Sunday, August 3, 2014
Bourbon Boom as Beer; the Goose Island Bourbon County Series.
Bourbon makers empty more than a million barrels a year, and can't use them again for bourbon, so they sell them. The market is very good right now. The big bourbon producers can sell a used barrel for almost as much as they pay for a new one. That's a pretty sweet deal.
Most of them go to Scotland. Rumor has it they make a kind of whiskey there too and prefer to age it in used bourbon barrels. A lot of them go to breweries and Chicago's Goose Island (owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev) probably buys more than anyone else. Their Bourbon County Stout, aged in used bourbon barrels, is so popular it has morphed into a series.
It is an annual release program, with the new batch appearing each year on Black Friday, which this year is November 28. See the Goose Island web site for more information.
Beergraphs.com lists seven of the world's top 20 beers as being from the Goose Island Bourbon County Stout series. In addition to Bourbon County Brand Stout, the new releases will include:
Proprietors - It will feature panela sugar made into a syrup with coconut water, Cassia bark (i.e., cinnamon) and cocoa nibs.
Vanilla Rye - A hit from 2010 making a return. It has been aged in rye whiskey barrels from four different distilleries. Into each barrel go two pounds of vanilla beans from Mexico and Madagascar.
Coffee - An annual release, except with a different coffee each year. 2014 will be Rwandan coffee from Intelligentsia.
Barleywine - A return from last year, it's aged in 'third use' barrels that previously held standard Bourbon County Stout.
Used bourbon barrels have a real effect on beer or brewers wouldn't use them, but part of what is driving the popularity of bourbon barrel beers is the appeal of bourbon itself. It has become a name to conjure with. If beer drinkers who like bourbon barrel-aged products are inspired to try bourbon too there's nothing wrong with that.
This whole thing just keeps getting better and better, for people who like bourbon that is.