While many will flock to malls and department stores after Thanksgiving to get a head start on their holiday shopping lists, a legion of beer lovers will line up to secure their own liquid treasure: Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout beers.
The Chicago brewery, acquired by Anheuser-Busch in 2011, began making its stout aged in bourbon barrels in 1995. Since 2010, Goose Island has made its release of the original Bourbon County Brand Stout and additional flavor variants into a nationwide Black Friday morning event.
Under Anheuser-Busch, Goose Island has added production and storage capacity to make more of the much sought-after stouts, which are usually premium-priced at $10 and up. And this year, Goose Island has more flavors – eight total – available than in any previous year.
However, few beer retailers will get the complete lineup and usually shoppers are limited to how many bottles they can purchase. Notably, the Proprietor's Bourbon County Brand Stout, made with dark chocolate and cocoa nibs, will be sold only in Chicago.
Should you have to make a decision on which beer to snatch up, some beer journalists got preview tastes of the beer line-up.
The Reserve Bourbon County Stout (15.2 percent ABV), which is aged in "Elijah Craig Barrel Proof” bourbon barrels and may be the hardest to find, "boasts more oak, cherry liqueur, and whiskey flavor than the original Bourbon County stout, with complex bourbon notes as well," wrote Vinepair's Cat Wolinski.
Among the new offerings, Bourbon County Midnight Orange Stout, made with Spanish Orange zest, is "loaded with flavor," wrote Josh Noel, a beer writer at the Chicago Tribune and author of "Barrel-Aged Stout and Selling Out: Goose Island, Anheuser-Busch, and How Craft Beer Became Big Business." The beer, he said, "boasts a relatively understated nature that I enjoyed."
Another of the new flavors, Bourbon County Wheatwine Ale, isn't even a stout. "Oozing with caramel and butterscotch notes, it’s boozy, but finishes clean," wrote Chris Morris in Fortune. "This was a gamble that paid off for the brewer."
The original Bourbon County Brand Stout, aged mainly in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels, "lacks the viscosity of a few years ago, but it’s still full of chocolate, leather and vanilla flavors," he says. "As always, it’s a prime candidate to age as well."
In addition to retail sales, the Goose Island stouts will be available at tasting events at many bars and restaurants: Check Goose Island's website for a schedule.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.