Review: Goose Island Bourbon County Vanilla Stout

In Beer Reviews by The Guys

Goose Island says:

“Bourbon County Brand Stout spiced with fresh vanilla beans.”

Goose Island Bourbon County Vanilla Stout
Imperial Stout, 13% ABV

Karl: It’s a shame that Goose Island doesn’t plan on making any more of this, because I’d love the chance to bust out a vertical of it.  That’s one way of saying that right now it’s not bad, but in a few years, it’s got the potential to be freaking great.

Ryan and I had our first taste of the Goose Island Bourbon County Vanilla Stout at the Sheffield’s Goose Island takeover and immediately went mad blending it with everything else. There it was a well-developed, nicely balanced and intelligent stout, creamy and luscious and sexy.  In the bottle, it’s gonna need a little time to get back there, but I think the groundwork has been laid for it to end up being equally as good.

At first glance, one would be hard-pressed to find any of that promised vanilla.  The smell is all liquor, and the taste is about 83% bourbon-y stoutness with just a few percentage points of vanilla lingering at the end.  (Yes, that’s thoroughly scientifically tested, proved, hypothesized and theorized.  Okay, it’s not.)  That is, until, you take a swig, swallow, and then exhale strongly while catching the scent simultaneously.  Sounds weird, but it works – that’s where you find all that vanilla.  It’s trying to escape however it can.

Time will help that escape plan – I’d love to see this at about 18 months and 2 years down the road.  (Have I mentioned you should cellar this?)  Right now there’s also a pretty distinct burn to it – hold it on your palate and it’s fiery like Listerine, almost.  The sensation, I mean, not the weird pseudo-iodine-mint flavor.  There is, however, a little hint of rum and raisin at the end, well obscured by the larger flavors but present nevertheless.

Hold on tight to this one.  It could be lightning in a bottle, but those bottles  shouldn’t be released til’ farther down the road.  (Oh, and BTW, you should cellar this, too.)

Andrew: In case you didn’t pick this up from Karl’s review – don’t drink this fresh. Put it down for a while. Not because it’s not good, because that’s not the case at all, but because in about 2-3 years or so this truly could be something special.

The nose was nothing but smokey bourbon, but if you concentrate reaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllly hard and sniff until you are about to give yourself a headache you can pick up a touch of vanilla.

Remember the burn I was looking for in the Arcadia Bourbon Barrel Shipwreck Porter? I found it here. WOW this was a hot boozy mess, but not in a bad way necessarily. Other than the booziness and the thickness of this beer there were definitely hints of toffee and tobacco and…

Look, Karl always picks up the most random flavors in beer, white pepper, zebra stripes and so on…so now it’s my turn. On the back-end of this beer, other than the heat, you get creme brulee. Yes, that delicate, scrumptious dessert that you can never make right at home but is absolutely incredible when someone else makes it.  It was pretty wonderful.

Regardless of the creme brulée, put this beer in the closet for a while and forget you have it.

Ryan: Forget about leaving this in your cellar for a few more months/years/decades, it’s a lost cause.  You should probably just give us your bottles and we’ll dispose of it properly.  It’s the least we can do for you, our avid fan/reader/personwhojuststumbledontooursite.  But seriously, don’t drink this now.  Wait.  Wait a year.  Wait two years.  Just wait.  While I am glad we could conduct this public service and let you know this beer is waaaaaaay too hot and boozy to be consumed this very moment, I only had one bottle and I wish I would have waited.

Like The Guys before me said, there were hints of vanilla screaming to get out of the glass.  You could smell a touch of it, along with some cocoa, coffee creamer and alcohol.  You could also taste a bit of the vanilla too.  But this beer is all booze right now.  It burns, significantly, with each sip.

I will give Andrew props on the creme brulée reference.  This beer was a boozy big brother of Southern Tier’s Creme Brulée Imperial Milk Stout.  Also, would anyone like to further elaborate on what zebra stripes taste like?

So, please, do yourself a favor and sit on this for quite a while.  It really needs more time in the cellar.  A lot more time.

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Written by many, compiled by one, this is a collaborative post with contributions from at least two writers at Guys Drinking Beer.