The Thrill of the Bourbon County Chase!

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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 2016-11-23_17-02-14_879programming” 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 2016-11-23_17-07-36_642-2016-11-27t19_28_53-802weren’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 2016-11-25_11-49-22_901again 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 2016-11-25_17-39-41_966BCBS 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!

 

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NC Beer Month and the KBS Quest

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April has been selected as North Carolina Beer Month and all of the local bottleshops and breweries have special events to highlight local North Carolina beers.  My contribution to NC Beer Month for this week is tasting and reviewing Wicked Weed’s Dark Age and tasting Trophy Brewing’s El Hombre.  Additionally, I was on the prowl for KBS and I’ll share with you the results of my hunt.

This past Friday, I went to Trophy Brewing with Mrs. Stoutwhisperer and my son to give their highly regarded pizza a try.  I also wanted to taste their El Hombre, an Horchata Stout that came highly recommended.  Unfortunately for us,  Trophy has a great following and they were packed at 6pm.  We were really hungry so we weren’t going to wait, but before we left, I wanted to sample El Hombre.  My son (21 year old) and I each got a chalice of this Horchata Stout, but surprisingly (to me at least), it was served as cold as all of their other beers and I really didn’t get a taste of how good El Hombre could be.  I’m not sure why Trophy (or any other brewery for that matter) wouldn’t serve their beers at the best temperature for the style of beer.  Breweries should educate their clientele on how best to serve and drink their various offerings.  A cold stout hides the flavors that the brewmaster works so hard to develop.  I plan on revisiting Trophy soon to try their pizza and will order another El Hombre but will let it warm a bit so I can actually taste the flavors of the Stout that the brewmasters intended!

As I noted in my last post, this past week the elusive KBS from Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, Michigan made its annual migration into North Carolina.  It surfaced briefly on tap at Bull McCabe’s in Durham on April 1, but the rare 4 pack didn’t make an appearance until a few days later.   All of the traditional hunting grounds (i.e. bottleshops) had different ways to handle the demand. Some created priority lists for their best clients, some used social media to trumpet the arrival, and others are taking the lottery route.  Most were rationing one or two bottles of KBS per person to get it in the hands of more Stout lovers. Rare were those sellers who allowed the 4 pack to be sold!   I was really looking for a 4 pack, as I wanted to add to my KBS vertical, have one now, and put a couple in the beer cellar for special occasions down the road.

Fortunately, the good people at House of Hops (Twitter: @houseofhops1) in Raleigh came to the rescue and are worthy of the Stoutwhisperer’s praise!   They were taking names for their KBS list and my persistence wore them down. I really like the vibe at House of Hops and gallery_14_20141021_1683440087enjoy talking to the folks there.   They are very friendly and helpful. When I picked up my KBS, I had a chance to chat with Gabriela and Jesse about KBS and Stouts in general. Jesse and I first ran into each other sampling the Root Beer Stout at the Big Boss Brewing event a few weeks back, so I know he’s got good taste!  I was thrilled to walk out with a 4 pack and thought my quest was complete.  I highly recommend visiting House of Hops if you are ever in Raleigh….tell them the Stoutwhisperer sent you!

Fast forward to the next morning……there is a Whole Foods near me that has an excellent beer selection. Jason runs their beer shop and he traditionally sends out a Twitter message when new beers come into the store and from there, its first come, first serve. That’s how I was able to get my 2015 KBS last year, but I didn’t want to bank on my luck two years in a row.  Fortunately, the tweet came out early and I was able to scramble over and bag another 4 pack!   Jason a good old school guy and he doesn’t believe in rationing bottles so I was one of the lucky few.

While I was basking in my KBS success, I took a ride over to Taylor’s Wine Shop  at lunchtime.  Taylor’s is located inside a BP Gas Station and is known to have a pretty darn good craft beer selection.   Niki (aka “the Beer Lady”), was kind enough to talk to me and I happened to ask her about her KBS allotment.  Much to my surprise, she was expecting it to come in the next day and was just going to start her list!  She was rationing 2 bottles per person, but I was at the top of the list……and sure enough, I got a text message from Niki the next day that KBS was in and I could pick up my 2 bottles!

I also had the chance to get 2 more bottles from my local Total Wine (thanks Chase!!) but decided that 10 was enough.   Another bottleshop in the area is having a lottery this week for their KBS allocation, but I’ll pass on that as well.   The Stout Karma train doesn’t have many seats and I want to be sure I’m on it (I missed out on Mexican Cake last year)!   Through a little planning and a LOT of luck my KBS hunting season is complete and I bagged the limit.   This should last me through the Stout Drought…..now on to the reviews!

Wicked Weed Brewing – Dark Age

March 9, 2016 – Wicked Weed is an Asheville brewing institution known primarily for their Sours, but every once in a while they go the Stout route. Dark Age is a Bourbon barrel aged imperial stout that is being bottled for the first time. While I must admit I was underwhelmed by their Milk and Cookies Stout and haven’t yet had El Paradiso, I’ve heard good things about Dark Age.   This 12%ABV 12.7oz bottle was released a couple of weeks ago to much fanfare (at least in the Carolinas) and seemed to saturate the Triangle market, as 2016-04-09_214558669_83B9C_iOSeveryone seemed to get a large delivery of this release. Since April is North Carolina Beer month, I decided to do my part and give Dark Age a try…..

This Stout pours a nice black waterfall with a decent tan foamy head. It has a straight on bourbon aroma – not trying to hide anything, that’s for sure!   The first sip is smooth and while there is bourbon throughout the taste, it’s not overwhelming. The mouthfeel is thin to medium and the aftertaste is smooth as well.   A decent down the middle bourbon barrel imperial stout!  This strikes me as an excellent introduction to the world of BBA Stouts……no variants, smooth taste from the sip to the swallow, with a consistent hint of bourbon. Not the best I’ve had, but also far, far from the worst. I’m going to age another bottle of Dark Age for a while to see if the flavor profile changes at all.   All in all, a decent BBA Stout from our friends at Wicked Weed!

Stout of this World rating: 4.0 bombers

Founders Brewing – Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) 2016 vintage

March 10, 2016 – Since my recent KBS trials and tribulations have been documented in recent posts, I felt a need to see if the destination was worth the journey, so I took some time to open a fresh bottle of the 2016 vintage of KBS. I’ve read many of the reviews from others and while many were very complimentary, there were those who felt it needed a bit more aging.   Jason at Whole Foods felt that Founders was one of the few breweries who actually ages their beer to be at its peak aging when sold – rather than rely on the customer to age it a bit more. So going into the review, I wasn’t sure what side of the barrel I would fall on.

I wore my KBS t-shirt to commemorate the event and poured it into the 2016 KBS glass – 2016-04-10_200330304_D09B4_iOSbig kudos to Founders Brewing for the 17oz. size!! This is a perfect size as it allows me to give a good pour and get some foamy head without worrying about spillage!   KBS isn’t the most heady beer, but I was able to get a decent head from the pour! The aroma was an alluring combination of bourbon, chocolate, and a hint of coffee. Would the taste match the aroma?   The first sip answered the question….unequivocally yes!

The smoothness of the 2016 vintage is unsurpassed. Notes of coffee and chocolate infused with a smooth layer of bourbon creates a taste that leaves one wanting another.   The mouthfeel is nice as it coats the tongue and there is absolutely no bite in the aftertaste. As I write this, I realized that I didn’t get this level of complexity when I had it on tap at Bull McCabe’s for the release party……it was quite good there but in a more controlled environment (my house) it’s at another level.   I’ll note once again, that the temperature of the Stout is so critical to the emergence of the flavors.   I had refrigerated my bottle of KBS but took it out a full hour before I opened it to gradually warm to 50 degrees or so. Drinking KBS (or most Stouts) cold will rob you out of enjoying the full range of scents and flavors……so do yourself a favor and give it time to rest and warm….even 30 minutes will work.

I think Jason is right….this doesn’t need any aging. This is an amazing Stout right now. Find it and drink it!

Stout of this World rating: 4.5 bombers

 

St. Patrick’s Day and the coming Stout Drought!

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Another St. Patrick’s Day has come and gone.  If you could get past the wall to wall Guinness advertisements from “How to pour the perfect pint” to #GuinnessTache to their own @Untappd badge and wrapping up with their #stoutmoji campaign (which I happen to support by the way!) – I think that just about every craft brewery tapped their own version of a dry Irish Stout.  Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing, but to me St. Patrick’s Day is always bittersweet.  In my mind, March 17 signals the end of Stout season.  Yes, I know that the nationwide release of Founders KBS is in early April, but for the most part, we’re moving into the Spring/Summer rotation of IPAs, DIPAs, and Lagers.

If you are a Stout guy like me, you’ve been replenishing your beer fridge for the stout drought of Spring and Summer and buying those stouts you want to enjoy after a hard day at the office or on holiday at the beach (love those canned stouts!).    I know my beer fridge is bursting at the seams so I think I’m ready for the off-season, but I’m also aging a number of bottles for enjoyment in a year or so.

One downside that I experienced on March 17- I had a bottle of Guinness that I opened up to enjoy before the traditional Irish meal of Corned Beef and Cabbage (prepared by Mrs. Stoutwhisperer!).  I knew something was amiss when it didn’t smell right and there was no head to the pour.  A few sips and I knew it wasn’t right, so I participated in the rare but well-known tactic of the “Drain Pour”.  Too bad, but life is too short and my inventory is too large to suffer through a bad beer.   Not sure what happened, but don’t worry Guinness, I’ll be back!

My replacement choice was somewhat odd – Hitachino Nest Espresso Stout!   See below for my review of that beer and my others from the weekend!   All in all, it was a very enjoyable Stout weekend!  Hope you enjoyed St. Patrick’s Day and are thinking ahead on how you will make it through the impending Stout Drought!

Hitachino Nest – Espresso Stout

I’ve heard about this Japanese brewery for a awhile and when I saw their lineup of beers at a local bottleshop, I knew I had to give one a try.  Espresso Stout called my name and so I bit.  It was a stubby bottle containing 11.2 oz (?) of a 7%ABV jet black beer.  It was a nice pour with a nice creamy head.  As you can see, since the bottle is only 11.2 ounces, it doesn’t quite 2016-03-17_200508903_7CA2C_iOSreach the top of the glass.   The aroma was coffee.   The first sip was smooth and was all about the coffee.  The mouthfeel was thin to average which was expected based on the pour.  Subsequent sips repeated the first one – basically this is a stout that give you a shot of espresso with each taste.  It’s a no nonsense, straight on coffee stout.  Personally, I like coffee stouts but I also believe that you can have too much of a good thing and that’s why I came to appreciate the 11.2 oz. bottle.  I finished the bottle right before I think I would have gone into coffee taste overload.  If coffee stouts are your go to beer, then I highly recommend Espresso Stout.   I probably would buy it if I saw it again, but it’s not one I would seek out.

Stout of this World rating: 3.75 bombers

Prairie Artisan Ales – Pirate BOMB!

From previous ratings of PAA BOMB! and it’s variants, you know I’m a fan.  When I read that Pirate BOMB! was on the release schedule, I was hooked.  BOMB! in Rum Barrels?  Really?  So when it started appearing locally in bottleshops, I was on social media alert and 2016-03-18_210739939_544F9_iOSfortunately, luck was on my side when I saw a posting from my friends at House of Hops in Raleigh, NC (@HouseofHops1) and just happened to be in the area.  I was able to pick up a few bottles and it moved to the top of my review list.

It poured like all BOMB!s do…jet black with little head.  There was a nice aroma….I could smell the rum as well as the BOMB! spices.  The first sip just wrapped around my tongue and the rum barrel aging added some kick to the BOMB! but not as much as the Bourbon barrel aged BOMB! The taste was just about perfect……this clocks in at 14% ABV, so it’s a warm one, but it’s one of the best BOMB!s I’ve had!  I’m glad I bought more than one, because I know I’ll want to confirm how good this was a couple more times!!  To my friends at Prairie Artisan Ales, keep doing what you are doing!

Stout of this World rating: 4.5 bombers

Blue Mountain Barrel House – Dark Hollow

I’ve had Dark Hollow in my beer fridge for quite some time, and when I was rearranging some bottles, I noticed the cork said “Best by July 2016”.   That meant try it now!  I liked the unique bottle shape and the cork/cage as the gatekeeper to the liquid….now that I popped the cork, how did it taste?2016-03-19_201458154_EBEA9_iOS

The pour was nice and black, with a very thin line of foam.  I could detect a bourbon in the aroma, but it was pleasant and not overpowering.  The first sip was a nice smooth one – I knew there was some bourbon barrel aging going on, but it was complimentary and really added to the depth of the stout.  Many bourbon barrel aged stouts are bourbon dominant and smooth out over time – perhaps this was what happened here, but it worked!  The mouthfeel was average to thick and the aftertaste was smooth.  As Dark Hollow warmed, the taste became a bit more complex; I really enjoyed this beer to the very last sip!  It clocks in at 10%ABV, but there was a depth and subtlety to this Stout which I didn’t expect!

When I review Stouts, I like to find and sample beers and breweries that aren’t yet “on the radar”.  Dark Hollow and Blue Mountain Barrel House are a perfect example of those wonderful surprises you can find in your Stout journey!  Go find a bottle and pop the cork – I think you’ll like what you taste!!

Stout of this World rating: 4.0 bombers

Oskar Blues Brewing – TENFIDY

While I’ve had the pleasure of drinking TENFIDY before, I’ve never put it through it’s paces in a review.  Now it’s time.  Oskar Blues is a brewing concern that has it’s origins in Colorado, expanded to western North Carolina, and is now expanding yet again to Austin, Texas.  They are one of the pioneers in canning craft beer; to be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen anything bottled from Oskar Blues.  TENFIDY is their stout offering, clocking in at….I’ll bet you can’t guess….yes, it’s 10.5% ABV.  It is a straight forward Imperial Stout; they make a Bourbon Barrel aged TENFIDY, but the BA variant is one of those rare ones that are usually sold 2016-03-20_193556363_E1A33_iOSonly at the brewery.

Regular TENFIDY is a beautiful sight; it’s an inky jet black pour with a nice tan foamy head that sticks around for awhile.  The aroma is very malty….you know it’s a stout, that’s for sure and after all of the barrel aged beers I’ve tasted lately, a straight malty stout aroma was more than welcome!  The first sip of TENFIDY was nice and smooth.  It has a thicker than average mouthfeel and the aftertaste is pure stout.  As it warmed, it developed more depth and became even smoother than the first few sips.  I began to sense some chocolate and perhaps some toffee notes.    This is an excellent example of an Imperial Stout!  I recommend letting it warm to 50-55 degrees to allow all of the flavor palette to develop and for maximum enjoyment.

TENFIDY is a seasonal release,  so as we start moving into the Stout Drought, it would be worthwhile to go get a 4 pack (or two!) so you can treat yourself during the summer.   Get some now before they sell out for the season!

Stout of this World rating: 4.25 bombers