Bourbon County 2020 Too Soon Variant Rankings
The Bourbon County 2020 lineup has finally been revealed! Although it feels like the announcement was made later than usual (but then again, everything feels later than usual nowadays), it still brought about the usual fervor and blog posts and articles (including this one). But this one will be a little bit different.
You’re more than aware (if you’re reading this) of what beers will be released and what Goose Island has said about them. So I’m going to rank them, much in the way Sportsbook ranks the next year’s Super Bowl contenders the day after the Super Bowl. A bit rash? Of course it is. But I’ll be using a little Bourbon County/Goose Island history to inform my rankings.
These are by no means definitive. I’m excited to try all of them and see how well they work with the Bourbon County stout base. Ranks will more than likely change. But it’ll be fun. Without further ado, the Too Soon Bourbon County 2020 variant rankings.
6. Goose Island Proprietor’s Bourbon County Stout
What’s in it: fresh pistachios, cacao nibs, candied Amarena cherries, natural vanilla flavors
I think I’m still traumatized from Northwoods in 2017. Historically, Bourbon County variants have worked exceedingly well with no more than two adjuncts involved. There are a few exceptions. (I’m also counting different types of berries as one adjunct – fruit). Given the recent releases of Cafe de Olla and Mon Cheri not being the best variants, I’m trepidatious about this spumoni Bourbon County take. A lot can go wrong here, but Goose has pulled this off before (most notably the 2014 and 2017 versions of Proprietor’s) so there’s some precedence here. Still excited to try it, but this (along with Caramella) will most likely be the most divisive variant.
5. Goose Island Bourbon County Caramella Ale
What’s in it: apple, cinnamon, natural caramel flavor added after aging
It’s too sweet. That’s the one thing I rarely say about Bourbon County and its variants. Last year I said that about Proprietor’s; Caramella might be this year’s. I can see apple working well with the wheatwine; cinnamon as well, as long as done in moderation. That natural caramel flavor though, especially “added after aging,” could come out cloyingly sweet. I guess Goose is aiming for sweet caramel apple, but I like my stouts not super-sweet. Like Josh Noel! (If I could be like Josh…)
4. Goose Island Bourbon County Special #4 Stout
What’s in it: Intelligentsia Coffee, barrel-aged maple syrup, oats
Two things right off the bat. Special #4 Stout implies the existence of #1 – #3 (I’m wondering what those are) and oats. The first Bourbon County oatmeal stout as far as I know. There’s a range of outcomes to expect on this, but since it’s an oatmeal stout, the easiest comparison would be the Deth’s Tar series from Revolution, specifically Café Deth. If Goose Island can pull off 2019 Café Deth, holy shit. Goose knows how to use coffee, so it’s a very likely outcome. The X-factor here is the addition of barrel-aged maple syrup. Revolution had a one-off on tap last year of Maple Deth, which was way too sweet. I did not have the foresight to blend the two (mostly because I was sucking down Supermassive Café Deth pours) but I would guess the syrup would overpower any coffee nuance. Due to the volatility of outcomes, this moves lower on my list.
3. Goose Island Bourbon County Kentucky Fog Stout
What’s in it: Earl Grey Tea, Black Tea, and honey
Seems like most people seem to be wondering how the tea will work in a barrel-aged stout like Bourbon County. I guess most beer writers either don’t remember (can relate!) or didn’t attend StoutFest in 2015, when Goose Island Clybourn made a London Fog beer of their own. It was delicious. Whereas Clybourn’s used cacao nibs (and was an oatmeal stout), Goose opts for honey. That should add some sweetness, but I’m anticipating the tea cutting off any lingering flavors on the tongue. Based solely on Clybourn’s version, I’m most excited about this adjunct variant of 2020. By far. But the two ahead of it have a ton of precedence on their side.
2. Goose Island Birthday Bourbon County Stout
What’s in it: aged in Old Forester Birthday Bourbon for one year
Bourbon County is at its best when it’s just the barrel. The Reserve Bounty County beers in 2017 and 2018 were at the top of their respective classes, drinkers have been clamoring for the Templeton Rye aged Bourbon County to be released in bottles, and Ryan can’t stop talking about Baudonia. (Full disclosure: Reserve Rye was not one of my favorites from 2019.) Goose Island aging a Bourbon County in 11-year old barrels from one specific day of production? In. Very in. So why not number 1?
1. Goose Island Anniversary Bourbon County Stout
What’s in it: aged 2 years in Weller 12 Year barrels
Two is better than one, right? Last year my top two Bourbon County beers were Double Barrel and 2-Year Reserve – both at the preview tasting and on the later podcast. They were on opposite sides of the same coin – Double Barrel was more wood and barrel-forward, while 2-Year Reserve was very decadent and chocolatey. I’m hoping the Anniversary Bourbon County does both, with some oak and wood balanced by chocolate and dark fruits. Of course, this will probably be the most expensive and hardest to get, which sucks. 2-Year Reserve was one of the best Bourbon County variants in years, so I’m very optimistic that trend continues.
Goose Island’s 2020 Bourbon County Brand Stout lineup should be released on November 27, 2020 (Black Friday) – we hope. 2020 seems to have other ideas every month. I’ll either see you in line or be hitting F5 on the computer along with you.