Ya Gotta Be in it to "Win" It: Goose Island's lottery for Bourbon County Rare

Ya Gotta Be in it to "Win" It: Goose Island's lottery for Bourbon County Rare
Rare Bourbon County Stout

Goose Island Beer Co. has joined in one of the more controversial practices involving special beer releases: they have instituted a lottery for the chance to buy a ticket for the chance to buy a rare beer.

The beer in question is the 2015 Rare Bourbon County Stout, a batch of their Bourbon County Brand Stout that has aged two years in 35-year-old Heaven Hill whiskey bottles.

In case you’re not entered already, here’s the skinny: you can enter your name once a day at gooseisland.com/rareday, now through 11:59 pm Friday, October 9. Then at noon Tuesday, October 13, winners will be drawn at random (how many has not been made clear) and offered a chance to buy up to two tickets for Rare Release Day, November 13 at the Goose Island Barrel Warehouse, 603 N Sacramento Blvd, Chicago. There, attendees will be able to buy up to three bottles of the 2015 Rare.

The cost? $40 to attend the event, then $60 for each specially embossed 1/2-liter (16.9 oz.) bottle.

That totals to $73.33 per bottle if you buy three. Or $4.34 per ounce.

Worth it? Who can say. It’s certainly more than the total charge for rare variants of Three Floyds Dark Lord, which you can “win” with a scratch-off code on your Dark Lord Day ticket. (Still less than color printer ink, though).

From one perspective, you’re also paying for an “experience.” The Rare Release Day involves bonuses like sampling tickets for a full lineup of Goose Island beers, including the other 2015 Bourbon County Releases and the 2014 variants, a self-guided tour of the warehouse, food trucks, a chat with the brewers, live music, and presentations of the “Grit & Grain” Bourbon County Stout video series. Ideally, it’s the same reason that playoff tickets cost so much more than midseason weeknight games. And just like playoff tickets, you’ll no doubt see bottles of Rare being “scalped” on auction sites.

Even counting what’s obviously an extra expense and effort to prepare the beer and the rickety barrels, which have an interesting story at the event page, the question of why they are charging so much for the beer is “because they can.” And something to do with “free enterprise.” Goose Island also plans a very limited release of Rare bottles along with the other Bourbon County Variants for their Black Friday (November 27). And I believe they cannot sell a beer on premises for less than you’d pay through the three-tier system.

Is the beer worth it? I can only note that the previous Bourbon County Stout Rare was released in 2010 and scores among the top retired Imperial Stouts on RateBeer.com. That release was aged for two years in fifty 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle bottles. Will there be an improvement marked by those who will be able to score a taste of both? Well, if you’re out there, you’ll have to let me know.

And by the way, here is the full lineup of 2015 Bourbon County brand releases, which will be available through the usual channels:

  • Bourbon County Brand Stout
  • Bourbon County Brand Barleywine
  • Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout, made with Intelligentsia’s Los Delirios Nicaraguan coffee bean
  • Bourbon County Brand Regal Rye Stout, made with blackberry juice, cocktail cherries and sea salt
  • Proprietor’s Bourbon County Brand Stout, made with maple syrup aged in bourbon barrels, toasted pecans and guajillo peppers
  • Goose Island Rare Bourbon County Brand Stout, aged for two years in 35-year-old Heaven Hill whiskey barrels
DISCLOSURE: I worked for a time as a contractor for Goose island, running samplings at local liquor stores. I have also accepted free preview visits to the barrel warehouse, and bottles of previous years’ Bourbon County Stout releases.

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