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Goose Island's 2019 Bourbon County beer lineup emerging — or is it? Some labels are probably fakes.

Josh Noel, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Variety Menu

Is it BS? Or BCS?

Hard to know. And Goose Island Beer Co. isn't saying.

Last year, in a bid to throw the world off the scent of its highly anticipated Bourbon County lineup, Goose Island submitted a handful of fictitious labels -- among the real ones -- to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for approval.

That led media and beer fans populating internet forums to speculate about a handful of nonexistent brands, including Bourbon County Brand Neapolitan Stout and Bourbon County Brand Horchata Stout -- at least until the actual lineup was announced in August. (It proved to be a mixed bag.)

Well, the first wave of Bourbon County labels have been approved for 2019 and there are at least a couple of eyebrow-raisers among them.

Goose Island President Todd Ahsmann did not respond to a question about the veracity of the labels submitted this year to the TTB. That leaves us only to guess.

So here are some guesses.

Below are descriptions of the seven labels that the TTB has approved in recent days -- as first uncovered by the Guys Drinking Beer website -- and my instinct as to whether they're fact or fiction.

As always, the Goose Island's Bourbon County beers will be released the day after Thanksgiving. Unless, of course, Goose Island announces otherwise.

Bourbon County Brand Stout: The classic that started it all back in 1995 will anchor the portfolio as usual in 2019. Goose Island made less Bourbon County Stout last year in favor of the wacky variants that contemporary beer nerds favor. But this old standby will likely never disappear. Fact or fiction? Undeniable fact

Bourbon County Brand Wheatwine: This beer debuted last year and mostly met rave reviews as an admirably nuanced experiment in barrel-aging. After the positive feedback, Goose Island would be foolish not to give Wheatwine an encore. This version is apparently aged in Larceny bourbon barrels. Larceny is a soft, wheat-forward whiskey, which should pair nicely with the relative lightness of a wheatwine. My guess? Fact


Bourbon County Brand Double Barrel Stout: According to the label, this beer was aged in 11-year old Elijah Craig barrels and then in 12-year-old Elijah Craig barrels. Hence, the concept of double barrel, which has become a popular barrel-aging motif in recent years. Rumors were already swirling about this beer being released -- and Goose Island released a Bourbon County beer aged in those 12-year-old Elijah Craig barrels last year -- so no reason to assume this is a red herring. And if it was, there would be a lot of testy beer nerds, who would love nothing more than to stand in line for a Bourbon County beer aged twice. My guess? Fact

Two-Year Reserve Bourbon County Brand Stout: The label says this beer was aged two years in 11-year-old Knob Creek barrels. Based on the previous beer alone, sounds plausible. My guess? Fact

Bourbon County Brand Dry-Hopped Stout: My gut immediately said this was a fake, and I'm sticking with it. Any subtlety imparted by the dry hopping would be lost in the alcohol and the woody barrel character. There's an outside chance this beer could emerge because the label approved was for a keg, and filling a handful of kegs for an experiment like this would make much more sense than the labor-intensive step of bottling it. That said, skepticism remains. My guess? Fiction

Bourbon County Brand Oyster Stout: Yes, oyster stout is a thing. But it's not a thing Goose Island will be doing this fall -- unless it wants to be mocked mercilessly. My guess? Though it's an interesting idea, this is likely fiction.

Reserve Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout: Goose Island makes a rye variant from the Bourbon County family every year, so a version aged in Rittenhouse Rye barrels (as the label says) sounds believable enough. My guess? Fact

That's what we have so far. There are undoubtedly at least a few more Bourbon County labels on the way -- both real and fake -- including something busy and sugary for modern tastes and at least one with coffee. Keep watching the skies.

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