Bourbon County Brand Vanilla Stout and Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout
Darwin: I group these two together because I believe that the vanilla and coconut flavors of the respective beers are not blatant “flavors” per se, but instead mostly play a supporting role by rounding out the many flavors in the base beer. Vanilla and coconut are flavors that already can be picked out in regular Bourbon County. Therefore, adding more of these flavors generally mellows out the bourbon, emphasizes chocolate and the beer’s sweet qualities, and smooth out the rough edges of the beer to create a more “smooth” experience.
This is especially true for the Proprietor’s, where the coconut is extremely subtle. Given the Vanilla and Proprietor’s blind along with regular Bourbon County, I am not confident to say I could pick each out.
Still, the Vanilla was probably by favorite of the Bourbon County’s. The vanilla (and probably the few years on the bottle) mellows out the beer with a sweet vanilla extract flavor throughout.
Casey: The vanilla seemed to be a consensus top three among the group, some people giving it as high as a one, and some a three or a four in their personal preference among the variants. The thing that really stood out to me the most about the vanilla is the creamy full mouth-feel. The mouth-feel on the vanilla was noticeably fuller and more robust to me than in any of the other variants. The vanilla flavor is not over the top, but it is certainly there, particularly in the finish of the beer. The age of the beer (2010 vintage) is particularly evident, as all elements of booziness have been eliminated and the flavors have integrated together very well.
Proprietor’s is much more subtle in the use of coconut than you might imagine. Having tried this beer when it was relatively fresh, I thought it had a strong coconut presence, evoking Mounds bars with a full coconut flavor and sweetness. Now, just a few months later, I find that the coconut has already started to take a noticeable backseat in its presence. The beer starts off much more similarly to a regular Bourbon County with a slightly creamier mouth-feel, but then finishes with a definite coconut presence. My thoughts on this are that if you have a bottle of Proprietor’s, it is worth drinking soon, as I imagine the coconut will be nearly entirely faded in a years’ time.
Jason: Like Darwin and Casey havesaid, the Vanilla was definitely one of the better variants in everyone’s opinion. Being that the beer was almost four years old, I expected the vanilla to fall off quite a bit, but I was pleasantly surprised. If anything, the age only made the beer better. There was no booziness to the beer at all. It was surprisingly smooth, and the age mellowed out the vanilla flavor, giving it more of a natural taste, rather than an extract taste you usually have in vanilla flavored beers.
Having had the Proprietors just three weeks prior to the tasting, I knew what to expect. Although the beer is only a few months old, the coconut is definitely fading off pretty quickly. If it wasn’t for the small coconut pieces floating around in my glass, I don’t know if I could even pick out the coconut flavor. That being said, it is much sweeter and creamier version of the regular bourbon county and the sweetness tames the bourbon taste, creating something very enjoyable
King Henry and Bourbon County Brand Barleywine
Darwin: These are the same base beer, except King Henry was aged in the Pappy barrels that previously contained Bourbon County Rare. (http://adam-jackson.net/beer/reviews-goose-island-bourbon-county-stout-variants-2013/).
The King Henry simply tasted more complex with bolder sweet caramel, toffee, and lingering bourbon. Still, the two are obviously similar brews and it could be possible that Barleywine will grow into King Henry with age.
Casey: As fantastic as I find Bourbon County Brand Barleywine, age and barrels have definitely done something amazing and special to King Henry. The newness of the Barleywine is still present, as, while not harsh, there is no denying that this is a twelve percent beer. The flavor components also seem to lean more towards traditional barleywine flavors than they do in the King Henry. In the King Henry there is more of a presence of the Pappy Barrels, adding more stout qualities to the beer. With the King Henry there is a fantastic blend of stout, barleywine, toffee flavors and smooth bourbon presence. For me, the King Henry was my personal favorite of the night, and a beer I will certainly be hunting down in the future.
Jason: As someone who was never a fan of barleywines until I first tried BCBBW, I was looking forward to see how King Henry would stack up to the new variant on the block. Once again, I was shocked but what age has done to this beer, and can only imagine what this might taste like fresh. The beer has a very “mellow” quality to it. The barleywine taste is not overwhelming, but has become very smooth, drinkable, and little sweeter. You have the toffee smell, with burnt brown sugar and bourbon, creating a warming feeling as you sip. I would love to see how this tastes in a year from now.
Rare Bourbon County Stout
Darwin: This beer was surprisingly different from the fresh beer. It had a noticeably lighter mouth-feel. The bourbon flavors and sweetness were heavily mellowed out with an unsweetened molasses bitterness that drives from the mid palate to finish. In general, it is a really enjoyable beer because all the chocolate, vanilla, bourbon, and oak flavors are melded well together with the alcohol almost nonexistent.
The bitter note and lighter mouth-feel are not huge negatives. Some others at the share enjoyed it much more than I did.
Casey: The flavors in this beer were incredible, and become only better and better as the beer approached room temperature. An unmatched smoothness, complex bourbon, cocoa powder, and a mild hint of vanilla. However, the mouth-feel of this beer was noticeably thinner than any of the other beers of the night. I have had this beer when it was fresh, and remember it as being creamy, boldly full of chocolate, and at the time, my favorite imperial stout. It’s clear to me that the mouth-feel has thinned significantly since that time, and if you have a bottle, I would say now is the time to drink it. Generally, these beers aren’t meant to be aged beyond five years. If you consider that Rare spent two years in it’s barrels, I believe it would be nearing a six year old base beer at this time, so it’s only natural to start seeing these changes. The mouth-feel is only one component though, the flavor and nose of this beer was so rich, full and interesting that it was still one of my top two or three beers of the night.
Jason: This was the first time I was able to try this “whale” and I was surprised by how thin the mouth-feel was. The tastes of cocoa and vanilla were there, but it was a much silkier taste compared to the other beers tried that night. The pappy barrel provided a nice little bite on the back end of the beer, but it wasn’t overwhelming powerful. I think the best way to describe this beer is “perfectly balanced.” There was no surprises, nothing too overpowering that would turn people away. Everything came forward to the perfect extent. I can’t imagine this getting any better with age, if anything, it would probably become more mellow and less flavorful.
Bramble Rye, Backyard Rye, Cherry Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout
Darwin: My preference of the three is in that order. The Bramble is just a perfect combination of fruit with those lightly tart and bright raspberries and blackberries.
Backyard is much more “jammy” with the berries very up front. The berries also taste slightly different, although I cannot say I have tasted mulberries, marionberries, and boysenberries before.
Cherry Rye, although probably my least favorite of all the Bourbon County beers, is still incredible and holds a special place for me. Instead of the fresh berries in the previous two, this has a Luden’s/cough syrup cherry flavor. It is not an offensive or bad flavor, just more like artificial candy than natural fruit. This is probably the best of the bunch for those with a sweet tooth.
Casey: My preference for these beers is the same as Darwins. The Bramble tastes like a fresh berry patch, a nice mix of blackberry and raspberry pulp that reminds me of a perfect summer day.
Backyard is not exclusively reserved to blackberry and raspberries in the fruit flavors I could detect, and the fruit component is much more in your face. I’m wondering if the fruit will end up balancing and having a role more similar to the fruit in the Bramble in a year or two’s time.
Cherry Rye, though still a good beer, was a clear third in this group. The cherry flavor to me was too strong of a component in the beer, and leaves it a little bit unbalanced. The cherry flavor is also a touch artificial, evoking more a candy representation of cherry’s than the true fruit. Still a good beer, just up against tough competition.
Jason: My preference for these three are Bramble, Cherry Rye, then Backyard. The bramble was a nice surprise, as I had heard stories of it tasting like cough syrup. If anything, it reminded me of a sweet ludens drop. It had a fresh fruit taste, that blended perfectly with the bourbon.
The Cherry Rye was a nice surprise for me. I had this beer last fall on tap and was somewhat disappointed. The cherry flavor wasn’t that present and the beer had almost a hard tart taste when the cherry flavor mixed with the bourbon. Unlike the others, I thought the cherry taste was much more mellow this time around, and blended quite nicely with the bourbon component.
The Backyard had a more fresh flavor than the Cherry Rye, but it did not have the sweetness the Cherry had. It had more of a “jam-like” taste like the other had mentioned. This was the third time I have had this beer, and while it’s the third favorite out of these beers, it was definitely still an amazing beer.
Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout
Darwin: Previously having had the 2012 vintage a handful of times, this was my favorite barrel aged brew. However,2013 tasted almost like roasted peanuts or some strange roasted note. This was sour last bottle, so it may have been my palate being shot, but this was a slight disappointment.
Casey: Right when this years vintage came out I thought it was an amazing coffee forward beer. Trying previous vintages a year or two old, I’ve found that the coffee holds on well, and the beer mellows out and the flavors integrate as you expect from Bourbon County. This unfortunately seems to be in a slightly awkward stage. There is something a little acidic and unusual right now in this beer, but I imagine it will go away as this beer has more time to develop in the bottle.
Jason: Like Darwin and Casey have mentioned, this beer was probably my least favorite out of the variants this night. That being said, I am probably not the best judge of this beer, being that not only was my palate shot to shit, but this was always my least favorite of the Bourbon County beers to begin with. The beer had a harsh acidic taste to it which made me cringe and make a bitter beer face on my first sip. I am assuming that this is probably not the best time to judge this beer in the aging process. I enjoyed it more than the 2012 version when it was fresh, but this probably need some more time to balance itself out.
Incredible other beers:
Funky Buddha Veruca Snozzberry– Best gose I have had, with an explosion of passion fruit and guava flavors.
Toppling Goliath Pseudosue– Definitely a Zombie Dust killer.
Three Floyds Permanent Funeral– Quite possibly Three Floyd’s best hoppy beer with its 10.5% ABV is completely hidden like no other DIPA.
De Garde Saison Desay– A complex and refreshing funky barrel aged saison.
Lost Abbey Red Poppy– A very American take of the Flanders red style with tons of tart cherry