, the bourbon and oak start to show up at the finish of the beer. Medium-length finish. Mouth feel is bold, robust, filling, and full. Overall, amazing, but not a 100% for me. Definitely worth a try though.

Self-served from tap. 8oz pour. Snifter.

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Photo of BeerDawgs
4.55/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2015, with a bottled on date of 10.29.15. ABV of 12.9%
Consumed 3.22.16

L - Ruby red, 1 finger of head, molasses looking

S - Dried fruit, toffee, plums, raisons, oak, raisons, and bourbon. Alot going on here! Awesome.

T - Cherries, dried fruit, malty, and finishes with a warm boozy taste.

F - Full bodied, and rich. Wow

O - This bottled was clearly not infected. A very slow sipper, and amazing. Enjoy

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Photo of thepenguin
4.68/5  rDev +4.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

2014 vintage

L: Pours a near-black with minimal foam. Fairly clear, with tinges of mahogany around the edges and an off-white head.

S: Lots of oak, with big notes of vanilla, chocolate syrup and rich, smooth wheated bourbon. Very sweet and bready, with pastries and lots of caramel and a touch of grassy hops. Absolutely delicious on the nose.

T: Bread, dark fruits and vanilla right off the bat. Very deep and rich with lots of nuanced oak and sweet bourbon notes. Sweet, boozy oaky finish. Really well put-together.

F: Very full-bodied, with very moderate, creamy carbonation. Huge chewy mouthfeel, with a nice slickness and a pretty decent amount of heat in the finish.

Thoughts: A more delicious dessert beer I have difficulty conjuring up. So rich, nice balance of flavors and great bourbon and oak notes. Not sure why it took me this long to try this one, it’s superb. I would gladly take this over BCBS any day of the week.

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Photo of Beginner2
4.55/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I believe the 2013 release was the first and I shared it at Thanksgiving 2015.
As highly-rated as this offering is, I believe they are still figuring it out.
While the interplay of stout and whiskey flavors certainly are rich, they also seem difficult to predict and, hence, when to drink.

I have some form of notes on at least ten of the most popular 50 barleywines.
While I give preference to local brewers for my first review in a BA style, I'm guessing that when the dozen reviews are done, Bourbon County will be very, very close to the top.

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Photo of Coronaeus
4.65/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75


Pitch black with no discernable head. Vanilla and bourbon on the nose. Sweet and syrupy with a plethora of flavours; burnt sugar, vanilla, toffee. Boozy but very pleasant. A real treat!

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Photo of Shermski
4.61/5  rDev +2.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

Vintage 2013 Bottle: 17SEP13 at 2043

Looks: It's a Bourbon County, with some ruby tints and a hair of transparency compared to BCBS.

Smell: Bourbon, incredibly stout like compared to some other barleywines, e.g. sucaba. Boozy, vanilla, leathery tobacco as described by others (love that "leathery tobacco" is a positive)

Taste: Booze is very disguised, big and sweet like a bourbon county. It keeps changing as I drink it.

Feel: Motor oil viscosity. Usually the thicker the better for me, I've never had a BA stout where I said to myself "this is too thick" or syrupy.

Overall: Like others have said this is a different barleywine, drinking more like a BA stout, which greatly appeals to me. 2+ years has done it good but I honestly don't think it tastes that different than the 2014, and 2015 BC Barleywine. Would enjoy again, again, and again, looking forward to how it tastes with another two years on it.

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Photo of That_Bearded_Guy
4.88/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

I was planning on saving this for a special occasion but with all the talk of infection I decided to pop the cap and see if i got lucky or not. Fortunately for me I did not get an infected bottle!

Looks: Pours a dark crimson color which looks completely black in the glass. No light shines through and almost no head formation which I would expect from a 12.9% beer.

Smell: Bourbon, raisin, fig, cherry, tons of dark fruit if you can't tell already. Also a sweet almost leather aroma going for it. Really awesome smelling stuff.

Taste: The taste follows the aroma exactly with a huge dark fruit palate. Definitely has that sweet, vanilla, oak Bourbon County taste to it with is just out of this world.

Feel: Thick, full bodied feel on this beer. Mouthfeel perfectly compliments the taste, wouldn't ask for any thiner or thicker.

Overall: Its hard to pick out a negative from this beer. Everything just seems to work. I am not normally a barleywine kind of guy but this beer is just amazing. Perfect mouthfeel, huge bourbon notes, tons of dark fruit and vanilla. This beer hits on every mark!

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Photo of YeastInception
4.34/5  rDev -3.3%
look: 3 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

This reminds me of an old ale. Pours dark brownish red. Zero head. Smells of dark cherries and bourbon. Tastes slightly tangy with malty finish. Overall much more drinkable than other Bourbon Counties. I don't know if the tanginess was intentional but it really adds to the complexity and drinkability. Brew more like this.

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Photo of GreatStoutman
4.86/5  rDev +8.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.75

2015 on draft pours dark espresso, small khaki head disappears quickly. Sitting next to the other BC variants it's not as thick, but still very attractive.

Smell is hints of bourbon, but faint enough to let the dark fruits poke through the nose. Really inviting aroma. Feels creamy with light carbonation, medium to high bitterness.

Taste is layers of raisin and oak and some other fruits. Not a significant bourbon taste, which might be well blended in, but either way it all blends wonderfully. I'm not huge on Barleywine but I could drink this all day.

Overall this is nice and sweet but has a strong malty backbone that balances it perfectly. One of the most enjoyable beers I've ever had.

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Photo of JoeySchlitz
2.37/5  rDev -47.2%
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 Kraj30
4.5/5  rDev +0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

I had this 2015 on draft and in (not infected bottle) both versions pour a red wine color with the traditional bcs brown.. not much head... flavor is boomiing on nose.. very smooth to me for a barleywine.. very underrated beer here.. love this version

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Photo of madelfonatree
4.54/5  rDev +1.1%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Bottled September 18, 2014 and enjoyed January 9, 2016 from District Tap in a Goose Island wine glass.

Look - Little to no head. More on second warmer pour. It was tan. No lacing. Dark Ruby red.

Smell - Booze. Fruit. Raspberry. Raisin. Chocolate. Vanilla.

Taste - Booze. Fruit. Raspberry. Raisin. Chocolate. Vanilla. Plum.

Feel - Heavy. Doesn't sit well but expected. Not as mellow as I hoped. Dries up with an alcohol burn.

Overall - Surprised when the bartender brought me a 2014. Not too far off from 2015 even with age.

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Photo of paco1029384756
3.96/5  rDev -11.8%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4

Deep burgundy, minimal head. Scent of rich caramelized sugar, oak, dark fruit and subtle tobacco. Taste of caramel, earth, oak, tobacco, ash, some dark fruit, and a mild alcohol heat. The scent is lovely, however, the hodgepodge of flavors makes me wonder if this beer spent a bit too much time in the barrels.

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Photo of vicinandp
3.79/5  rDev -15.6%
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 njcraftguy
4.21/5  rDev -6.2%
look: 4 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Poured a dark red - light head. Nice aroma but nothing special. Def a sipping beer - you can def taste the ABV on this one. Still a smooth drinkable brew but give yourself some time to enjoy it. I prefer standard BCBS or Regal but this was pretty good. Will I seek it out again - maybe.

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

Very similar to other Bourbon County varieties - huge bourbon and vanilla notes. Very smooth and warming. Considering this is a barleywine, it is definitely in the top of its class. Also much like its other varieties, it pours and looks like oil. Very silky in texture and quite boozy.

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Bourbon County Brand Barleywine Ale from Goose Island Beer Co.
4.49 out of 5 based on 5,088 ratings.
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