2018 Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout Vanilla Tasting: December 31, 2018 Beer # 1,151 ABV: 14.9%
Emerging Styles of Beer
On the banner of this website is a beer glass with the simple expression “Beer is Art” etched on its side. This statement cannot be more true as the ever expanding sea of zymurgists push to create new and interesting culinary twists on this basic ancient brew. As an example, I’ll point to Kim Sturdavant, of San Francisco’s Social Kitchen & Brewery for his creation of a new style called Brut IPA. While Brut IPA may have been introduced by Sturdavant a few years ago, it may very well be the beer that’s created the most buzz in 2018. What’s fascinating about Brut IPA is the addition of an enzyme called amyloglucosidase which minimizes the sugar creating a hoppy champagne-like experience.
The Stalwarts of Style
While many national brewers are still trying to catch up to the New England style hazy IPA, I suspect that we’ll see a plethora of Brut IPA this year as the masses push the style into the mainstream. Craft beer has been a long history of “me too”. Probably the most replicated creative beer genre has been bourbon-barrel aged stout. The first person attributed with putting a beer into a used bourbon barrel to age a beer was Greg Hall from Goose Island Beer Co who did it in 1992. Considering the beer landscape of the time, Hall’s experiment was truly ground breaking and showed that a massive stout could carry the barrel’s influence in a incredibly complementary way.
Here we are twenty-six years later and I’m holding a descendant of Hall’s work.
In 2014, Goose Island set the secondary beer market on its ear with the release of Vanilla Rye (previously released in 2010). Within an instant, the 2014 bottles were selling for between $200 to $300. This release is not the same as the 2014 release as it uses different barrels (from Heaven Hill) and is aged on Madagascar Vanilla beans. I’ll note the original retail price of this 2018 bottle was $25 and supply was ample enough not to fuel a vigorous secondary market.
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout Vanilla, totally fascinating…like half stout, half cream soda. Lots of other complexity below that creamy vanilla like layers of chocolate, dark fruit, tobacco and finishing with a sharp boozy heat. That booziness does detract and this rambunctious stout will need a little cellar time to smooth out the edges. The label suggests that it will continue to mature for five years in the bottle and that’s what I intend to do with the other bottle I bought. While the popular community sites have this bottle of 2018 Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout Vanilla at around 97 – 98, I’m not that enthusiastic — at least right now. While I’d say right now, this is a 92, I’ll check in on this one again in a couple of years, I suspect it will be epic.
Treehouse Brewing from former location in Monson, MA
Foot Hills Brewing: Bourbon Barrel Aged Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout Beer #1,148: When I started trading, this was an early “must have”. I guess my love of the movie Coming to America motivated me to make sure I had this in my cellar…”that boy is good” To be fair, I’ve had this for about three years and I had higher expectations for the experience. Came across a bit thin, smokey acrid, some raisin. I’ll put Sexual Chocolate at 90 points.
Treehouse Brewing: Old Man (#1,149). Beer #1,149: If a restaurant is known for a certain dish…you order that dish no? Well, Treehouse is known for high quality New England style IPAs and some nice stouts. An English-style extra special bitter (ESB)? In unusual style, it took them a few weeks to sell this one out. I guess that proves my point. I’m willing to give Old Man a chance but it lacks in any malty characteristics rather has a plastic-like chemical flavor with off yeasty fruits. 85 points.
Goose Island 2015 Bourbon County Brand Stout Rare: Beer #1,150: There is a great story around this release. How could the brewery follow up on the 2010 version that was aged in 23 year old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels? Well as the story goes, the folks at Heaven Hill Brewing found some barrels that had been aging bourbon for 35 years. It seems that these may have been forgotten as it’s unusual for bourbon to age more that 23 years. The “rare” comes from the barrels used, and these are rare gems indeed.
Of course, “rare” also translates into the ability to charge an inflated price. This bottle of Goose Island 2015 Bourbon County Brand Stout Rare is probably the most expensive bottle of beer I’ve ever had. Retailed for about $60 – $70. It comes in a nice wooden box. While it makes a nice presentation, it didn’t help tame the overpowering boozy whiskey flavors. Has some underlying char, oak and dark fruit. While others might have to equate cost with liking the beer…this was a gift and I’ll call it as I see it. Needs more balance. Goose Island 2015 Bourbon County Brand Stout Rare, 90 points.
Has a bit of an acrid flavor quality that cuts through flavors like a knife. Most likely the coffee bitterness and the alcohol ethers working in conjunction. A bit distracting as it mutes everything else down a few pegs. On the plus side, it has cocoa and nutty undertones but conversely I would like some more of a creamy mouthfeel with more mocha quality but it just wasn’t there. Still nice but only 90 points from me.
This is the clear winner when comparing these two imperial porters. Much smoother with just enough vanilla to make it push it to decadent. Not sure why this one presents more creamy than the coffee version, but it does. Like its counterpart, some nutty and cocoa flavors. I’ll push Treehouse Abstraction Vanilla a couple ticks ahead of its coffee counterpart. 92 points.
Thanks Mark for picking these up…glad you made it.
Tree House Triple Shot Beer #: 1,145 Style: Imperial Stout
From the Brewery: 2014 saw the creation and evolution of one of our proudest accomplishments here at Tree House: Double Shot. Over the year we often wondered how far we could push the coffee and still maintain a balanced and delightful beer. In the spirit of maintaining the integrity and refinement of the original Double Shot, we created a new base beer to withstand precisely double the coffee addition Double Shot receives to satisfy our curiosity. The result is something quite surprising and completely original! More milk chocolate than coffee, and more brown sugar than molasses, Tree House Triple Shot conveys a super unique flavor profile that explodes with complexity as it warms. The crew here tastes “straight chocolate syrup”, ”chocolate covered raspberries”, “sweet espresso”, and “chocolate Charleston Chew (seriously)”. A truly rich treat that begs to be shared – we’re psyched to shared it with YOU!
From Me: Tree House Triple Shot was the highlight of my trip to the brewery, maybe the beer highlight of my year. It was only a 10 ounce pour but I wanted it to last forever. Truly decadent filled with whirling complexity, flavor packed with super chocolate, complimentary espresso, some cherry notes and a lush mouthfeel. This rushes to the top of my beer list at 98 points. What’s the only thing that keeps it from a perfect 100? – the fact that I had to drive 3 hours for just 10 ounces. Sigh!