The concept of aging beer in oak barrels predates bourbon itself by several hundred years. Although, modern practitioners only started cropping up in earnest during the 1990s. In this modern era of transient beverage fads, the proven history of barrel-aged beer is enough to ensure its staying power. 30 years ago, Goose Island’s brewmaster, Gregory Hall, made friends with Jim Beam’s very own master distiller, Booker Noe, who hooked him up with some ex-bourbon barrels, thus implementing a new technique in the young and burgeoning industry of craft beer.
Goose Island has since put out imperial stouts each year under its Bourbon County Stout label, with variants beginning in 2010, all featuring beer that comes into contact with oak barrels for some period of time. Three decades later, the brewpub has grown into an international favorite and is using this year’s release as means of celebration. Consisting of seven variants, Bourbon County Stout 2022 features perhaps the Chicago-based company’s most inventive and versatile lineup yet. The standard Imperial Stout this year uses a combination of beer aged in ex-bourbon casks from Heaven Hill, Four Roses, Wild Turkey, and Buffalo Trace. Additionally, to honor the brand’s pedigree, the 30th Anniversary Reserve Stout recognizes its history with Jim Beam, aging the beer in a blend of small batch barrels from Basil Hayden, Booker’s, Baker’s, and Knob Creek.
Two notable variants this year are the Biscotti Stout, featuring notes conjured from the Italian cookie, and the fan-favorite Coffee Stout — making its return after a five-year absence — in collaboration with Intelligentsia Coffee. Sir Isaac’s Stout utilizes black mission figs to infuse the fruit’s essence into the stout to pair with the notes derived from the barrel itself. There’s also the Two-Year Barleywine Reserve, which was housed in a combination of 14-, 16-, and 17-year-old bottled-in-bond barrels from Old Fitzgerald’s Decanter series of bourbons whiskeys. Finally, the annual Proprietor’s Stout for 2022 is inspired by the jungle bird cocktail, featuring notes of banana, coconut, lime, and pineapple.
Like every other year for the past decade-plus, Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout 2022 will be released on Black Friday (November 25 this time around) from select retailers.