Friday, July 30, 2010

Bourbon County Stout. Big Beer. Big Price.

Goose Island’s fabled Bourbon County Stout went on sale at Festival Foods in Oshkosh on Wednesday in four-packs behind a little, red tag that reads $19.99. It’s a big price, but if filling your mouth with the curious byproducts of fermentation is something more than an idle pursuit, then this beer will probably find its way into your cart. It’s one of those rare brews you’ve just got to try.

This 13% sipper is aged in bourbon barrels and pours like ink into mirror black under a sliver of head. Swirl it in your glass for a moment and notice the amber film that traces behind the beer like molasses. Then take a good long whiff of it. Holy shit! Smells like bourbon mulled with raisins and oak chips. The deeper you breath this in the more the alcohol comes to the fore and after a while it’s like huffing amyl-nitrite. At some point, though, you’ve got to start drinking it and that first sip set me back a step. The beer is crowded with such furiously strong flavors that it’s hard to get a fix on exactly what’s going on. Bourbon spiked with beer immediately comes to mind, but there’s vanilla and smoke and charcoal and coffee threading through it as well. No doubt, it’s an incredibly complex and interesting beer, but I wouldn’t call it pleasurable. For one thing, the bourbon aspect seems too sharp and not particularly well integrated with the other flavors. And the beer sits so relentlessly heavy on the palate that towards the end it grows tiring. But pleasure and fun are not always synonymous and this beer is a hell of a lot of fun to drink. Not just because of all its alcohol, either. The raw experience of having all those wicked flavors jabbing away at you may not be comforting, but it’s enjoyable all the same. I can’t imagine drinking this beer very often, but every once in a while I know I’ll be craving it again.

For more info and an interesting little video about Bourbon County Stout go HERE.

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