Eighty-five feet below Grand Rapids, Michigan, may not seem like a beer lover’s paradise, but it is exactly where a beloved craft beer whale is born. Founders Brewing Company sends an imperialized version of its delicious Breakfast Stout down below to become the “highly acclaimed” Kentucky Breakfast Stout. A year underground aging in bourbon barrels provides more than a hint of bourbon with all of its oak, charred, boozy, vanilla complexity.
Founders pairs those flavors with two kinds of Belgian Chocolate and local coffee to create a rich tasting stout whose release is practically a national beer holiday. KBS gets its own week on the calendar marked by brewery bottle releases, taproom tastings and keg tappings across Michigan. The formerly hard-to-come-by offering is now available across Founders national distribution, which means it had no trouble making its way to shelves in my flyover state.
Like its sister beer Canadian Breakfast Stout, KBS pours a totally opaque black in my snifter with a finger of thick brown head. Taking a glance at the glass and the 12.3% ABV makes me glad that Founders released KBS in 12-ounce bottles in addition to the 750-ml variety.
Founders has achieved near perfection with another release of Kentucky Breakfast Stout.”
That booziness is present on the nose, but it is a welcome balance to the strong chocolate and coffee notes that flood the senses. The coffee and chocolate aromas bounce between the sweet and bitter qualities of each, with plenty of oak and char playing alongside them.
The flavors in KBS are incredible and abundant. Roasted coffee, sweet chocolate, hot bourbon and oak char almost overwhelm the palate. Bitter chocolate balances notes of dark fruit in the coffee and hints of vanilla and leather from the bourbon barrel. It’s one thing to bring the distinct flavor of coffee, chocolate and bourbon to a beer. In KBS, Founders has brought multiple flavors out of each.
All of this flavor plays over a mouthfeel that both supports and stays out of the way. KBS is on the lighter side of full bodied, with none of the syrupy thickness that can come along with the style. An ample dose of carbonation helps lighten the beer as well and tickles the tongue a little more than in most bourbon barrel aged stouts.
Maybe a touch more thickness would give the flavors time to develop on the palate? Maybe I’m just surprised all of the best bourbon barrel-aged stout flavors can be achieved in a beer this (relatively) easy drinking. What is not surprising at all is that Founders has achieved near perfection with another release of Kentucky Breakfast Stout.