By Greg B. The allure of a bourbon stout always gets me. Just the idea of the vanilla and dark oak flavors and aromas, mixed with some sweeter caramelized sugar flavors of the bourbon, intermingled with a slightly bitter, full bodied roasted malt stout really makes me happy to be drinking a beer. Unfortunately, many of these beers end up never fitting into whatever category I had in mind. Either they are too oaky or too bourbon-y or, on the flip side, have almost no wood or bourbon character at all, but maybe just some heat from alcohol (they usually have a higher gravity than other stouts, no doubt to help accentuate the ‘bourbon’ attitude.). In this case I was trying both my first Goose Island Brewery beer, as well as the first bourbon stout since the Old Rasputin XII fiasco of 2009. But, with an open mind (and some chilly weather outside when I drank this… you can tell it was a few weeks ago!) I poured a bottle and left up a shameless plug for my favorite local homebrew store, Maryland Homebrew.
The beer pours black as motor oil and gives rise to a very minimal amount of tannish colored head (not unusual for a beer of this high alcohol, 13%!). The nose is full of delicious bourbon aromas, lots of vanilla and bourbon, but backed up by a slightly sweeter aroma of malts (you have to balance that 13% somehow!). The taste really presents a lots of flavors all at once, and while this is an intense beer, it will take you a few sips to get the flavor profile straightened out! Toffee, butterscotch, sweet malt mixed with vanilla really explode out of this beer as you sip, and the beer warms in your mouth. There is a little heat accompanied with this beer, and alcohol notes do play a role in the aroma but they are not overpowering nor unwelcome. It is a bourbon stout after all! The beer really has a lot of staying power in the mouth, as it is rather viscous. The relatively low amount of carbonation doesn’t help in clearing away the flavors or the texture of the beer from the mouth, but then again, this isn’t a beer to quench thirst, this is a beer to enjoy because it’s a beer. As it warms it exposed a nice licorice undertone that I hadn’t previously detected. This is a very nice beer, impressive in it’s flavor and aromatics and absolutely a hearty drink! Save this and age it for when the weather gets cold again (though it is a twist off, I cannot vouch for aging these forms of bottles longterm, which is unfortunate for this beer). 3.7/5, 13% abv