Posted by: Stonecipher
Apr. 9, 2011
It has been exactly two and a half months since we began our quest here at 20 Beers in 20 Nights and we have officially reached the halfway point on The List. For those of you who are just here for the Bourbon County Stout vs. the Kentucky Breakfast Stout, our goal here is to produce an in-depth review of each of the Top 20 Most Reviewed Double/Imperial IPAs on Beer Advocate. However, since we have reached halftime on the list so to speak, I figured we could diverge from the norm and put on a bit of a halftime show before resuming Part II of The List. Also, if you care to skip the intro here, you can just scroll down to the reviews (as opposed to complaining that the intro is too long winded), if you appreciate a little buildup, however, read on.
I was fortunate enough to have two of the most highly acclaimed (and sought after) American Double/Imperial Stouts at the same time, so I decided to do a little head-to-head, blind taste test to see who would come out on top.
The two beers in question? Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout (BCBS) and Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS). At the moment, KBS is the 2nd most reviewed American Imperial Stout on Beer Advocate and BCBS is the 3rd. Here are the specs on both:
Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout:
Brewery Location: Chicago, Illinois
Style: American Double/Imperial Stout
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A/4.36 – Outstanding
My Beer Advocate Rating: A+/4.83 – World Class
Current Number of Reviews/Rank in the Top 20 on Beer Advocate: 1,524/3rd
Brewery Description: Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout
Bottled On: NA
Brewery Location: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Style: American Double/Imperial Stout
Average Beer Advocate Rating: A+/4.54 – World Class
My Beer Advocate Rating: A/4.3 – Outstanding
Current Number of Reviews/Rank in the Top 20 on Beer Advocate: 1,931/2nd
Brewery Description: Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout
Bottled On: NA
In order to keep this taste test as scientific and blind as possible I recruited my girlfriend to help out. As I sat in the dining room, she poured both bottles into a couple of glasses and walked them out to me. She also poured some for herself and did her own reviews of each, which I will be posting sometime in the near future, but she knew which beer was which whereas I did not.
Unfortunately for science, I figured it out right away. I do not get to taste Bourbon County Stout very often, but I have had it enough, and it is enough of a memorable flavor, that I was able to pick it out almost immediately. The KBS on the other, hand I had only tried twice before this and it was not quite as familiar. With that said, my girlfriend refused to verify whether I was actually right about which beer was which until I had finished reviewing both.
The point of all of this is that when I reviewed the beers, I reviewed them as Beer A and Beer B rather than BCBS and KBS. So, in order to maintain the integrity of the initial reviews, the only words I am adding are the names of the beers in the subheadings.
BEER A (Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout):
APPEARANCE: (3.5 out of 5) This is a jet black beer. No light is coming though this one at all, even when held up to the light. As far as head goes, there is almost none, save a few wisps here and there and some bubbles popping up from the bottom of the glass. No lacing.
SMELL: (5 out of 5) Beer A is one of the best smelling beers I have ever had the pleasure of putting my nose to and one sniff makes me fairly certain that this is the more familiar of the two beers to me, the Bourbon County Stout. A wide variety of smells make the scent of this one an experience in and of itself. The nose is a warning that there is no doubt that this is a highly alcoholic beer. The sweet smell of bourbon dominates, with oaky and vanilla notes, but a hint of coffee and chocolate round it out. This is an exceptional smelling beer.
TASTE: (5 out of 5) The flavor almost precisely matches the nose, more so than any other beer I can ever recall. A strong taste of sugary, vanilla bourbon meets the palate right off the bat before it slowly mellows and fades away. Throughout each sip I also noticed some notes of chocolate and even some dark fruit before a kick of coffee cleaned it all away at the end leaving a mild coffee aftertaste. The alcohol is strong and the 60 IBUs are just there for balance, only a touch of bitterness gets through all the other intense flavors.
MOUTHFEEL: (4 out of 5) After sipping and tasting I am almost certain that Beer A is Bourbon County Stout and the mouthfeel only serves to help confirm my suspicions. Beer A is smooth and oily with a comforting and warming feel, as if you were actually sipping bourbon.
OVERALL: (5 out of 5) This is a ridiculously good beer. Exceptional is a perfect world to describe it, but unique would be a nice complimentary word. This is certainly a world-class brew that will fill any Imperial Stout fan’s heart with joy and should be a must-try for every serious beer drinker in America.
BEER B (Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout):
APPEARANCE: (3.5 out of 5) Beer B is bubblier than Beer A, but still not much head developed other than a few wisps of foam on the top. Like Beer A, this was stark black as well and light stood no chance against this thick brew. Again, mirroring the first beer, there was no lacing at all.
SMELL: (4 out of 5) This was a much less intense smelling beer than the first one. A mellow and scaled back coffee flavor dominated it with a smoky, yet sweet bourbon flavor lurking in the background. Notes of chocolate and vanilla were also detectable.
TASTE: (4.5 out of 5) Coffee rules the palate in this one, but vanilla and bourbon are much stronger than the background flavors in Beer A. The alcohol is toned down a bit as well. Overall, Beer B seems to be a much more balanced beer, but not quite as exciting. It also has a strong coffee and slightly bitter aftertaste as well. I did not get the coffee on the end the first time I reviewed this beer, but it is just as good.
MOUTHFEEL: (4 out of 5) Beer B is a much bubblier and more sparkling beer than most imperial stouts I have had in the past. It is certainly still a mouthcoating and oily beer, but with a little more fizz than usual for such a thick and dark beer.
OVERALL: (4.5 out of 5) I am just now realizing that I already inadvertently revealed that I knew which beer was which when I said “the first time I reviewed this beer”. Anyhow, continuing with that thought, the first time I tried the KBS, I thought it would rival Bourbon County for me, but side by side, it comes up just a touch short. Just like Pliny the Elder, I believe that this is a nearly technically perfect beer, and it may be the best Bourbon Stout I’ve had, but the Bourbon County, a.k.a. Beer A, is still my favorite.