I don’t typically do this, however I’m feeling irritated by the customer service response I got from Goose Island today.
A few nights ago my wife and I opened up the first of our two bottles of Goose Island’s 2015 Bourbon County Barleywine, only to discover that it tasted like someone who had just started brewing had managed to mostly follow the instructions to brew this beer, but hadn’t taken all precautions when keeping their environment clean (a subject I know about, from my own home brewing attempts). It was semi-soured, still bitter, and tasted vaguely tannic. The bourbon was there, but it didn’t help. I’ve had many intentionally soured barrel aged beers, and they can be great. This wasn’t great.
We couldn’t finish this beer. I looked online to see if this was an issue which was known, and it was. There was a public recall for the bottles of both the BC Barleywine and the BC Coffee Stout from January to February of this year. There is now an active refund for a number of batches of the regular BC stout as well as their Proprietor’s Reserve Stout. But the refund’s for the Barleywine expired in February ‘16 (these beers went on sale, and were bought, in November).
In years past I have aged my BC barleywine’s and stouts for years (I still have some from ‘13 and ‘14), and have sampled them as they have aged, just to get an idea of how they evolve and what is occurring with them. From experience I can tell you that the BC Barleywines are typically amazing after about 12-18 months and are usually awfully damn good before that. So I typically don’t even think about drinking them for quite a while until after purchase, and the beer label itself tells you that the beer “Develops in the bottle up to 5 years”, which encourages you to age these beers. Keep that in mind when you realize that they had a refund less than 2 months after these went on sale that expired less than 4 months after they went on sale.
This refund window is ridiculous and inappropriate for their product. It does not take into account the standard scenario for how these beers are bought and then consumed. So I wrote Goose Island a letter, included at the bottom of this post, and figured that it wouldn’t hurt to ask about the chances of a refund, especially given that we had no idea that a prior refund or issue even existed. And that these beers are brewed and created to be aged. I got the form letter response below:
Thank you contacting Goose Island Beer Company. We’re sorry but the deadline for 2015 Bourbon County Coffee and Barleywine refunds was Monday, February 29, 2016 as previously shared on the January 8, 2016 announcement. We’re sorry for any disappointment this may have caused you and hope that you respect our decision. Thanks for being a Goose Island fan.
I do not respect their decision. I feel that this decision was founded in something other than good faith, and that by sending a form email response to an impassioned plea to refund the purchase price of 1 beer (I bought two, but paid cash for the second one, so I only have a receipt for one. The store / bar where I bought them will honor a refund for the one with a receipt, which is customer service above and beyond what was expected from them. Huge props to Arizona Beer House).
This is the response from a company that doesn’t care about their customer who helped to get them where they are. I will not go so far as to say that I will never buy another bottle of Goose Island beer, or will ignore all BC releases going forward. But I will be cautious, and I will share this experience and tale when it is meaningful to do so. I’ve continued to enjoy them even as some of my friends have boycotted GI because of their ABINBEV ownership and their utterly tone deaf Macro Beer anti craft beer advertisement during the super bowl.
My letter to GI is below, and for the record, even though my 2015 Bourbon County Brand Stouts are not listed on the current recall, there is a flavor there which is less than ideal. It’s disappointing. These beers have been great in the past.
Last night my wife and I opened one of our two bottles of last year’s Bourbon County Barleywine bottles to celebrate her starting a new position at her school (she’s just becoming a teacher). We opened the bottle, took a drink, and instead of the simply sumptuous flavors which we have experienced in years past, we had something that was sour, weird, and not right at all for a barleywine. After a couple of quick google searches, I discovered that there was a recall for these beers back in January which expired in February.
I typically age these beers for at least a year (the last couple of years, these beers really truly hit their stride somewhere about a year in), but we wanted a beer that was appropriate for the occasion, and my wife loves BA Barleywines. For this reason, and the fact that you know that these beers are meant to be aged, the short duration of the recall seems inappropriate and incongruous with your other active recall for the BCBS from similar dates. The bottles state that these beers are meant to develop in the bottle for up to 5 years, and I had no way of knowing about the recall until I looked for it.
I would like some sort of refund for these bottles, as your recall seems far too short for such a type of beer. I do have the receipt for one of the two bottles I got, and the place of purchase will issue a refund for that bottle, but this leaves me with one bottle which I am out. Fortunately, the BCBS I have does not appear to be part of the recall, but I’ll be trying one of them to see if mine are ok.
I understand that brewing beer is an art form, and that it is also a science (both exact and inexact, because it’s an art form) and I truly enjoy beers from all corners of the world. I appreciate what you have continuously brought to the world and hope that we can come to an understanding.
Untappd link for beer drinking bona fides: https://untappd.com/user/gamecat23…