Meeting and Exceeding the Hype
A Review of KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) by Founders Brewing Co.
Posted on 1/28/2013 by Chops
                   
Exquisite
Hype can be a very potent weapon in the craft beer world. All it takes is for a handful of beer aficionados to single out a particular nectar as something truly special. Just like that, a beer craze is born. Of course, there is one very big drawback to this process: beer crazes rarely live up to the hype. Great they certainly can be, but I've learned to curb any naive excitement. As we all know, the worst letdowns are the ones you went into with an overabundance of expectation. That being said, sometimes a beer can come along that not only meets those expectations, but far exceeds them. The Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) is one such beer.

KBS is a seasonal release for April and is extremely difficult to get your hands on. Small batches + worthy beer craze = long lines on release day. I was lucky enough this past season (2012) to score a 4-pack at the annual KBS lottery at my local beer store. Yes, KBS is so popular that acquiring some requires a randomized ticketing system. The pack has been aging in my beer cabinet ever since. But recently my curiosity got the better of me and I opened my first bottle of this glorious nectar.

Per Founders: ''What we've got here is an imperial stout brewed with a massive amount of coffee and chocolates, then cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels for an entire year to make sure wonderful bourbon undertones come through in the finish. Makes your taste buds squeal with delight.''

What a woefully lackadaisical description. There should be some sort of reference to knees buckling and the word ''orgasmic'' should be used at least three times.

In the glass, this beer has a stark black coloration and pours like used motor oil. It comes with a thin coppery head that dissipates quickly, even with an aggressive pour. At this point I had to huff and shake my head because I knew I was about to do battle with a behemoth. KBS is dark as night, menacing as hell, and flat out demands your respect. On the nose, I found a rich sweet bourbon aroma, but without a significant alcohol burn. It's more of a gentle warming than nostril assault. Resting underneath are layers of black coffee roast and savory dark chocolates. The aromatic bouquet is beautifully balanced and very enticing, which was a lovely surprise for the style. I spent a several minutes just taking deep whiffs and allowing my eyes to roll back into my head.

Much to my surprise, it was the mouthfeel that first caught my attention. It's very strange (in a good way) and takes a while to get used to. It is silky smooth and almost creamy to start. Then out of nowhere the middle ground morphs into a harsh and bitter coffee roast. The beer switches gears again for the finish and exits like a dry shot of bourbon. It's a wild wide, so best to prepare yourself for it.

The sweet bourbon is central to the flavor profile and is focused without being overpowering. It allows the rich black coffee roasts and dark chocolates to peddle influence without distraction. Again, the take home word here is ''balance''. KBS is unbelievably balanced for such a huge barrel aged stout. It's amazing drinkable at a hefty 11.2% ABV and somehow retains a high level of approachability. This of course is a big reason why it gained so much notoriety. I should also note that KBS gains a syrupy quality as it warms, so take your time with it and enjoy a lengthy sipping session.

Overall, the Founders KBS is an exquisite brew and a champion of the barrel aged beer style. It's a beer you feel privileged to acquire and doubly privileged to sample. Needless to say, I recommend KBS to any fan of better beer. Although, and it pains me to say it, but I have to steer novices away from this beer. Drinking KBS without a proper appreciation is a waste of KBS. If you are lucky enough to acquire KBS as a novice, then I highly advise storing it somewhere dark and forgettable. Start honing your palate. Explore the vast gamut of beer styles. Build an appreciation of imperial ales and barrel aged beers. Then on that inevitable day when you find yourself becoming bored (early onset of drinker's fatigue), come back to that bottle of KBS. A single sip will permanently reignite your sense of craft beer wonder.

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KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout) by Founders Brewing Co.
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