LIKE A SHOT of espresso straight from the portafilter, Goose Island’s Bourbon Country Brand Coffee Stout is oily black with a small froth of dark tan bubbles for its head. Truly viscous, tilting it about in the glass will leave sluggish legs and only slight agitation detonates a small bomb of piercing aromas. Dark coffee beans are naturally the most distinctive and immediate association, but like all BCBS beers, roasted malts, bourbon, corn sweetness, barrel char, vanilla, and straight up alcohol are also all easy tells. Just enough caramel malts have also been included to give the body some smoothness and a brief respite of malty sweetness at the midsection. The smallest peek of earthy Willamette hops also emerge around this point before the beer opens into its second act.
For 2013 Goose Island used Los Inmortales beans from El Salvador, from a particularly delicate species of tree dubbed (appropriately enough) bourbon. Its fruit is harvested in a technique is similar to that of sauternes whereby the berries are left on the vine for an extended period of time to concentrate their sugars, darkening and intensifying their flavors. For this beer that translates to undertones of figs or dates that help mitigate some of the roast aggression and hearty smack of 13.4% ABV. They begin to push the beer towards an impression of sweetness, in fact, before a concluding surge of robust earthiness: coffee grounds, some moderate grainy textures, a molasses tang, barrel char (stronger than the oak itself), and more of those roasted malts. Carbonation is sufficient to give the alcohol a touch of enlivening crackle and disperse the flavors, but naturally is rather subdued overall, trailing smoothly out in the long and warming finish. BCBS Coffee will truly invigorate the senses, though it’s likely not the most responsible (or economical) choice for your morning pick-me-up.
So far, so charming. But regrettably, as the beer warms it begins to throw off a distinct aroma of green peppers. While hardly a major factor in the flavor profile, the association befuddles the overall experience and is the only clear cause for complaint. Perhaps this vegetal touch will fade with age. Most BCBS beers state that they develop for up to five years in the bottle, though lately they’ve hardly needed the time to mature. Perhaps in this case—just as Los Inmortales are plucked late from the tree—2013’s BCBS Coffee should also be left long in its pack. Patience.
Served: 12 oz bottled 9/16/13