REVIEW: KENTUCKY BREAKFAST STOUT
Origin United States
Ageing One year
Cask Dark oak bourbon barrels
Beer Type Imperial Stout
With a shelf life from 15 minutes (if advertised on social media) to a couple of hours (that is if it even made to the shelf); I can consider myself one of the luckiest men to get my hands on a KBS: the last bottle in my local.
The Kentucky Bourbon Stout or KBS from Founders Brewery Co. lives to its lore.
Founders Brewing Company took shape in 1997 when two beer enthusiasts, Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers both with steady jobs decided to chase their dream and open a brewery. They quit their jobs, took huge loans, built a brewery and start the first batch, all this while the first child of Mike Stevens was born.
After a few years of brewing a well-balanced but unremarkable beer, the business was nowhere near profitable, checks were bouncing and they were forced to sell non-crucial brewing equipment to pay the employees, including the filter. That is why they don’t filter their beer any more.
On the verge of bankruptcy the Founders team decided to change the game by brewing the type of beer that got them excited about brewing in the first place: complex, big body, with huge aromatics and tons of flavours. They initially aged Breakfast Stout in used Jack Daniels barrels but the original recipe needed to be refined as Mike and Dave states in an interview by Garret Ellison: “They switched up the recipe and used an imperial Russian stout with espresso beans and chocolate for the first formal batch. “It needed a much bigger backbone to hold up all the bourbon and vanilla notes,” said Engbers. For the first formal batch, they switched to oak bourbon barrels bought from what Stevens termed a “wandering barrel salesman.” That’s today’s recipe in a nutshell.”
Once the barrels are filled, they are put to rest in an old gypsum mine near Grand Rapids for a full year.
While pouring the KBS into the glass you will start to smell the roasted espresso beans and sweetness of the chocolate.
The colour is like many other imperial stouts: dark and opaque with a brown-toned foam. The foam quickly disappears after pouring, to my disappointment.
The nose is quite strong with vanilla, bourbon and chocolate hints, and the fresh smell of roasted espresso beans. I have to admit that this is my first aged stout. However, these notes are beautiful, elegant and complex.
When it first hits your tongue, your taste buds will be over-awed by the beer’s smooth chocolate, vanilla and oak flavours soon followed by a strong, dry bourbon finish. I never expected to taste so much vanilla and oak in a beer, coming from the barrel-aging process. But the notes are soft, silky and extremely well-balanced in a way that you want more and more of that flavour build-up. The strength is well-masked by the bourbon: even though the ABV is 11.8, you don’t realise it straight away although gradually it shows affect.
Unfortunately, I could not taste the espresso flavour enough—you can easily smell it more than taste it. I read other posts from 2015, by Pat Woodward, attesting the same thing and advising others not to chill their KBS if they want more coffee flavour. But that then leads to asking, can you drink a warm beer?
The KBS finish is long with a smooth bourbon flavour, which is absolute perfection. You are then, and surprisingly so, slapped with a dry hint of hops at the end, waking you up from your dream state. For me, this hops hit was a little bit unpleasant as I would have liked to continue enjoying its initial smooth finish.
The beer is very complex and rich with a full body and medium sweetness. But this can overwhelm you after 3-4 bottles (if you can drink that much).
All in all, this is one of the best stout beers I have ever tasted. If you are fortunate enough to get your hands on a bottle, I do not think you will be disappointed.
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