Kentucky Fog is the newest addition to Goose Island’s renown Bourbon County Stout lineup. It marks the first time the brewery has used tea in one of their BCS variants. Named after the once-favorite beverage of hipsters everywhere, the London Fog (Earl Grey tea with honey and steamed milk), Kentucky Fog infuses the BCS base stout with clover honey from The Honey House and a combination of cold-brewed Black and Earl Grey teas from Kilogram Tea.
“I have been working to blend the flavors of tea and BCS for years. With characteristics like liquorish, molasses and Tobacco, tea’s inherent complexity was one of the biggest challenges,” says Paul Cade, Kentucky Fog Stout Brewer. “Earl Gray, a blend of black tea and bergamot oils, presented an interesting opportunity, a way to bring the rich deep flavors of tea and balance that with the brighter bergamot characteristics like citrus, floral and herbal. Sharing my trials with Martha and the rest of the tea lovers at goose island has been my favorite part of the production of the variant. I owe each of them for helping me get to the final product and I look forward to sharing it with the rest of the world soon.”
Early reviews of Kentucky Fog showed that this variant was the most divisive of the 2020 lineup. Many reviewers loved it; many reviewers hated it. I love beers that are challenging and complex, and I love black tea; so I’m excited to crack this one open.
style: Imperial Barrel Aged Stout
malts: 2-Row, Black, Caramel, Chocolate, Munich-10, Roasted Barley
Kentucky Fog pours like oil into the tulip – obsidian black, thick, and sticky – and is topped by a bubbly, foamy dark khaki head that almost immediately loses retention and dissipates.
The aroma is enormous. Big scents of roasted malts, chocolate, black tea, honey, and oak waft out of the glass and fill the air.
Taking my first few sips the beer’s flavor and presence are enormous as well. This would typically come as no surprise, being a barrel-aged imperial stout. But the addition of the Earl Grey tea makes it that much more powerful. Its mouthfeel is thick, sticky, and viscous; and it absolutely envelops my palate. There’s very little carbonation, and its finish is long and lingering, with a bit of dryness (from the tea, I surmise).
But what really throws me are the flavors in this beer. I expected Kentucky Fog to taste like an imperial stout with black tea nuances. I expected it to be bitter and dry – like black tea. I did not expect the beer to be sweet, and I certainly didn’t expect the beer to be fruity. Yes – fruity. I feel like I might be crazy saying this, but in addition to the flavors of roasted chocolate malts, licorice, charred oak, honey, graham cracker, and bergamot, I’m also getting flavors of melon, citrus, and Froot Loops.
There are two words that come to mind when thinking of Goose Island Beer Company: adventurous and accessible. These are also words I’d use to summarize Kentucky Fog.
This beer is one of a kind. And after trying it for myself I can understand how polarizing other reviewers find it. I don’t know what kind of alchemy unfolded with the stout, cold-brewed tea, and honey inside that whiskey barrel, but those ingredients created one of the most surprising beers I’ve ever had.
My advice is to go into this beer with an open mind; without any preconceived notions about how it should or shouldn’t taste. Personally, I loved it. It’s a beer I’d drink over and over. But I understand that it might just be too weird for many palates to get past.
What were your thoughts of this one? Comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome! Contact me, or enter a comment below.