Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout 2017

Beer aficionados wait all year for this annual release

Barrel-aged beer might be a growing trend—and is even spilling into the wine world—but for the best, you have to go straight to the source.

We're talking about Goose Island, a pioneer of bourbon barrel-aged beer ever since the first release in 1992. For more than 20 years now, pros and casual drinkers alike have looked forward to the special annual release of the Chicago brewery's Bourbon County Brand Stouts—and the 2017 lineup is no exception.

There's everything from the original, which the brewery calls "a liquid as dark and dense as a black hole," to a coffee stout made with Intelligentsia Black Cat Espresso. We're most excited about the Northwoods Stout, whose blueberry and almond flavors might not read like your typical beer, but they're a combo Goose Island brewmaster Jared Jankoski has had stuck in his head for years, finally coming to fruition in the form of a smooth dark beer with a nutty edge that was aged in five-to-seven-year-old bourbon barrels.

Some of these are so exclusive you'll have to be in Chicago or Kentucky to get a taste, like the Proprietor's Brand Stout, whose flavor brings bananas Foster to mind. There's also the Reserve, a special collaboration with Knob Creek that nods to the original BCBS releases and was aged in 11-year-old bourbon barrels from the Kentucky distiller. At nearly 15 percent ABV, it'll be just the thing to induce a necessary post-Black Friday nap.

Call them beer for bourbon drinkers or bourbon-forward drinks that would satisfy beer lovers. Or just call the release what it is: one of the best excuses to drink a beer this weekend.