While normal folks are busy preparing their turkeys and figuring out how to avoid political conversations at Thanksgiving dinner, many beer geeks are focused on one thing: The Black Friday release of Goose Island's Bourbon County Brand Stout and all its variants.
Aged in bourbon barrels to impart a smokey, complex flavor, this one, for stout and bourbon lovers alike, is not to be missed. Since first being brewed in 1992 in Chicago, the brew has quickly become one of the beer world's most coveted imperial stouts.
And here in Philadelphia, we can get a taste a little early this year. After all, we are America's best beer-drinking city.
Alla Spina will host "Goose Island Black Wednesday" on Wednesday, with the restaurant offering pours of this year's Bourbon County Stout line on draft beginning at 4:30 p.m. This year's versions of Bourbon County Original Stout, Bourbon County Proprietor's Stout, Bourbon County Barleywine, and Bourbon County Coffee Stout will be available.
If you can't make it out, however, Goose Island will also be hosting two release parties in town on the series' Nov. 25 release date, which brings the release of the line in bottles and on draft.
The first release party, located at The Foodery in Northern Liberties (837 N. 2nd St.), begins at 8 a.m. According to a Facebook posting, the store will have available 90 bottles each of Goose Island's 2015 BCS Rare and Regal Rye Stout, plus 55 bottles of the Coffee Stout, 110 bottles of the Barleywine style, and 215 bottles of the Original.
Bottles will run between $13.99 (for BCS Original) and $79.99 (for Rare), depending on the style.
Additionally, the first five customers in line at The Foodery will receive a free 10-ounce pour on draft of this year's BCS Original. Draft pours will also be available for purchase.
Other locations in the Philadelphia area will also have Goose Island's BCS brews available for purchase on Friday, but it is best to check with your local bottle shop or bar for information.
Goose Island last year suffered infection issues with some of its bottles of BCS across multiple batches, leading to an unintended sourness in some beers. To remedy the problem, Goose Island has flash pasteurized all of its BCS beers this year — a first in the company's 28-year history.
The 2015 infection issue bolstered some critics of the brand who have dogged Goose Island since it was acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2011. Now, this year could serve as a kind of redemption for the company, which was forced to offer refunds to customers affected by infected bottles last year.
And judging by the taste of this year's BCS Original, Goose Island is really going for it.
The brew pours an absolute pitch black, with a thin, quickly dissipating, dark brown head. It leaves significant alcohol legs on the glass after a swirl, along with a nice, syrupy brown hue.
On the nose, the 2016 BCS Original is dominated, of course, by bourbon and charred oak, which gives way to a toffee-and-molasses scent mixed with dark fruit and cherries. There is some leather in the background, masked by an overall rich sweetness. This year's batch comes in at about 13.8 percent ABV, depending on the batch, and almost none of the alcohol is detectable through smell.
Taste-wise, BCS Original 2016 hits immediately with bourbon and dark fruit flavors, followed by a caramel, chocolatey sweetness that is tempered by coffee and oak flavors. Earthiness and a dark chocolate bitterness also comes through, with smoke and vanilla lingering at the end. Here again, the big beer's high alcohol content is well-masked, with this year's brew coming in significantly less hot than the 2015 brew.
The result is a beer that absolutely dominates the palate, coating the mouth with a rich, sticky-sweet flavor that is classic Bourbon County Stout. No infection issues here.