Decadence Pairs Well with Decadence

Jeffrey Wiser, December 29, 2014

Sometimes things go horribly wrong. I’ve dealt with this enough in the last six months to teach me to truly appreciate the instances when everything goes right. Because just as bullshit arises, sometimes the stars align and everything falls into place. I’d like to chronicle one such recent experience. 

I was at the market a few weeks back and was checking on the availability of some rare-ish beers that are routinely kept behind the counter and away from general public. No Pliny, no Nelson, so I was out of luck, or so I thought. The girl behind the counter offered to place me in a drawing for “some special beer” that was set to arrive in a very limited quantity. I asked what the beer was and she read a label, looking closely, and stated that it was Bourbon County Barrel-Aged Stout. 

“From Goose Island?” I asked.

“Um, I guess,” she replied, clearly unfamiliar with the beer.

“Put me down!” I exclaimed, knowing full and well that it was unlikely that I’d land one of the six (6!) twelve-ounce bottles from the two-page list of names in the drawing. What the hell? It was worth a shot, right? A few days later, I got a call and, BOOM, I’d netted a bottle. I had to cut a trip short to pick it up before a deadline, but I made it just in time and collected my prize (at a price of $8.50 for one 12-ouncer). Now all I needed was a good excuse to drink it. 

That didn’t take long, partly because I’m impatient, but also thanks in part to a special someone providing the perfect opportunity. You see, banana-creme pie has been my favorite dessert since I was a little kid. My grandmother used to bring one to every holiday gathering and I was the only one who ate it, but I couldn’t get enough. When I got word that pies were being baked, and one of them was a homemade banana-creme, I knew that the time was right. Besides, what other kind of beer do you pair with a creme pie?

So I jumped on the opportunity, which was easy to do given the circumstances. Fresh pie, Bourbon County Stout, pretty girl… The decision was made for me. And the pairing didn't disappoint in the least as the beer lived up to expectations and fresh banana-creme was divine. 

Bourbon County Barrel-Aged Stout - Goose Island Brewing Company

  • Appearance: nearly pitch-black, no foam and some coca-cola-colored lacing (4.5)
  • Smell: booze, particularly bourbon, some chocolate and perhaps vanilla, really enticing (4.75)
  • Taste: chocolate and bourbon are the first notes, but there's more underneath, like roasted malt, vanilla, a hint of tartness and maybe molasses (4.5)
  • Mouthfeel: almost no carbonation, full bodied, very warm and smooth, a drier than expected finish (4.5)
  • Overall: nothing short of magnificent. It's the kind of beer that changes your perception of what a beer can be (in a good way!). Just a decadent, smooth, sweet, tart playground for the palate (4.75)

On its own, the beer was exquisite and completely decadent. Paired with banana-creme, it mellowed slightly and changed in complexion somewhat, becoming noticeable less tart, having some of the oak/bourbon disappear and the dry finish become a little more wet. Together, these were a great pair as far as I could tell. I’m not a pairing pro, but I like to think I have a decent palate, and this worked for me. I had the first half of my glass on it’s own before pairing with pie, but I’m curious how you’d play this.

So I’ll kick it to you, the reader: what else would you pair with a beer like this? Would you pair anything at all? Feel free to drop a recommendation in the comments below and let’s discuss how to pair a world-class stout!