It’s an annual event for us Stout lovers….the Black Friday release of Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout along with the variants that accompany it. This year, Chicago based Goose released the original basic stout (BCBS), a coffee variant (BCBCS), a Barleywine, and the Chicago only release of Proprietor’s Stout. There was a Maple Rye variant that was deemed not ready – not sure if it will ever be released but it sounds wonderful!
The 2016 chase was a lot harder than in years past. The story making the rounds is that Goose Island had to pour a significant amount of BCBS down the drain due to quality issues. Now I’m not on the inside but something had to have happened because the North Carolina market received only BCBS and the word is that NC only received 40 cases to cover the entire state!! This is significantly below past allocations so I would not be surprised if they disposed of some BCBS that wasn’t worthy of release. What I do find interesting are the stories within North Carolina about the differing and varied releases by bars and bottleshops ranging from early releases of BCBS the week prior to Black Friday all the way to being able to reserve/buy entire cases of BCBS. Those examples are certainly the exception as the usual distribution method was either first come, first serve or a raffle.
In the Raleigh-Durham area, there were three “official” release events, meaning there would be representatives from Goose Island and the local distributor on hand. Many other bars and bottleshops made the decision to not participate in a BCBS release and instead focused on other local Stout releases. They felt that having a single case allocation of BCBS would disappoint more patrons than not, so they chose to have “alternate programming” on Black Friday. Back to Bourbon County…. the first event was a pre-release party on Wednesday, November 23 at The Player’s Retreat in Raleigh. Tyler, the local Goose Island rep and Joe, the local R.A. Jeffreys rep were on hand to host and welcome everyone. They were gracious and happy to talk about the Bourbon County line and helped to raffle off bottles of BCBS, some T-Shirts and Bourbon County tulip glasses. Mrs. Stoutwhisperer and I attended and I was able to enjoy a side by side tasting of 2015 and 2016 BCBS! While we weren’t fortunate enough to win anything in the raffle, I was happy to be able to start the chase with that tasting. As an aside, we both really enjoyed the meal at The Player’s Retreat and Mrs. S. said that her burger was one of the best she has ever had!! The Player’s Retreat is highly recommended!
Thanksgiving gave us a chance to rest, recover and be thankful for all that we have….and to plan for Black Friday, when the other two “official” events at The Glass Jug in Durham and at Wine and Beer 101 in Raleigh would be held.
As we were out on our annual tradition of early morning Black Friday shopping, I stopped by Total Wine to see if I could pick up a quick bottle of BCBS. As would be the case in most places, only one case (12 bottles) would be available. TW did the first come, first serve process and we weren’t one of the first 12 to receive bottles when the store opened at 9am so we quickly left. After that, the oldest son of Stoutwhisperer traveled with me to The Glass Jug in Durham to see if we could win a bottle of BCBS. Tyler from Goose Island was there again to welcome everyone. There were about 200 or so people there in line when the doors opened at noon and we all had the chance to get 2014, 2015, and 2016 BCBS on tap. Many sampled a flight of all three….so many that they ran out of clean flight glasses! I had the chance to taste the 2014 and 2016 vintages while the raffle took place. Unfortunately, we didn’t win a bottle (only 12 bottles were raffled), but we did win a BCBS Tulip Glass that I am adding to the glassware collection.
Later on Friday, both sons of the Stoutwhisperer accompanied me to Wine and Beer 101 in Raleigh to try one last time to win a bottle in their raffle. While there were three of us and a lot less people than at The Glass Jug, we still didn’t win any black gold….but I did get one last opportunity for the day to sample 2016 BCBS on tap. Tyler and Joe were there again representing Goose Island and R.A. Jeffreys respectively, and while it may have seemed I was stalking them, I was only stalking the elusive Bourbon County Brand Stout!
While I may have struck out for the day, all was not lost. In anticipation of not winning anything, I was working my backchannels and I was able to secure one bottle of BCBS from my good friends at House of Hops and I hopefully will be able to get another bottle soon from the team at BrewPublik! On top of that, I am working the beer trading circuit and am very close to a deal for BCBCS and a Prop!! I can promise you that once I complete the deal, you will see them on my Instagram and Twitter accounts (@stoutwhisperer)!
The Bourbon County brand has certainly become a very contentious topic since Goose Island was bought by AB InBev and especially since last year’s infection of certain bottling dates of BCBS and BCBCS. My perspective is that a good stout is a good stout and that BCBS is an excellent stout and that I will continue to seek out their offerings. I was fortunate to not have been impacted by last year’s infection and my 2015 BCBS were very tasty. I was interested in tasting the 2016 vintage to see if it would hold its own…..and it does and then some!
My thanks go out to The Player’s Retreat, The Glass Jug, and Wine and Beer 101 for hosting these events and especially to Tyler from Goose Island and Joe from R.A. Jeffreys for their hospitality and willingness to chat about Bourbon County. I hope to tap into their knowledge and learn more about the behind the scenes planning and logistics for the annual Bourbon County release on Black Friday and plan to make that a blog post sometime soon.
Lastly, a big shout out to Gabriela at House of Hops and Charlie at BrewPublik for covering my back for BCBS and to Patrick in Illinois for the BCBCS/Prop trade!!
While I’m glad to have been able to get my hands on at least one bottle of BCBS, I just as much enjoyed the journey…..meeting good people, sampling good Stouts, and enjoying the holiday and the search with my family.
Do you have any stories about your quests for that elusive beer? Feel free to share your stories with us!