But beer. That’s another story. For the second year, I’ve waited in line before the sun is up to buy Goose Island Bourbon County stouts. These are highly sought-after, drool worthy stouts aged in bourbon barrels. While you can buy it at some Costcos and Jewels, you’d better know when and where to get it or it will be gone. It comes in original and several variants, which are generally coffee, barleywine, rye and proprietors blend, which changes annually.
Now a veteran at this game, I chose a store with a large shipment allowing your standard allotment (two original BCBS and two variants of your choice), that had an overhang in front of the store, because it was raining. I also leveraged my camping prowess and brought a propane grill, hot hands and a sleeping bag for the waiting time. I thought breakfast burritos would be a welcome distraction, but strangely, no one other than the people I knew in line took the burritos. Anyhow, the time clicked off quickly and I bought my fair share quickl y before visiting my local Costco and Jewel, then calling it a day.
But this year, I upped my game and went to the official Black Friday tasting at Goose Island Clybourn. This tasting is tough to get into and you have to buy tickets a few weeks in advance. For $75 per person, you can a tasting of each of the six offerings that year, paired with tiny desserts. The brewers lead you through the tasting and talk about how they decided on the variants for the year. Lucky tasters are sent home with a bottle of Prop, a tasting glass and a ticket for a pour of original BCBS to cash in at the bar. Taking into account the value of the bottle, pour and glass, it’s basically paying $30 to taste the entire vertical. It’s well-worth it for a classier Black Friday experience, but I think I’d rather go to FoBAB the week before and taste all the variants before waiting in line to buy it before dawn the day after Thanksgiving.
The original BCBS and the Regal Rye, which has a distinct sour cherry after note, were my favorites.
Rare, which was going for $80 a bottle, was way too much whiskey. Maybe in two years it will cool down and mellow, but right now, the two-year aging in 35-year-old Heaven Hill whiskey barrels was just too much heat for my palate.
This year’s coffee, which was made with Intelligentsia coffee, was very coffee forward. It basically tasted like a syrupy coffee with an alcoholic aftertaste.
The Prop this year is made with maple syrup aged in bourbon barrels. You can’t really taste the guajillo peppers, which is good. It’s delicious, as always, but I like the ’14 prop better, which I think tastes like an almond joy.
Barleywine didn’t make a huge impression on me – it was good, just not as unique as its fellow variants.
A few notes about the tasting itself:
- Arrive early. Parking is free all over the place, but a bit of a nightmare on Black Friday in Lincoln Park.
- Don’t come hungry. It’s not a lot of food.
- The tasting it about 75 minutes long, but the bar is tapping the variants and other rare pours throughout the night. It’s worth sticking around for a while.