For just the second year, Los Angeles is one of the few markets that will see official distribution of the rare Bourbon County beers from Chicago’s Goose Island Brewery. The barrel-aged brews are some of the most sought-after and well-regarded brews in the craft world and, after launch events on Wednesday evening, beer fans can join in the Black Friday madness by hitting select bottle shops to try to score a few bottles.
Although the Bourbon County beers are considered some of the best craft beers made in the country, their venerable parent, Goose Island, isn't classified a “craft brewery” by the Brewers Assn. because it's been owned by international beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev since 2011.
But fears that new corporate ownership and industry politics would dull the shine of Goose Island’s most beloved brand have been unfounded. Bourbon County Brand Stout and the assorted variations of the brew taste just as rich and nuanced this year as they have in years past.
Bourbon County Brand Stout — called BCBS by the legion of dedicated beer fans who hunt down bottles of the brew when it's released each fall — is an inky imperial stout that spends upward of a year in retired bourbon barrels from some of the country’s best producers.
The brewery has collected more than 4,000 barrels in a sprawling warehouse to produce BCBS and the lineup of Belgian-inspired Vintage Ales, like the tart Juliet and funky, rustic Sofie. Besides the flagship Bourbon County stout, there's also a coffee-infused version that features a different roast of Intelligentsia coffee beans each year (Zirikana beans from Rwanda are used in the 2014 edition); a vanilla and rye variation; and a Chicago-exclusive Proprietor's Series that features a melange of spices including cassia bark, coconut water and cocoa nibs.
This year also sees the second edition of Bourbon County Brand Barleywine, a ruddy brew that eschews the hopped-up pungency of typical American barleywines for a more restrained, English-style potable that — at over 12% alcohol — is potent indeed.
You can take a break from the pre-Thanksgiving stress and grab a taste of the Bourbon County lineup on Wednesday evening at either Beer Belly in Koreatown or the Surly Goat in West Hollywood.
Then, the official bottle release goes down on Black Friday at the Ramirez Beverage Center in Boyle Heights. (The event’s official start time is listed as 9 a.m., but the shop opens at 7 a.m. on Friday, and expect the line to begin forming even earlier than that.)
Bottles of BCBS and the Bourbon County Barleywine also will be available at various other craft beer retailers beginning on Friday; give your favorite spot a call to confirm availability — these bottles go fast.
Beer Belly, 532 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 387-2337.
The Surly Goat, 7929 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, (323) 650-4628.
Ramirez Beverage Center, 2765 E. Olympic Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 266-2337.