This year, Goose Island Beer Co. will release six varieties of Bourbon County Brand Stout, including a Bananas Foster stout that debuted six years ago.
The dessert-inspired beer was released as 2017 Proprietor’s Stout and is made with bananas, almond, and cassia bark. It will be available on draft and distributed nationally. Goose has embraced the Air Jordan strategy — how Nike brings back a well-received vintage shoe, allowing nostalgic sneakerheads another chance to snag a pair. The recipes don’t go stale, so Goose can just brew a new batch of Bananas Foster or any fan favorite. It just has to wait a few years between brewing; absence makes the heart grow fonder. That being written, let’s get this out of the way: there are no coffee or vanilla variants in 2023.
Another favorite returning in 2023 is Backyard Stout. Originally aged in rye barrels, Goose released the beer in 2013 with a dark crimson label, it’s made with mulberry, boysenberry, and marionberry.
The 2023 lineup with six beers is one fewer than last year when Goose released seven Bourbon County beers. Goose Island brewers often sound like pastry chefs when talking about their stouts, which the parent of Budweiser releases annually on Black Friday. Perhaps dessert makers are now taking inspiration from brewers as several chocolatiers are aging their sweets in whisky barrels.
With two of the six beers being re-releases of fan favorites, what’s new for Goose? For years, President Todd Ahsmann has said the adjunct-free edition of Bourbon County Brand Original Stout often sticks out as his favorite. There’s no milestone anniversary to build a narrative this year, but Goose loves its numbers and cites that this year’s beer is a celebration of the 1,000th batch of Bourbon County. With that in mind, they call this year’s Original boasting “flavors of fudge, vanilla, and caramelized sugar with a rich, decadent mouthfeel.” It’s aged in bourbon barrels from Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, Four Roses, and Wild Turkey distilleries.
Another new beer is Angel’s Envy 2-Year Cask Finish Stout which gives off cherry, spice, and cocoa. The beer spends its first year in Angel’s Envy barrels before it gets transferred to a port wine cask for another year.
The Chicago tradition of fans lining up early on Black Friday began at the Binny’s liquor store in Lincoln Park (across the street from Goose’s soon-to-be shuttered original brewery and restaurant) has grown nationally. Goose has held some beers back from national distribution to give Chicago-area beer lovers something special. The brewery even throws a block party outside its Fulton Market brewery, Prop Day, to celebrate the release. Perhaps the event could be moved to Salt Shed, the music venue by the Chicago River where Goose is moving its brewpub. Goose had no update on when the move will happen.
Regardless, this year’s Proprietor’s is inspired by rice pudding and made with cassia bark, toasted rice, and raisins. That’s for only the Chicago market. Then there’s Eagle Rare 2-Year Reserve Stout. The nationally distributed beer should give off “robust oak, toasted almond, and warming vanilla.”