80 / 100
500ml brown bottle purchased from Santa Clara Liquors in Santa Clara, CA. 2018 vintage, tried alongside the Vanilla version with Sam.
Pours a slick black-brown, glossy but quite light-bodied. Clarity is good in the corners with a slight reddish hue to it. Fine carbonation feeding a firm ring of pale cocoa-coloured head. Looks decent.
Nose is interesting. There's a Grand Marnier-esque Curacao orange note to it, but it's blended into a complex web of things. There's a strong nutty character that comes through, quite different from the vanilla version. It gives characters of blanched almond and pistachio, along with the base notes of vanilla and bourbon. It's very good.
Taste is less complex, and the orange lifts it in a way that seems to take it far away from the richness of the base. That being said, there's not a lot of actual orange flavour to it. It's lightened by the presence of the aromatics, but it's much less based around the dark notes of bourbon, oak and dark malt. Feel is also lighter, certainly less slick and full-bodied than either the original or the vanilla version.
It's a nice beer though. In fact there's a strong argument to be made that the orange lifts its drinkability. Again, it's a bold move to try to change the Bourbon County Stout base beer, and both of the versions I've had today haven't matched the original.
86 / 100
500ml brown bottle purchased from Santa Clara Liquors in Santa Clara, CA. This is the 2018 vintage. Shared with Sam to wet the head of baby #2.
Pours a deep, slick black-brown—oily and slippery more than rich and thick. It still seems quite liquid, even though it has a sheen to the body. Head is initially thick, and deep brown, but it collapses into a fine beige ring. Very slight lacing in tiny spots. Looks good.
Nose is rich and supple, just like the original, with a big coconut chocolate note, and buckets of boozy vanilla. Unfortunately, I find that the vanilla element gives it a stronger boozy note (or maybe it's the slight extra kick of booze), which feels slightly resinous and tending towards a solvent character. It's generally still good, but the vanilla is a negative character over the base beer as far as I'm concerned.
The taste is better. Here, there's a full, rich complexity to the back palate which hooks into the extra booze and makes it sing. There's elements of berry, soaked dried fruit, brandy, vanilla and high cacao chocolate. Front palate is soft and sweet, suggesting the complexity without running the full gamut. Feel is sharp, and tingly with a warm booze.
Overall, it's an interesting expression of a very, very fine beer. I do think that trying to improve on BCS is trying to improve on perfect. This changes it, but moves it away from that platonic ideal for me.
92 / 100
2017 edition. 500ml brown bottle purchased from Santa Clara Liquor in Santa Clara, CA. Shared with Sam over the 2018 Christmas break.
Pours a deep, deep ruby red, almost to an actual opaque brown. It starts of with a fine fizzy head around the edge, but settles out quickly, leaving the beer looking very dense and still. Body is heavy, but a little volatile. Looks impressive, in any case.
Nose is heady and strong. It definitely has the classic BCB bourbon oak notes, but with a lovely undertone of dried fruit, cherries and red currants. It has a sharpness from the noticeable alcohol as well, which gives it an aroma a bit like tannic red wine. There's a solidity to it, almost a pork-crackling meatiness as well. It's quite impressive.
Taste is also great. Here it has a rich, slick sweetness, that connects very well with the light vinous quality—it creates a yin and yang of balance. Bourbon oak is noticeable again, but it's not the main event. Instead, there's plenty more dried fruit and a light acidity, again suggesting tart cherries on the back of the palate.
Feel is vaporous, but with a stickiness on the back.
Yeah, this is a very fine cousin to the BCB stout. It shares some commonalities, but it is without a doubt its own beer. The differences tend to be accentuated due to the comparison, but even then, it's a beer that stands on its own two feet, and carves itself a place in the pantheon.
45 / 100
Pours a pale shiny gold. Steady bead. Head is white, creamy foam bubbles around the edge. Bit of lace sticks to the glass. Not terrible, but a bit bland and uninteresting.
Smells pretty beery. Herby, a bit grainy, with a touch of metal. Touch of medicine as well. Don't like it, though, much at all. Almost unpleasant, and largely bland.
Taste is pretty bland too. Grainy, sweet, pretty insipid. Gets even sweeter on the back with slight fruity note but lots of caramel, vanilla I guess, a bit of cereal, corn maybe and yeah a bit of that mediciney note. Mostly just a bit bland. Don't love it.
Not too bad a feel. Bit thick and stolid, not a lot of texture though.
Drinkable enough. Bit sweet, but nothing overall offensive. Finishes OK, but yeah, I don't love it.
69 / 100
12oz bottle purchased from Berkeley Bowl West in Berkeley, CA. Shared with @LaitueGonflable and @tobeerornottobe.
Pours a very clear, bright yellow hue, with a filmy and wistful head of white. Lace is streaky and a little soapy without any real persistence. Body is very light: suitable. I actually really like the colour: it's bright and vibrant, and the clarity is excellent.
Nose is light and a little dull, but pleasant. Faint hint of stonefruit characters come through, with some neutral grain notes and a dry light yeast character. The sweetness is mild, but it gives it a little interest to something that would otherwise probably be pretty dry and dull. Not bad.
Taste is also pretty good. Pleasant dry cleanness throughout, but with an uptilt in slight fruity sweetness towards the mid to back, which doesn't get too sickly, and which gracefully exits by the back, leaving it quite refreshing. No bitterness on the back, which is good: the fruit suggests there could be a commensurate harshness on the finish. Instead it finishes rounded and clean.
Feel is excellent: full enough to impart more flavours than I was expecting, but still light enough to make the beer refreshing and drinkable.
Overall, this is an extremely drinkable beer: clean and rounded and refreshing without requiring too much dryness on the back. This is certainly something I'd drink a lot of if I had it regularly here in Sydney.
12oz bottle purchased from Berkeley Bowl West in Berkeley, CA.
Pours a clear orange-tinged amber hue, tending towards being truly amber, with a fizzling white head that settles down quickly to a film and a ring. Body is pleasantly light, but a little limp. Lace is patchy and inconsistent. It looks decent without inspiring anything.
Nose is mild and slightly dim: some faint malt characters and a husky grain note provide the basis. Above this, however, is a pleasant hoppy note, oddly floral and yet quite green: perhaps like some fragrant flower clippings. A slight aromatic herbal tone as well. It's a little odd, but it's not unpleasant.
Taste is a lot weaker, and really quite disappointing: there were the suggestions of a resurgence with the floral characters on the nose, but this has just dimmed again to "bland" for me. Light watery malt character, like the very last runnings of sparge water (or, for that matter, dishwater), with a slightly metallic, but listless and uninspired hop character. Feel is either light or prickly with carbonation. Neither of these attributes help the beer.
Overall, a very disappointing brew: this is limp, flat, and dull, and due to the carbonation and the prickle of the metallic hops it's not even that drinkable. I've actually not had a lot of Goose Island's regular range of beers (although I've loved some of their special releases), but I'm starting to get the impression that they are far below my expectations for them.
12oz bottle purchased from Berkeley Bowl West in Berkeley, CA.
Pours a mildly hazed pale lemon yellow hue, with a reasonably frothy, messy head of white. Lacing is smudged in insect-like patterns. Body is extremely light and the carbonation streams through it at the speed of sound. I like the colour, and the haze is appropriate, but it does look like it's going to be a pretty light-on brew.
Nose is extremely weak. Faint wheaty grain characters and a slightly sweet lemon character, but very little else. Some crushed flour when it's swirled, and perhaps a slightly yeasty note: but not the pleasant phenols that would come from a German wheat beer yeast. This just smells dull and tired.
Taste is light and clean, but, hard to ignore it: dull. Faint carbonic bite, some very watered down lemon, and that's about it. It has about as much character as mineral water that has been in the same room as an uncut lemon.
Feel is light and empty, with a slight spritz from the carbonation.
Overall: it's sluggable, but it has so little flavour I wonder what's the point. I really don't want to say that there's only a minimal advantage in drinking this over Bud, but... I guess I just insinuated that anyway. Let's leave it at that.
90 / 100
Pours a slightly burnished brown-bronze colour, with reasonable head, cream-coloured and dense, but reduced to a thin crown. Lace is pretty nice and silky. Steady bead as well. Good-looker, could be browner.
Smells great. Beautifully sweet with loads of brown sugar and just a mass Christmas pudding aroma. Lots of plum, currants and a nice raisiny sweetness, plus wonderful cinnamon spice. Very slight sourness, but mostly rich and sweet and wonderfull complex. Beautiful Christmas brew.
Taste is quite a deal more rich and robust. Starts with toffee and brown sugar sweetness that swills around in the mouth before getting to the mid-palate which is surprisingly robust, plenty of eggnogg-y booze and some burnt toffee notes verging on roasty cocoa. Then back is all the pudding notes, with rich dried fruit, apple and dates and figs and touches of cinnamon spice and even a brandy note as a bonus. Quite wonderful, just a rich, sweet, warming brew, really puts one in the mood for a magical white Christmas. If only I weren't in barmy Australia.
Not the best mouthfeel, in all honesty. Too much carbonation tingle that really shows up on the palate. Body is decent but could be fuller to cover that carbonation. Not greatly enamoured. This is the pitfalls of making such a rich and flavoursome brew without upping the alcohol content, the mouthfeel becomes thin by comparison.
Notwithstanding the feel, a wonderful festive beer. Beautifully complex and the flavours are just lovely and balanced. I wish I had more.
84 / 100
2009 Vintage. Opened on Christmas Day with @LaitueGonflable and our dad.
Pours a very pleasant deep coppery brown colour, with a fine head of light pale yellow. Lacing that is formed it tight and fine. Haze in the body occludes the carbonation, but it looks pretty decent. Overall, it's a lovely looking beer.
Nose is rich and sweet and spicy. Big nutmeg characters, and a very traditional Christmas pudding character. Dried fruits, deep caramel sweetness and plenty of lightened spice. Smells delicious.
Taste is possibly even better, giving a slight spicy brandy character to mingle with the brown sugar, crushed spice and dried fruit characters. Lovely hint of booze on the back just works perfectly, and is surprising given the low ABV. Feel is smooth and slick, minimal carbonation, but this matches extremely well with the sweet and smooth characters on the palate.
A fantastic beer, and a wonderful drop to celebrate Christmas with the family. A year of age on it? Wonderful. I'm not sure what it's like fresh, but the integration and balance is just right a year on. Really lovely.
70 / 100
Pours a very pleasant hazy bright golden yellow. Head is full and frothy, leaving some lovely intricately patterned lacing. Dissipation is in full swing by the time I'm ready for a sip, unfortunately, but the bubbling is still fine in the film that remains. Not bad.
Nose is sweet and Belgian, big perfumey notes, extremely floral, with a sweet honeyed character, and a dose of Belgian yeast. It doesn't overdo the yeast, however, and the perfume allows it to stay remarkably refreshing and light. Such a delicate nose for a beer called Demolition, but it's an extremely good one.
Taste is a little lighter than expected, quite thin on the front, with a slight light honey on the back, mixed with a subtle phenolic astringency. Finish is quite dry, with a yeasty dollop that sticks around unnecessarily. It's a shame, given the nose was so floral and complex.
Feel is very light, which matches with the light palate, but again, it's a little disappointing.
Not a bad brew, but there was something absent on the palate in particular, given the promise it had. I've had better from Goose Island.
Pours a very pale lemon colour, hazy and cloudy with snowy head, small bubbles with a meringuey appearance on top, sinks leaving not much lace. Steady, actually forceful, bead. Interesting and quality-looking brew.
Nose is quite citrusy, a lot of crisp notes akin to a lager. Hint of lemon zest and a bit of orange, slightly bitter-sour with a good bend toward freshness. A hint of malt and that brusque bitterness predominate. A bit bland, but refreshing. Lacks classic saison funk.
Taste is curious, a lot of tang and quite bitter. Starts with a slight grainy character, malt with a hint of corn and maybe some wheat notes as well, descends into that lemon zest flavour which is quite acerbic and bitter. Gathers a slight aspirin tinge on the middle with a very mild vanilla note on there as well. Finishes bitter with a mostly phenolic hop character, touch of cough medicine flavour and more lemon tang to freshen it up a touch.
Mouthfeel is a little harsh, a bit of puckering towards the back, noticeable carbonation and a whisper of alcohol make it overall quite dry, but decent for the style.
Can't say I'm a huge fan but there's a lot of flavour here that doesn't overwhelm the palate, quite drinkable.
Pours a cloudy, burnt-red colour, orange at the edge, kind of scarlet overall, with a thin beige head that dissipates after a short while leaving whisps of foam. Lacing is pretty nice and sticky. Makes for a quite nice-looking beer.
Nose is a malt bomb, to be sure, to be sure. Huge amount of English toffee, brown sugar, and a phenolic alcohol spice, hint of pepper and mint on there as well, and a slight bronzey metallic aroma. Earthy, malty and quite spicy. Has the makings of a great nose, but doesn't quite deliver complexities or nuance, just smells a bit "strong" more than anything.
Taste is very, very sweet. Starts with a cake batter flavour and some peach sweetness on the front, sugary with a hint of toffee, then gets, if anything, even sweeter on the mid, with a kind of soft drink or fruit punch sugary flavour. Finish has a slight earthiness to it but it's that amber malt grain flavour more than any real bitter character, could use something to clean up the palate more. This really tastes quite like a woman's beer - really sweet and lacks that spicy yeast note I would expect from a Belgian style. Not a lot of typical beer character that might keep me drinking, actually tastes a bit insipid.
A little bit thin on the feel, but only a little. A breath of alcohol warmth on the back, but not much. For how sweet this is I'd expect it to be thicker. Pretty average overall.
Yeah this is too sweet for my taste and lacking in other areas; however I can see this going down quite well on a particular type of palate. Just not my cup of beer.
86 / 100
Pours very dark, with a brown tinge at the top when held to the light, otherwise pretty much black. Head is not very existent, with a ring of ochre foam around the edge. Lacing is not very prominent but good and sticky. Looks pretty nice, for all its faults.
Nose is actually very sweet, with a toasted coconut aroma being dominant, aspects of dark, syrupy grain infusion underneath, a marshmallow hint and of course a rich chocolatey character. Really, that smells like a Bounty® Bar - chocolate and coconut. Slightly tart as well as very sweet and toasted. I don't know if I like it that sweet, but otherwise immaculate.
Taste is also sweet, with again a toasted coconut flavour and some more nutty hints of pecan and walnut. Sweet chocolate comes through with a milky cocoa goodness, kind of threatens to turn tart with some prune character on the mid and a good hit of oak as well. Still just sweet. Finish is a little bit toasty, maybe very slight roasty bitterness but none of that gritty espresso I'm used to. Just sweet, roasty and yummy.
Mouthfeel is syrupy and velvety with just a little alcohol warmth on the back. This is perhaps a little sweet to be drunk all the time, but it's so outrageously tasty otherwise.