Bourbon County is a widely recognized brand from beer aficionados to beer noobs. My first experience with Bourbon County Brand Stout was rather lackluster. I remember having it on tap in New York and thought that it was just wildly unbalanced. All I got was high density bourbon that was black. Since then, I actually avoided BCBS every November thinking it was all hype and only name recognition that was driving the sale of the beer. However, some of the variants drew my attention. I have the barley wine, coffee stout, and this guy – all which were picked up last year. Brewed with three different berries and aged in rye whiskey casks, I’m hoping for a little more complexity than its younger brother. Time for numbers…
Appearance: Black with brown translucent edges and zero head to speak of. I did pour this into a 15cL Maine Beer Co. tasting glass because I have some company coming over soon and I want them to experience this, which might have contributed to the lack of head.
Smell: Whiskey, dark berries, molasses, blackberry jam, currants, blueberry pie, and some roastyness. I’m surprised how fruit forward the smell is in this brew as the bourbon plays well with the dark fruits in here.
Taste: Wowzah. This is one of those beers I really wanted to hate, but god damn, I just can’t do it. Unlike my memories from regular Bourbon County, this is quite balanced and complex. The bourbon and berries, which seem like strange bedfellows on the surface, pair well together since the the sweetness from the berries tones down the bourbon. The berries really show off their power mid palate with an explosion of boysenberry, blackberry, blueberry, and currants. I don’t ever recall having mulberries or marionberries ever in my life, but I’d imagine they’d line up with the flavors I’m getting out of this brew. Before I pick up the berries, I get a bit of the whiskey with a heavy molasses and toasted grain flavors. The sweetness from the grain leads perfectly into the berry rush and on the finish you get a bit of oak and a little more whiskey. I didn’t get much spice from the whiskey as you would typically expect from a rye.
Like I said earlier, complex is a great way to describe this brew. I’d imagine the fact that this sit in my cellar for over a year helped to meld these flavors together and I’m glad I put a little age on this guy. The mouthfeel on Backyard Rye is medium to thick, which is lighter than I expected, but again works well with the more delicate and sweet flavors of the fruit. The ABV on this brew is 12.7%, which is kind of shocking. This beer drinks easy for that kind of booze and there is no burn whatsoever. It almost reminds me of a fruity, robust red wine in the way in drinks. The carbonation is on the lower end with this bottle, but that’s fine by me. There’s enough in there to make it bubbly, but is also appropriate for a big stout.
Overall: This variant of Bourbon County was nice. A great (and unexpected) balance of flavors across the board with Backyard Rye. The only knock on this brew is perhaps it is a little too sweet. I would have never thought that bourbon and fruit could pair so nicely together however, and for that, it deserves an A. I’m glad I gave this a fair shot and I’m even happier to share this with good friends.