The words “Black Friday” conjure up images of long lines of camped-out customers outside of Best Buy and frenzied rushes through the doors of WalMart as shoppers vie to get their hands on enormous flat screen TV’s at slashed prices. But for craft beer lovers, Black Friday is a little different. Like children waiting for Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve, beer fanatics go to sleep on Thanksgiving night with visions of roasted barley dancing in their heads. As important a tradition as Thanksgiving, itself, the chance to snag bottles of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout the day after is a revered holiday in the beer world.
Goose Island Bourbon County Stout is legendary. It’s the earliest bourbon barrel-aged beer, born in 1992. That means that the BCS both set the stage for one of beer lovers’ most sought after styles of beer--the bourbon barrel-aged anything--and paved the way for hyped, instantly iconic craft beers in general. There were only 359 breweries in the United States in 1992, after all. The boom was still a long way off, and here was Goose Island introducing people to the concept of eagerly awaiting and then celebrating getting to experience a particular brew.
Ten years ago, the annual release of the Bourbon County Stout grew to be the famous Black Friday custom we know today. Fans are happy to queue up overnight to snag allotments of this limited beer treasures. And each year, new variants add to the hubbub. You’ve got to get the O.G. stout--and bonus if you’re aging bottles from last year and the year before that so you can try all three together and have fun picking up on the different notes--but how could you also not explore the exciting new flavors that the Goose Island magicians are always crafting?
Of course, things look a little different this year, and Black Friday is not spared. Just as you might be doing Thanksgiving dinner via Zoom, you might be wondering how you can also participate in the Bourbon County Stout festivities from the comfort and safety of your own home. Goose Island and TapRm have you covered.
As is only logical for an online shopping extravaganza, this year’s version of the BCS scoop with TapRm will take place on Cyber Monday. That’s November 30, 2020--Mark. Your. Calendars.
Here’s the most important part: this is being done through a lottery system since, as you know (and psst, if you didn’t, we discussed above), the Bourbon County Stout is a pretty big deal and it’s also pretty limited. You can enter the lottery system all this week leading up to Sunday, November 29.
To do so, head to TapRm, and you’ll be guided to a landing page where you can enter your e-mail address and your (valid, please!) New York state zip code.
On Sunday, winners will be randomly selected and e-mailed with instructions on when and how to log in and purchase their BCS on Monday.
On Monday, the lottery winners will be shopping their bourbon barrel-aged hearts out between 9am and 5pm ET. After 5pm, any remaining BCS will be made available for general sale. So, if you don’t win a lottery spot, despair not! Set an alarm for 5pm and try your luck.
The 2020 Dream Team
There will be information on the variants at the aforementioned landing page, but we know you’re here to commence drooling over this year’s offerings and we’re not one to leave you hanging. Without further ado, meet the 2020 Bourbon County Stout variants you’ll be entering the lottery to shop this Cyber Monday:
The Original Bourbon Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
This is the real deal, folks, the game-changer, the one you can’t do without. Every year, Goose Island perfects the beer that both made and broke the mold for bourbon barrel-aged stouts. As the brewery says, their “primary focus every year is to make this beer the best that it’s ever been, with the best ingredients, which includes the finest of bourbon whiskey barrels.” This year’s version is aged for a year in a mix of bourbon barrels from different whiskey distilleries. It boasts flavors of fudge, vanilla, and caramel with a rich, complex mouthfeel.
Birthday Bourbon County Stout
Truly bridging the worlds of beer fandom and bourbon fandom, Goose Island tapped into one of the world’s most coveted bourbons, the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon. This bourbon is released each year, made in hand-selected 11-year-old barrels and featuring flavor profiles that vary each year and are never replicated. 2019’s tasting notes are “rich oak spice and blackcurrant coupled with light maple, caramel cake, and white floral notes.” Aged in those barrels for a year, the Birthday Bourbon County Stout is extra complex with all of those elements.
Bourbon County Kentucky Fog Stout
Here’s the tea! Literally! This is Goose Island’s first ever tea-inspired variant. It’s a beery take on the London Fog tea drink, so added into the brew is Earl Grey tea and black tea from Kilogram Tea, along with clover honey from The Honey House. The idea came from brewer Paul Cade, whose girlfriend, Martha, prefers tea over coffee. Since coffee notes are standard for stouts, the Kentucky Fog is an exciting and refreshing new spin with a different bouquet of aromas and flavors.
Bourbon County Special #4 Stout
The “Special #4” refers to that feeling of ordering your favorite breakfast at your go-to restaurant. It’s both comforting and exciting, because you know you’re about to get a whole bunch of flavors you love. All that’s been bottled with this stout. It’s an oatmeal stout variant of the original BCS recipe, aged in bourbon barrels, of course, and brewed with crystal oats for a nutty character and smooth mouthfeel. Goose Island also added Intelligentsia Coffee cold coffee and single origin coffee beans from Ethiopia for some fruity coffee notes, and some bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup from Bissell Maple Farm.
Bourbon County Caramella Ale
Caramella means “candy” in Italian--this beer isn’t cloyingly sweet like candy, but instead pulls the best flavors from traditional treats. It’s a wheatwine, sort of a big, strong wheat beer akin to a barleywine. It’s aged in Larceny Wheated Bourbon barrels with apple, cinnamon, and natural caramel flavor added after the aging. The overall finish is reminiscent of a caramel apple, and is bursting with cozy, warming autumn character.
Anniversary Bourbon County Stout
2020 is the tenth anniversary of Goose Island releasing the Bourbon County Stout on Black Friday, so of course they had to celebrate. This stout is aged for two years in Weller 12 Year barrels, the Weller 12 Year being another one of the world’s most beloved and elusive bourbons. The Original Bourbon County Stout is aged one year in four-to-five-year-old barrels, meaning this variant with its older barrels picks up more depth of dark, dried fruit as well as stronger barrel flavors.