One of the craft beer world’s most coveted annual releases is brewed in Chicago, Ill. by Goose Island Brewing Company. But, the story of how Bourbon County Brand Stout is comes to be does not just take place there. As a new and beautifully shot, documentary commissioned by the brewery shows, The story winds its way through the distilleries of Kentucky and the white oak forest of Missouri’s Ozark Mountains. The documentary was shot over the course of a year and recounts the hard work so many people put in to create Goose Island’s masterful brew.
Bourbon County Brand Stout first saw the light of day in 2004 as the result of Goose Island’s first experimentation with barrel-aging in 2004. But, the story of this legendary beer began in 1992 when brewmaster Greg Hall wanted to brew something truly unique for the the then Goose Island brewpub’s 1,000th batch, he just needed inspiration. Then a chance encounter between Greg and Jim Beam’s Booker Noe led to Goose Island acquiring the barrels for what was to become the world’s first bourbon barrel aged beer. In 1992 Greg Hall, wanted to brew something truly unique for the brewpub’s 1,000th batch, he just needed inspiration. That first year the brew was in limited supply and the brewery had to entice bar-owners to put the highly-alcoholic beer on taps. In November 2008, Goose Island made news when a small batch of Bourbon County Brand Stout became available for the first time in Western states. Categorized as a Russian Imperial Stout, it was cask-conditioned in oak Bourbon barrels from the likes Elijah Craig 18 Year Old Single barrel bourbon, 25-year-old Pappy Van Winkle bourbon or Jim Beam Bourbon barrels.
Back to the documentary though. Because Bourbon County Brand Stout is such a labor intensive product and so many hands touch that process, Goose Island thought it would be a good idea to make a documentary that illustrated just how this remarkable beer is made. From the loggers who harvest the white oak that coopers use to make bourbon barrels to the master distillers that fill those barrels with bourbon and use them only once. The film follows the thought process of how the idea for the beer came about and the highly inefficient process — the yield of each batch is only about 60% — and how variants of the beer are brainstormed and chosen.
In all, the documentary titled Grits & Grain consists of nine chapters that will be released each Friday leading up to this year’s Black Friday release date. Music for the entire movie was provided by folk band The Black Oil Brothers. You can few the first chapter of Grits & Grains below. Watch for future chapters on the brewery’s YouTube page.