The ONLY Thing That Will Cause Me to Leave the House on Black Friday

Because, seriously, Black Friday has never, ever sounded like a good time.

So what tomfoolery was I engaged in, being IN A LINE on Black Friday? In the morning, even!

Beer, of course. Good beer.

Actually? Leaving the house on Black Friday seems so hazardous, it had to be better than “good” beers. “Excellent” beers. “Rare” beers. “That one beer I’ve been trying to get my hands on for a year or more.” These are motivating.

And motivate me, they did. As they have for three years running, now. In 2010, it was Bourbon County Brand Stout (BCBS) Rare. In 2011, it was King Henry. In 2012? Well, this year was a little different.

Every Black Friday, Goose Island Clybourn1 throws a shindig. I’m not sure how long it’s been going on, but I’ve been going since 2010. Previously, it’s involved getting to taste something rare at the bar or in the restaurant (above) and maybe buy some bottles. This year, there were no bottles for purchase, there were a few rare things being poured at the bar, but they added a ticketed event, the chance to taste SIX excellent, rare beers (and take home a bottle of a seventh!). And my ticket was for 10:00 am.

When I was much younger, far too young to have any interest in beer, Sheryl Crow was hitting it big singing about her appreciation of “a good beer buzz early in the morning” and how it contributed to her ability to do the only thing she wanted – have some fun. Aside from staying home, I can’t think of anything more fun than drinking good beers and eating good food at my favorite pub on Black Friday. Even in the morning.

Of the beers that got me scuttling out of the house on Black Friday, I’ve tried three before and liked ’em (BCBS Rare, King Henry and BCBS Vanilla). Two I was looking forward to (BCBS Bramble Rye and BCBS Cherry Rye). And one? One I’d been dying to try for over a year (BCBS Coffee 2011).

You bet your ass I was there.

Before we get too much farther into it, let me say that I deeply appreciate that “early” for me involved waking up at a totally normal and rational time (7:00 am), and arriving at another place at a totally normal and rational time (9:30 am). None of this 4:45 am bullshit. Not even “astounding and rare beers of exceptional quality” is getting me IN LINE at 4:45 am. I don’t care if early mornings are a Black Friday tradition. Not interested in 4:45 am. (In 2010? I sat next to a man who actually bragged about being in line at Goose Island Clybourn at 4:45 am. DUDE. Just… DUDE.)

But, truly, this means I was having breakfast at a pub at 9:30 am2. I’d say those lyrics had more impact on my youthful mind than I’d realized, but the truth is that as much as I was curious about several of the beers on tap, my breakfast was eggs, potatoes, toast, water and tea. I figured there was absolutely no reason to start consuming beer before I got into the main event.

My ticket said we were tasting at 10:00 am, but they didn’t seat us for our tasting until about 10:20 am or 10:30 am. If I’d known how delayed it was I would have tried to get in a bit more breakfast and told my companion, David, he had time to grab a beer. No, matter, though. There was something fun about standing in the lobby and chatting with a fine acquaintance about past Black Friday events and beers.

h2. So how were the darn beers??

Walking into the room after the wait that built things up so much was a lot of fun. I didn’t expect to walk in and have beers already poured for me. But they were. I also didn’t expect my other favorite thing: DESSERT!

Oh, what a win!

So, the idea was to taste each beer alone, and to pair one dessert with each of two beers. The pours were probably about 2 – 3 oz and the desserts were decidedly miniature, which is a perfect amount for this kind of event. And this time of day, let’s be honest. This is my kind of plan!

BCBS Vanilla

This beer had all the typical BCBS aroma, overlaid with a strong vanilla scent. Frankly, it smelled wonderful. I truly enjoyed this beer, though it has some of the same characteristics that I consider faults in regular BCBS, namely, it’s fairly sweet and the texture is somewhat syrupy. The moderately strong vanilla taste made both characteristics more palatable to me, as it pulled the beer solidly into “dessert beer” territory, away from the confused place I feel regular BCBS occupies.

The recommended pairing for the Vanilla was the pecan pie, and it was neither awesome nor bad. Really, it was pretty much like drinking a beer and eating a pie. The pairing that soared, though, was the Vanilla with the flourless chocolate cake and malted whipped cream (no cherry). Chocolate and vanilla are always a good combination, and the chocolate of the cake made the beer’s vanilla flavor more pronounced and full. The richness, in texture, of the cake and cream were well-matched for the beer’s texture, and suddenly what seemed “syrupy” in the beer simply seemed “decadent.”

It’s a shame the nice man from Goose Island Beer Company (whose name I have forgotten) says they’ll never make this beer again, because scraping vanilla seeds into beer barrels is stupidly tedious and hard work. I told him to ask for volunteers. We’ll see if he takes my advice.


I have to be honest. I really enjoyed this beer back in 2010, but it was by far my least favorite beer of the tasting. (Really, of all the beers I had that day.) I am thankful that it doesn’t have nearly the syrupy texture of regular BCBS, but it’s more muted than I remember it being. My companion (and beer snob extraordinaire) also made this comment, and mentioned he’d been advised by someone back in 2010 not to age BCBS Rare. Apparently that person told him they felt all the qualities that make the Rare different from the yearly BCBS would fade with time. If my memory of 2010 is correct (such a dicey proposition from anyone, really), that person’s advice was spot-on.

I do not have any bottles of BCBS Rare in my home. If you do, I’m sure they make excellent beers to share with your friends around the holidays. And you should, I suspect. Try it with bacon-chocolate (the recommended pairing of the tasting), as it’s a solid combo.

King Henry

This is a damn fine beer. I’ve had it a couple of times since it was released last year, and it just gets better.

When Bill and I had it at the Black Friday event in 2011, we both agreed it was an aging beer. It was good, but not amazing. It needed sometime to mellow and blend. Even a year later, I am already enjoying the aroma and taste far more than that first taste. Which is good, because we bought a couple of bottles and I was considering regretting the purchase when we finally got our tasters…

There’s a lot of wood in this beer, but the previous double use of the barrels for 23 years of aging bourbon and then two years of aging BCBS to make the Rare really reduces it to a nice, strong note, rather than a flavor, in King Henry. Instead, you get the things that make bourbon so nice (vanilla, wood, leather) and all the things that make BCBS Rare nice (roast, char, yum) in a solid barley wine that has it’s own delightful characteristics (sweetness, smoothness).

The King Henry was also to be paired with the bacon-chocolate truffle. This was pretty nice; I liked how the chocolate and salty bacon flavor brought out some of the char & wood in the King Henry. However, I have to be honest, I think King Henry is the kind of beer that’s best paired with some deep and quiet conversation with your nearest and dearest by a fireplace. Preferably one with a fire going in it.

BCBS Coffee 2012

COFFEE.COFFEE.COFFEE. Also, some beer.

That’s how BCBS 2012 coffee smells and tastes. It’s a powerhouse of coffee and wonderful with a hint of sweet and malt and char and beer. It’s a little bitterer than any other BCBS, which only makes it better3. It’s not a terribly subtle beer, and it’s never going to be. However, it’s possible a year or so in the bottle will mellow out the coffee a bit and bring out some added complexity. Otherwise, this is going to be a “best for Sunday morning brunch at home” beer for years to come. Which isn’t a bad thing, I suppose.

The recommended pairing with the BCBS Coffee was also the pecan pie. It was an awful lot like the vanilla pairing – beer + pie. I can’t exactly say this isn’t a brilliant idea, since I like both of those things, but my associate, David, had a better idea. The bacon-chocolate truffle eaten with the coffee beer! Oh, man. Thank you and more please! The salt, the smoke, the bitter, the other bitter, the yum!

That’s not helping my case that this shouldn’t be just a breakfast beer, is it?

BCBS Bramble Rye

My second favorite beer of the tasting. This beer smells and tastes better than anything with so much raspberry has any right to. It is, of course, all the blackberry in it. Blackberries are probably the best of all the berries.

At first, I only could make out “fruit” in the aroma. It took a surprisingly long time to pinpoint what exactly was going on in there aside from beer and oak and spice. But it’s raspberry, once you get down to it. It’s a strong backbone of raspberry aroma supporting all those other, lovely smells. Once you get to drinking, it’s a home-made blackberry (raspberry) pie in a bottle. You can almost taste the streusel topping in all the supporting flavors.

Which makes it a crying shame to have the suggested pairing be the flourless chocolate cake with malted whipped cream. Honestly, this was the only pairing that I felt was actively bad. The cake was still good, but it was so rich and so chocolate that it wiped out all the fruit and pie and summertime of this beer. When I’m getting a taste of summer in winter, I want to enhance that, mightily. I would likely pair this, myself, with some sort of acidic-sweet dessert. I’m not sure, to be honest, it’s a bit of a gamble that the acidity would further brighten the fruit. But it’s a gamble I’d take. With one of my own bottles, even.

BCBS Cherry Rye

For my money, it doesn’t get any better than this. Of course, that’s because cherries are nearly the top of the fruit hierarchy and sour is exactly what BCBS needs.

Let’s get that out of the way from the get-go. This is a cherry beer, full stop. It’s got a lot more going on than your average fruit beer, a lot, but primarily it’s sour cherries, baby. And so while it’s not a “sour beer” in the conventional sense, I don’t believe, it’s sour. And sweet. And has that hint of rye that tastes like nothing else. And some lovely oaky notes. And cherry. Some of that too.

This beer won “Best in Show” at Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beers this year4, and once I got to taste it here, I could see why. I so utterly wish I had a bottle or 17 of it. Though it’s probably for the best that I don’t, really. At the last bottle, I’d probably turn into Gollum and be all whispering things about “preciouses” and wandering aimlessly trying to protect the bottle. Really, not a good scene for anyone. And a 650 mL bottle weighs a tad more than a ring.

The suggested pairing for this beer, like the last, was the flourless chocolate cake with malted whipped cream and a Heaven Hill bourbon-soaked cherry on top. I assume because of the cherry and the principle of pairing like with like. And, well, cherry and chocolate being pretty good friends. And it was a darn nice pairing. Mostly because chocolate and cherry ARE so buddy-buddy. If I were to share this beer with Angelique, I would almost certainly go this direction, as the chocolate tones down the sour of the cherries a bit and makes it all more smooth. If I were to share this beer with ME, I’d leave it well enough alone. Because it’s fucking delicious.

fn1. I’m not sure anyone is aware of this, but I do occasionally have a pint at other pubs. Just for the record.

fn2. My mother is cringing as she reads this, isn’t she? Keep reading, Mom!

fn3. As an avowed bitter-hater, I can’t believe I said and wrote that…

fn4. Yes, I attended! Yes, I’ll write a post! It was just so big it’s a lot harder to take in. Sometime next week you’ll see a write-up.

4 thoughts on “The ONLY Thing That Will Cause Me to Leave the House on Black Friday

  1. You have a faaaabulous writing voice. I think this was my favorite part: “Really, it was pretty much like drinking a beer and eating a pie.”

    Well, actually, it’s a toss-up between that line and the one about Sheryl Crow’s beer buzz. Love love love this.

  2. You seriously come off as a professional taster and reviewer! Does the pub know what a wonderful job you’re doing, sharing their beers with everyone like this? They should! Please go taste more things and tell us all about them. Beers. Wines. Chocolates. Bacons!

    • Thank you! I love you so much, and you make me laugh so hard.

      I “told” the pub (and the beer makers – they’re kind of confusingly not the same company anymore) that I’d written this post, but I doubt anyone there has read it. It’s LONG! But that’s part of my schtick, isn’t it. I’m verbose.

      I shall! I shall taste things and report back! Many things! Mostly beers. And foods. And next time I come to visit, we can arrange a bacon tasting, okay?

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