Fall is finally over, which means the annual inundation of pumpkin beers has (thankfully) come to an end. For many, winter is the best time to cozy up to a glass–not a bottle–of beer. (Seriously, pour your beer.)
Winter seasonals are characterized by their rich, sweet flavors and particularly high alcohol content. These are the months where it’s not uncommon to see an entire shelf full of beers that have been aged in whiskey barrels, or a cooler stocked with “spiced” ales.
Although there are countless spectacular local beers in small corners of every market, these are the best ones that can be found in pretty much every part of the country. Cheers!
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout
From: Chicago, Illinois
Variety: Bourbon barrel–aged imperial stout
ABV: 12%–16%, depending on the vintage
Availability: Black Friday–Late Winter
The mother of all winter beers, Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout (BCBS) has been wooing casual and hardcore beer fans alike since the early 90s. Every year, people line up for the release of BCBS and its myriad accompanying variants, which vary in style from year-to-year.
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Profiled by Ken Carman for PGA
Upfront we have a wine/rum like sense. That’s the barrel. The head is off white to tan with a pillow but it fades fast to almost nothing, except edge glass. Behind that… not much at all. It’s there: just so hidden that it almost might as well not be there.
It’s an excellent barrel focused quaff. But where is the Imperial Stout? Hidden well behind the barrel, that’s where. Don’t get me wrong: the barrel is marvelous, but the stout needs to be there.Yeah, it is: very well hidden.
The nose is barrel, with the slight hint of stout behind that,.
Balance is off, basically, otherwise interesting. If this were labelled as barrel focused, would have absolutely done better. There’s a hint of Guinness like sour, or some slight infection maybe?
Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”
Ken Carman is an editor at PGA, endofthenet.org, entertainer, educational service provider, BJCP beer judge, columnist since 1972, author of Autocide and one hell of a weird dude.