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. 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.


snakeman said...

Jack Daniel's grinds used whiskey barrels that are unfit to be sold for other whisky's
into smoking chips for use in barbecue grills and smokers. I use a bag up every 2 years. I asked about this when we visited Brown-Forman's cooperage on the last Chuck Cowdery Bourbon Tour. They still are grinding barrels, but not as many as in the past. Guess bad leakers are in demand overseas too right now.

NMissC said...

I've had a stout aged in bourbon barrels made by Yalabousha Brewery in Water Valley, Mississippi. It was excellent, and there's no doubt you could taste the impact of the bourbon barrell.

Funky Tape said...

Was schmoozing with a GI rep recently while doing an in-store BCS tasting. He said that they had one of the largest barrel aging warehouses before the buyout, now THE largest in N America aging around 60,000 barrels for the BCS series. I was pretty shocked at those figures.

I know for myself, the inability to buy the stuff has led me to take matters into my own hands. It's cheaper to buy a new 2L mini barrel and 'season' it with your own fav bourbon and then your own fav beer every year than it is to chase the limited barrel-aged stuff like BCS. The results are well worth the effort, too.

Mark from Montana said...

If you can get hold of a recently emptied barrel you can try this. bring a gallon of water, preferably KY branch water from the Knobs area, and pour it into the bung hole, put the bung back and wait a couple hours and remove some pretty good bourbon. Assuming you started with a pretty good bourbon barrel.

Chuck Cowdery said...

That's called 'sweating the barrel' and it's a venerable tradition wherever whiskey is made. Use about 15 gallons of water and roll the barrel around in the sun until you get tired. Then dump it.