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Vanilla Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout | Goose Island Beer Co.

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Vanilla Rye Bourbon County Brand StoutVanilla Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout
1,968 Ratings
Vanilla Rye Bourbon County Brand StoutVanilla Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout

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

Style: American Imperial Stout

Alcohol by volume (ABV): 13.60%

Availability: Rotating

Notes / Commercial Description:
First brewed for the legendary festival of Wood and Barrel Aged Beer in Chicago, drinkers enjoyed this Bourbon County Variant so much we bottled it the next year (2010). People flocked to stores to get their hands on a bottle and have this one of a kind barrel aged stout. Over the past few years we have heard our fans express their love for this version and we are extremely proud to bring it back in 2014. This years version features a little twist of aging the stout in Rye Whiskey Barrels with a mix of Mexican and Madagascar vanilla beans!

35 IBU

This beer is retired; no longer brewed.

User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 1,968 |  Reviews: 237
Reviews by 4lo:
Photo of 4lo
4.56/5  rDev -2.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

More User Reviews:
Photo of CraftFan5
5/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Somebody's got to stop drinking and write the first review...

Got just a 6 oz. pour so I couldn't glean much on the appearance. Looked like regular BCBS. Can't complain about that.

Tough to do a proper nose in a noisy, crowded bar, but I definitely got massive vanilla in addition to the bourbon and roastiness.

Mmmmm, really delicious. Literally like someone put a ton of vanilla into a BCBS. Can't really say much more than that. My one gripe is that the flavors were not well blended. I think it would really benefit from some age here. Hopefully I can land a bottle or 3 and try that out. The amazing part was the finish as the vanilla really exploded here, and boy did it linger until the next sip.

Mouthfeel was full, as should be expected. Definitely got a nice coating all over.

An amazing accomplishment from Goose Island. Well done.

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Photo of mobius387
3.87/5  rDev -17.3%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 3.75

2010 BC Vanilla is my favorite variant. Fresh, it was better than Rare. It rivaled BVDL. I was extremely excited that GI made another Vanilla BC variant.

Unfortunately, I was extremely let down. This beer falls way short of its predecessor, and does not add much with the Rye Whiskey barrels. The base is thinner than all other variants I've had. It looses that classic BC mouth feel. The vanilla tastes too syrupy and the beer drinks extremely boozy and not well balanced.

Overall, its a good beer that anyone can enjoy. But it's easily the worst variant they've made and I'd rather drink regular BCBS than this one any day. Maybe it will age well, but right now I wouldn't trade your cellar to get this one.

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Photo of Greenplastic615
3.23/5  rDev -31%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 2.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.25

22oz bottle split 4 ways. Poured into a tulip glass.

Look: Looks like BCBS? Poured dark with minimal head.

Smell: Holy vanilla. One dimensional. I can smell the sugar in my nose.

Taste: Cloying. Absolutely a one dimensional vanilla bomb. I feel like I'm drinking a liquefied vanilla bean. Did I mention this is REALLY sweet? Because it's really, really, really sweet.

Feel: A little thinner than the regular 2014 BCBS.

Overall: Sorry, this is just not very good. I know people are losing their minds over it, but if you took 2 bottles of BCBS, about 3-4 vanilla beans, and a french press you could make something that's basically the same. I've had some good vanilla stouts, but this is not one of them.

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Photo of HomerSwim
4.65/5  rDev -0.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

The Aztecs acquired vanilla when they conquered the Totonacs in the 15th Century; the Spanish, in turn, got it when they conquered the Aztecs. One source claims that it was introduced to western Europe by Hernán Cortés-though at the time it was eclipsed by his other American imports, which included jaguars, opossums, an armadillo, and an entire team of ballplayers equipped with bouncing rubber balls.

Goose Island, please note that Vanilla is a great addition to your bourbon county stout. But let's avoid all other Cortes imported variants. I have little desire to try a Bourbon County Bouncing Rubber Ball Stout.

Why is Vanilla synonymous with plain or boring? If people feel that way, I will gladly take the rest of your Vanilla Rye. It's that good.

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Photo of Crookdrain
3.25/5  rDev -30.6%

On tap at Windy City Ale House in Bay Ridge.

Poured alongside BCBS, Coffee, and BCBBW

Pitch black, almost no head.

Nose is all vanilla beans and a slight hint of bourbon barrel.

Thin mouthfeel, overpowering vanilla to start - hints of artificial vanilla syrup. Cloying sweetness in the backend. Barely get any of the rye barrel presence. Very disappointing - the coffee variant was light years better side by side. Not worth the ridiculous price or time hunting.

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Photo of mig100
5/5  rDev +6.8%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

Score based on draft at ChurchKey in Washington D.C. at their 2nd annual Bourbon County Black Friday event on 11/28/2014, many other draft pours in 2014 and 2015 and a 22oz bottle consumed on 2/20/2017.

L: Sludgy and viscous, no light shines through when held closely to the light, mocha brown ring-head that lingers, leaving substantial lacing on the glass.

S: One of the most amazing bouquets... huge vanilla/marshmallow, whiskey and barrel all coming through with their own individual character. Subtle caramel and toffee, slightly almond-esque.

T: Huge burst of vanilla hits and it's definitely dominant, but it's followed by cocoa and whiskey. It more than delivers on the aroma... the tiniest bit of booze heat, but just barely, with a perfect blend of vanilla, oak, butterscotch and marshmallow flavor following through to the finish.

F: Thick, creamy and chewy (viscosity seems to have increased with age - oxidation?), carbonation level is perfect. The lingering vanilla and marshmallow flavors coat the palate. Exceedingly smooth, dangerous at 13.6%.

Overall: It's decadent, the vanilla bean flavors are very prominent... but it's perfectly balanced and complex, especially as it warms and breathes. The vanilla softens and smooths out the booze and the slightly bitter linger of the base beer, while the rye and oak balance out the sweetness. Not so much a beer, as it is... an elixir of the goads (game of thrones pronunciation).

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Photo of Smakawhat
4.49/5  rDev -4.1%
look: 3.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 3.75 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the bottle into a large snifter glass.

Deep walnut black body, kind of sludgey going out and quite opaque. Goes to barely a thin mocha brown head with no staying power at all. A bit of fizz sounding noise, and a somewhat quick cola like dissolve. Just barely micro thin pencil ring on the edges, with a gooey leg action a bit. Beer looks a little bit lifeless.

The bouquet on this though is outrageously impressive. Huge notes of vanilla and nutty cream like cake. Smells like walnuts and hazelnuts with a creamy angle and thick torte like dark chocolate. Like a dense flourless cake with some spicy heat. Really interesting and unlike any aroma on any stout let alone beer I have had.

Nose hints at what is to come on the palate. Fudgy and rich like cake flavors come out in the taste, creamy dessert tasting with hints of vanilla, with a nut like angle. Mouthfeel though has a fizzy quality to it, not totally seltzery at least, but a little distracting and also quite noticeable and obvious. Nice controlled warmth and not overly hot with some piping heat in the stomach a bit, but with control. Palate feel though is smooth and silky with a chocolate ganache going down your throat, but some of the fizz cuts in a bit and with a little loose body, almost kind of contradictory. Vanilla ice cream warmth slightly after awhile, a classic dessert like beer.

It's probably my least favorite of the variants I have had, and seems to have a few faults, but they are not deal breakers and totally do not take away from the great flavors and the fantastic aromas of the beer.

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Photo of cultclassic89
4.75/5  rDev +1.5%
look: 4.75 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Tons of vanilla, though still a bit hot.

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Photo of tjcapture
4.83/5  rDev +3.2%
look: 5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

Lived up to the hype for me. All the BCB beers have an amazing color. The nose is fantastic, a bit of the alcohol, but the vanilla really shines. The taste is incredible, the vanilla again is the star as expected, almost has a marshmallow taste occasionally. The booze was there on the end, which I liked. Definitely worth the effort to acquire one.

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Photo of SportsandJorts
4.29/5  rDev -8.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4.25

Appearance: pours a deep mahogany, not quite black. a small tannish head forms and leaves fairly quickly. a small lacing remains along with some alcohol legs. dark and opaque.

Smell: Roasted marshmallow, bourbon, brown sugar, dark fruits, alcohol and light chocolate.

Taste: opens with dark fruits, huge bourbon flavors take over with notes of oak, brown sugar, and a light cinnamon. roasted marshmallow mixes with a light milk chocolate. ends with a moderate bite of alcohol.

Mouthfeel: thick and sticky. occasional astringent alcohol. low bitterness.

Overall: another outstanding bb stout from the bourbon county series. slight bottle variation on the vanilla taste, this bottle was much more subdued than I bottle I previously tried. but great melding of the vanilla into a delicious and boozy stout

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Photo of atpca
3.63/5  rDev -22.4%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.25 | overall: 3.5

Thick, overly sweet syrup. Drinks like soda concentrate.

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Photo of ramay86
4.66/5  rDev -0.4%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.5

In paper, I didn't think this one could hold a candle to the original Vanilla from '10. I stand corrected.

Nose is rich -- sweet and dynamic. Spicy barrel, syrupy vanilla contribution, classic BCBS complexities.

I get full-on marshmallow on the palate. Plenty of rye, mild booze presence, tastefully sweet, powdered sugar, vanilla, some milk chocolate.

What a great beer.

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Photo of kimjongill
3.79/5  rDev -19%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.5

Too vanilla forward as a fresh beer. Expect that revisiting it in a few years will yield much better results.

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Photo of TheBrewo
4.74/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

We figured we’d start 2016 off with a bang, so we went whale hunting in the basement and came up with this. We pry the top off our bomber, and the ephemeral vanilla mist comes wafting out of the bottle’s neck and forever into the world. Before the liquid leaves the bottle its pungent aromatics begin attacking your senses. We grab our fat, oversized, non-matching snifters and go to work. The beer pours a deeply browned and blackened molasses, and it sloshes slowly around our glasses, clinging to it much like molasses would. So thick, so syrupy. Impenetrable. Little head sprouts up from the initial pour, but a hefty swirl of the glass produces a chunky, crashing sound and a thin wave of the deepest espresso colored bubbles that breaks the surface, but only for a time. An asymmetric ring is left in its wake, but the beer’s inherent heaviness brings everything else back to the center, to rejoin definitively with the original mass. No haze or sediment is appreciable, and carbonation appears to be moderately active, concentrated towards the periphery. The aroma is intoxicating, in and of itself, flourishing and bounding about the nostrils is a haze of insatiably floral and fruity vanilla bean, fusel and warming rye whiskey bite, cloying vanilla icing sugars, intensely dark cacao nib, syrupy chocolate grain roastiness and toastiness, boisterous buttery diacetyls, lemon-vanilla pound cake and warm glazed donuts, medicinal and plastic phenols, warm and mossy woodiness of the barrel, macerated black cherry flesh and pit, immense Graham cracker sweetness, baked pine cones, soft burlap folds, cactus meat, and creamy sunscreen chemical bite. Expectedly, the taste buds are overrun and overjoyed simultaneously, reaching out for every morsel like a very, very hungry hippo, in a manner so vigorous you can feel the buzz, excitement, and vibration. This journey is a concert of silky milk chocolate, raw rose petal honey, soft smoked chocolate and black maltiness, sticky raw barley, soy sauce saltiness, bossy and loud rye grain alcohol, fruity medicinal syrups, plum flesh, burnt devil’s food cake, papered oak dryness, sweet and authentic vanilla bean, liquid corn, pseudo-candi sugar cloy, coconut cotton candy sugariness, and aluminum yeastiness. The vanilla and booze form a glorious union in the aftertaste, fused and enhanced with raw sugar cookie dough, powdered donut holes, smoked toffee, almond extract, and 100% cacao chocolate syrup. This is what a perfect body feels like. Simply stunning. It is the thickest of the thick, drawing out of the glass like heavy creamer or chocolate syrup. It lasts and lingers forever. The mouth is coated in its entirety in an unforgiving wave of stouty blackness. Slurp and smack are unmatched as they roll seamlessly into thickly bubbling creaminess and frothiness that find every corner of the gullet. This forms a beautiful contrast when the whiskey and wood hits, making for a conversely drying, perfunctory finish. The bubbles forming the carbonation are microscopic, but robustly present, forming to a tip through the mid hard palate. The abv is appropriate, and the beer sips over hours, but only because you’re fairy sure this might be your only meeting.

Overall, this is such a true beer. It sings so well to what it seeks to deliver, with each aspect as incredibly authentic, inviting, and warming as the next. The whiskey is a bit more bitter than a softer bourbon would be, but the whole bean vanilla serves to balance and bring out its best qualities. As we sit here reflecting and attempting to bring together our final thoughts for the beer, our glasses remain half full. The bottle is now empty, but we’re both sitting on the dregs, hoping that we didn’t have to meet the end of this experience. As with the coffee and cherry (and to the same extent, the barleywine) you find a masterpiece that is boldly expanded upon. They figured upon the perfect base, giving them unlimited artistic license and potential. You just know the featured ingredient will find its home therein. You can believe that, and you can count on that. Vanilla rye is a special, special treat, and sits against the top beers we’ve ever been lucky enough to have.

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Photo of Can_if_you_can
4.9/5  rDev +4.7%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

not a big fan of vanilla. usually too sweet for me, this thoe is very solid!! it tastes and smells like a perfectly toasted marshmallow! it's ridiculously good and not overly sweet!! the booziness is extremely well masked. very rich thoe, not as easy to drink solo like bramble rye.

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Photo of maximum12
4.85/5  rDev +3.6%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 5 | overall: 5

My lovely, wonderful wife won this at a raffle at a great local store (France 44). Had it on tap a few times fresh, really looking forward to sitting down on my couch with a pour. 22 oz. bottle…split with my wife. Because I value my life. And testicles.

Pour: black. Smells like a vanilla orgasm. Heavy vanilla, chocolate, with the barrel a bit more subtle, perhaps due to the turning of the calendar. But damn nice.

Vanilla Rye - two of my favorite words, on my list right behind Heather Locklear. What can be said that hasn’t already been typed? Vanilla, real vanilla, bounces off of the rye whiskey & echoes into lustful infinity. Chocolate booms off the palate: this is more after-dinner liqueur than something my Blatz-loving father wood (ha!) recognize as beer. First level cleric of alcohol, lactose, roasted marshmallow, with a finish that nearly turns to rum. Thick, decadent as Caligula (without the horribleness). I could drink an entire bomber of this every week for the rest of my life & wish I could have it twice. There should be a lottery for that. I’d cheat my way into it any way I can (hey Mom? Grandmamma? I have to sign you up for something…).

Just as bloody fantastic as I remember. I can only hope that the current regime running GI can match the magnificent aging of past vintages. And put shit back in bombers! An elite beer that deserves its place in any beloved pantheon.

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Photo of Flip4beers
4.67/5  rDev -0.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.75

Luckily had it on tap from a very known hot dog place in Corona!
Smell: Vanilla goodness. Just pure vanilla notes. Every sip I take, the smell is addicting.
Overall: It has less carbonation and more feel(syrupy) from the original but overall its a very top notch.

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Photo of rodmanfor3
4.74/5  rDev +1.3%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.75 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.75

This beer nails it.

Amazing vanilla nose with cake batter and a slight soy sauce finish.

The flavors combine all the goodness of BCBS with a perfectly dialed in vanilla presence. Really a fantastic tasting beer.

The mouthfeel is full and thick with a decent amount of heat. Almost as good as it gets.

Overall, just a terrific beer. Certainly the best vanilla adjust stout I have ever had.

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Photo of pmarlowe
4.38/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

2014 release. On tap at ChurchKey, Black Friday. Tulip glass.

A: Pours viscous black, with a cap of thick, dark espresso head. Very good retention and minimal lacing.

S: Sweet vanilla bean, like ice cream or candy, a little whiskey (though no particular rye character), light dry oak. Overall, very nice but a bit one dimensional.

T: Fairly sweet, with vanilla very prominent, finishing with a bit of sugar. Mild chocolate, oak, and whisky, with a touch of roast/coffee on the long finish. As it warms, it develops a bit of cocoa and bakers spice. A bit of booze.

M: A mouthcoating full body, with light, soft carbonation. A light alcohol bite. Cocoa-like mouthfeel.

O: Overall, the vanilla is (of course) a very nice addition to the base. This is tasty with good flavors, a bit on the sweet end but decadent. Vanilla dominates as coffee does in BCBCS. The nose and taste both lean more towards one dimensional, lacking the complexity that regular BCBS has.

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Photo of WolfsbaneBloom
4.95/5  rDev +5.8%
look: 4.5 | smell: 5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 5

Absolutely delicious on tap. The nose is insane on this. Bourbon soaked vanilla marshmallows on top of the trusty BC stout base. Big, thick mouthfeel with a prickly rye spice finish. Much better than out of the bottle.

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Photo of 3SH33TS
4/5  rDev -14.5%

Nicely done on the vanilla incorporation. Obvious presence but does so without becoming cloying. Solid effort, but not a game changer.

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Photo of neckbeardnation22
3.33/5  rDev -28.8%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 3 | overall: 3

One sided, pure vanilla, too much, needs 12-18 months

Edit: After having my second bottle, this confirms my previous thoughts: this is the worst variant they have produced yet.

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Photo of standardcherry
3.58/5  rDev -23.5%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.25 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Not a huge fan of the vanilla bomb. Would prefer more subtle vanilla.

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Photo of vonnegut21
4/5  rDev -14.5%

Hugely cloying and dominated by vanilla. Minimal barrel character. You'd never know this was aged in rye barrels. Great mouthfeel and overall quality of the base beer keep this from scoring lower. Anyone who had the original vanilla BCBS will surely be let down.

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Vanilla Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout from Goose Island Beer Co.
Beer rating: 4.68 out of 5 with 1,968 ratings