In 2013, Goose Island introduced their best barleywine since King Henry, the Bourbon County Barleywine. Since that release, BCBW has become a staple in Goose Island’s annual release on Black Friday. For 2015, Goose Island made the switch to 16.9oz bottles from the original 12oz bottles. While this means more beer in the bottle, let’s hope this year’s version can live up the standard that was set with the original barleywine.
This beer pours a dark mahogany, with an amber head that quickly dissipates, leaving no trace around the edge of the glass.
Compared to the previous vintages, this year’s version is actually quite tame on the nose, giving off a raisin and brown sugar smell, with a little vanilla extract. There is also a faint bit of the bourbon barrel on the nose, but not as upfront as we are used to with Bourbon County Barleywine.
Since this is an English Barleywine, it is very much malt forward with a ton of sweetness. You get a good mix of the oak from the barrel, along with vanilla and cinnamon, however this is quite different from the previous vintages. There is definitely a more cloying sweetness with this vintage, that isn’t rounded out by the barrel. Instead you go from straight sugar to booze all in a matter of seconds, without any sort of transition.
This has all the makings of a sold barrel-aged barleywine. The only reason it falls short is because the previous iterations of the same beer were so damn strong. The original 2013 version was a masterpiece, and one of the best examples of the style straight off the line. Ever since then, the vintages have gradually gone downhill. However, if you’re a sucker for a good barleywine you should give this one a shot, and make sure you grab a few to hold onto as this style usually gets better with age. In a few years, 2015 could round out and develop into the beer we’ve been looking for since the original 2013 release.
Brewery: Goose Island Beer Co.
City: Chicago, Ill.
Style: English Barleywine
ABV: 12.1% ABV
Availability: Limited, 16.9-ounce bottles