Origin: Chicago, Illinois, USA
I’ve been a fan of Chicago’s Goose Island beers ever since receiving some review samples of their pale ales when they were first imported to the UK (see Goose Island Honker’s Ale), and their pioneering wood matured beer Bourbon County Stout is one of the best in its style I’d ever tried. Like many other fans I read with trepidation about their takeover by Anheuser-Busch InBev last year, and continue to hope the world’s biggest brewer will break with its bad old habits and see the value in preserving the integrity of a genuine craft brewery.
That integrity must include retaining special releases like this astonishing special edition of Bourbon County made with coffee beans from a renowned specialist coffee roaster, Intelligentsia, next door to the brewery. The 2010 bottling was the beer’s first appearance, made with stout brewed in 2008 and aged for around 15 months in former Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, then infused with Black Cat Espresso coffee beans from Intelligentsia; subsequent releases have each used different coffee varieties.
This near-black beer had a very dark fawn head, with a fine texture and only a small amoutn of lace. An intense, spiritous and slightly woody dark and roasty aroma had hints of vanilla, whisky and a fleeting coffee whiff. The palate was chewy and oily with raisins, with cakey malt bread, ginger in dark chocolate, a curious thick advocaat-like note and, of course, coffee, but the beer wasn’t at all overwhelmed with espresso flavour, which remained in perfect balance to the other elements. Coffee also wafted over a slight gritty and very sticky raisiny fruit finish.
I’m grateful to Dan Fox who, as retiring landlord of the White Horse, Parsons Green, shared this rare bomber bottle of a truly astonishing beer with me after a beer tasting event.