Some beers’ reputations precede them, but few are capable of living up to the hype: 100/100 on RateBeer may well raise expectations to impossible levels. I don’t know which Goose Island brewer has traded his or her soul for this, but somehow the Bourbon County Stout stands up to its towering reputation.
At a hefty 15.2% alcohol, and with a price tag of £20 a bottle, BCS is one to share. By happy coincidence, my ale-loving dad was in town last week to split a pint.
Taking a first waft of the pitch black stout, I’m hit with notes of blueberry and strawberry; molasses, observes Dad. “It’s clearly a beer to respect, one to savour in a smaller glass,” he says.
The flavour takes you on a journey. I get blueberry wine to start with, which Dad finds highly amusing; it’s sweet, fruity, and malty, without a hint of bitterness. I can’t detect any hops, just syrupy smoothness. In some ways it’s like drinking cream sherry, in others like a sweet soy sauce reduction. Dad says the BCS reminds him of Pelforth Brune, a sweet, dark ale he used to drink during his time in Paris.
There’s no real flavour of oak or bourbon from the stout’s time aging in barrels – a hint of smokiness, perhaps, but nothing more. Still, the aging process has mellowed it out, producing a smooth, decadent texture. This is a very good, dark, strong beer.
“It needs to be drunk with food,” Dad suggests, “something strongly flavoured and sweet, like Chinese food.” This is a stilton beer, I counter. It’s powerful enough to contend with and complement those potent flavours.
The 2018 BCS is a cracking beer, and while it could probably benefit from another few months (or years!) conditioning in the bottle, it’s great to drink now. A solid 5/5, and I’ll look forward to trying it again this time next year.