Aging Refines This Big Bruiser of a Beer

Jim Lundstrom

What difference does a year make? Tons.

I recently had the chance to sample two different years of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout, a 2012 and a 2013. Either way, at 14.9 percent, this is a big bruiser of a beer.

Age before beauty, I thought, and sampled the 2012 first and was immediately seduced by a refined and mellow beer that laid back on the palate and suggested the dichotomy of darkness and light. How could this oily, impenetrably dark liquid be so light on the palate? Rich and primeval forces are at work in my mouth as this luscious liquid passes through. It’s like drinking Earth’s secrets, and this is just my first sip.

On to the 2013, and a rowdy, rawboned explosion of flavors that can barely be contained in my mouth. After the 2012, this tastes like a young upstart that doesn’t quite have itself together yet. All the elements are there, but it’s got to shoot its wad immediately, everything exploding at once. The lightness perceived with the 2012 is absent from its younger brother, which sits on the palate like a hulking sumo wrestler.

I go back to the 2012, and I can tell these two beers are from the same bloodline, but age has taken off the sharp, unruly edges of what it must have been as a young yearling beer.

And then another sip from the 2013. Yes, my first judgment was correct. The younger beer is heavier, clumsier on the palate than its aged counterpart. I can only wonder how a 2012 and 2013 will taste at the end of 2014, alongside, of course, a fresh 2014.

Stay tuned!