It was beginning to look like I might never get a chance at some of Goose Island's 2018 Bourbon County Brand beers. Oh, I was invited to the press and bloggers' preview in October, but my odd work hours would have meant losing much needed job hours that I couldn't afford at the time. And I had the chance to have some on tap in the intervening holiday weeks, but, well, the holidays mean taking care of other things.
But the stars finally aligned for me this past Thursday, when I was able to drive past the Mariano's in Westchester while their in-store bar was still serving. I had heard before that the Mariano's in this area that had a bar had been putting Bourbon County on one of two kegs at a time, but this was the first chance I'd been able to drive past… and remember that little fact. So, instead of writing this year's batch off to sour grapes, I got to start a page with tastings for two of the 8 variants, and there still may be more to come.
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Wheatwine 2018
Oh, yes, the pours at Mariano's were $6 for about a 6 oz. snifter. Somewhat reasonable. A slight orangey brown color in a 6 oz. goblet. Goose Island says:
Wheatwine is a deep amber color, lighter than it’s BCBS counterparts and a true medium to convey the characteristics of 4+ year old Heaven Hill Bourbon barrels. Wheatwine is full of high caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, and toffee flavors.
The pour is kind of still, with just a few lonely bubbles and no head at the surface. The smell is equal parts alcohol and a smidgen of English malts. I cant pick up the usual spice I sometimes get with a wheat beer. The smell is not that strong, considering it's about a 15.4% abv.
The taste, though, has a bit of prickly effervescence, so there's still a bit of carbonation. The main impression is of an orange liqueur or sangria, without much bitterness or spice. Instead, there's a pleasing alcohol vapor, but without an alcohol burn. Is it possible they had the wrong label on and this was the Midnight Orange? I think not, this in no stout here. A bit more of the English malt bill becomes discernible as a went down to the end of this glass.
Goose Island Bourbon County Coffee Barleywine 2018
Huh. I had thought this was "just" a barleywine. Guess the label on the tap handle was two curled up to notice. But there, there was no "regular" barleywine, only the Wheatwine and this. And I thought I would be detecting coffee if it was. But no, I a glass that was a little more brown than the wheazwine, close in color to a Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. There was at least a little ring of foam around the edge. The nose again had some warming alcohol and was a little more earthy. I put that down to an English barleywine malt bill and English hops, more than coffee. In fact, further along, I figured I was looking at a distilled Newcastle Brown Ale. I never once thought "this tastes like coffee!", so maybe you should take all my opinions with a grain of salt. The body went down, again, with more alcohol, but just the vapor, no burning, alongside a think malty that slides down nice and easy.
So I finally got into a couple of the variants for 2018. If any more cross my palate, I'll be updating them here.