This past Black Friday, like many before, saw the annual drop of many, many barrel-aged beers from many brewers across the country. But one brewery has been doing the barrel-aged beer Black Friday drop longer than anyone: Goose Island.
This year the variants had some newcomers along with some familiar twists but the one that I wanted to try was the 30th Anniversary BCBS. A nod to three decades of putting heavy boozy stouts into used barrels. To celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Bourbon County Stout, Goose got small batch barrels from Booker’s, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden, and Baker’s and blended them together. They seem to have attempted harmony for this batch, and I think they did.
The 30th Anniversary beer pours much like the regular BCBS. The nose is bourbon through-and-through. The flavor arrives on the first sip as a strong of “barrel presence” in this beer. A slight fruitiness appears as the beer warms. Something like a cordial cherry. The beer is big, tastes big. It is not hot yet warms the belly on the way down. This beer is exceptional, but it is not without baggage.
This bottle cost me nearly $45. Retail. That is exorbitant.
It seems to clash for me much like another current event, the World Cup.
Soccer is my first true love. I played from youth rec league, to club, to college. I officiated for decades. Soccer is the one sport that regardless of the level of play, I find it truly compelling. The World Cup is the ultimate tournament. Champions League and the Euro are appointment viewing but there is something seemingly pure about country-against-country in an all-world tournament. There are international story lines at play. There is history being made at every game.
This time around FIFA has chosen Qatar to play host. Chosen after a disgustingly corrupt bidding process where billions … yes, billions … of dollars changed hands. Chosen even though the climate is hostile to the hosting an outdoor soccer tournament. Chosen even though due to climate it cannot be held in the summer and therefore wreaked havoc on league schedules. Chosen despite a total lack of infrastructure at the time of bidding. Infrastructure that in the decade since selection has been built on the backs of modern-day indentured servants in deadly conditions. Hundreds of men died to bring this tournament to Qatar. Hundreds of thousands of lives have certainly been ruined by the grueling and inhuman working conditions.
But do I watch? God help me, yes. I watch and I love it. I love every second of it.
Watching the FIFA World Cup is not a morally neutral act.
Buying a bottle of BCBS is not with the same gravity of conscience, but it is not a neutral act either. As one friend put it “that is like sucking Darth Vader’s nipple [after] blowing in his ear.” The analogy works on a couple of levels. This beer is as black and as shiny as his helmet. Both have some char on them.
Much like the World Cup the packaging for 30th Anniversary BCBS is impressive. A beautifully constructed box to hold the heavy thick glass bottle. A nice label with gold embossing. A hefty tag hung around the neck showing how the barrels were blended for this very special stout. Well thought out words printed on the box patting everyone at Goose Island on the back for making such a special beer and for doing so for so many years. It is all very self-important, and it gives a flair to the event that this beverage aims to create.
Putting $45 of my hard-earned money into ABInBev’s pocket … even for a beer this good … just doesn’t leave me feeling right. Unlike soccer, I do not think I will come back for more. I think I am done with BCBS.
I gave up on Founders years ago after their HR and PR practices left me feeling poorly about supporting their business. I stopped hunting for Breakfast Stout and KBS. I am not going back.
Goose Island is not Founders but giving money to AB InBev is not morally neutral from a craft beer consumer standpoint. If you disagree, that is your position. You are welcome to it. I am not here for argument. Do what you want with your money.