Goose Island Barrel Aging Lecture & Tasting at Bitter & Esters
By Eric Sturniolo and Isabelle Rojo
Goose Island’s Bourbon County series, one of the original and most prolific barrel-aging programs, has influenced brewers worldwide. But like most things, nothing can quite match the progenitor; hence, why we were so excited to attend Goose Island’s barrel-aging lecture and tasting at Bitters & Esters. The premier home brewing education and supply center, located in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, held only 2 sessions (25 attendees each) for beer lovers to taste a few rare beers and learn from Goose Island’s Mike Siegel. The Brewing Innovation Manager spent many years as a homebrewer before joining Goose Island, making his lecture particularly relevant for the Bitters & Esters crowd.
The tasting portion of the event included:
Sofie: a great intro to barrel-aged saisons/farmhouse ales. Sofie is made up of 80% standard-brewed beer and 20% aged in wine barrels with citrus peel. This results in a light, bubbly, easy-drinking beer with a bit of spice and a nice amount of zest/bitterness from the peel.
Halia: a farmhouse aged in wine barrels with peaches. This beer is sour, funky, and juicy. We taste tropical fruits, candied peaches, brett and wine, with a slightly sweet finish.
Lolita: an ale fermented with wild yeast and aged on top of raspberries in wine barrels. The taste is more tart than sour (although it’s definitely sour), with lots of berry, funk, and brett. Reminiscent of drinking champagne, beer and wine all in one.
BCBS 2015: This year’s batch might be the best yet. With past offerings, we’ve found a moderate to high heat level from the bourbon that diminishes (for the better) with some aging. However, the 2015 version is extremely drinkable fresh. There’s a lot going on here with bourbon, oak, coffee, caramel and chocolate. As it warms, vanilla, toffee, and roasted marshmallow flavors become more apparent.
BC Barleywine 2013: aged in bourbon barrels that were used to produce BCBS. This barleywine had sweetly delicious bourbon-soaked dark fruit flavors (especially plum, fig, cherry and raisin) with minimal alcohol heat, after being aged two years. Fresh versions are immediately drinkable, but this one is even more so. Two years of aging seems the perfect amount of time for this beer to be enjoyed at it’s absolute best.
Click here to read reviews on the rest of the 2015 Bourbon County lineup including Coffee, Proprietors, Regal Rye, and yes even Rare!
We were also able to sample local barrel-aged offerings like Brooklyn Brewery Intensified Barrel-Aged Coffee Porter, Sixpoint Barrel-Aged Signal Smoked IPA, and the first labeled batch of Finback Barrel-Aged BQE (one day before release!).
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