Style: English-Style Barleywine Aged in Bourbon Barrels
Color: Deep Crimson
Hops: Pilgrim, Styrian
Malt: Pale, Crystal, Caramel, Dark Chocolate
From: Chicago, IL
Brewer’s Notes: “Aged in the third-use barrels that were once home to Kentucky bourbon and then our renowned Bourbon County Stout, this traditional English-style barleywine possesses the subtlety of flavor that only comes from a barrel that’s gone through many seasons of ritual care. The intricacies of the previous barrel denizens – oak, charcoal, hints of tobacco and vanilla, and that signature bourbon heat – are all present in this beer. Hearty and complex, Bourbon County Brand Barleywine is a titan and a timeline; a bold, flavorful journey through the craft of barrel aging.”
The beer’s label is similar to other Bourbon County labels, but with a nice gold flourish with awesome garlands of leaves and vines. The classy maroon color also gives the label a nice old-timey feel that I very much enjoy. This label is worthy of keeping around, and the bottle would look great on a shelf.
The beer pours a dark, ruby-brown with a fluffy off-white/nearly tan head of large, soda-like bubbles. The head is surprisingly large, but quickly fizzles away to a nice fat scrim that is continuously fed by carbonation from the bottom of the glass. In the glass, the beer looks pretty much like a stout or imperial porter, the light reddish hue is the only thing that really sets it apart. In body the beer is a very deep, clear ruby that is a few touches away from being opaque. On the nose, the beer is rich and decadent. Spicy bourbon, rich oak tannin, vanilla, coconut, and then thick fudge, molasses bread, plum pudding, and toffee play across the nose. The barrel is strong, but not the overriding character in the nose, which I quite like. With a bit of age the nose of this beer alone could really develop into something quite amazing. As is, the nose is intriguing, boozy, and rich. On the tongue, the beer tastes decadently sweet with a touch of acidity that gives a pop. The finish is rich alcohol that becomes only a touch hot and solvent-like in closing, but does dry out. Very soft bitterness from both tannins and herbal hops can be felt in the middle and finish of the sip some of the sweetness. In flavor, the beer begins as spicy wood, blooming into rich bourbon soaked molasses bread, brown sugar, fudge with bits of toffee in it, and plum pudding. Touches of dry raisins float across the palate and the bourbon flavors definitely suggest soft vanilla, as well. The finish bring rich dark fruits, a touch of banana, and fudge beside spicy alcohol and just a touch of solvent. The beer is decadent, boozy, and delicious. I wish there was a little less booze, but I think age would definitely help with that problem. In the mouth, the beer feels full, and oozingly smooth. Little to no carbonation can be sensed, and the mouth is left tingly with booze but still wet in the cheeks, though the tongue feels a bit dry. Overall, I am quite surprised by this beer. I like bourbon barrel aged barleywines, but they aren’t really my favorite thing. This one, however, is rich and full of malt character that I really enjoy. The bourbon flavors are light and perfectly complement the other flavors. With a little more age, this beer will be delicious. This beer is worthy of a try for sure.