I was pretty thrilled to pick up my first ever bottle of Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout this year. The brewery released the much anticipated variant of its Breakfast Stout on December 1 with much acclaim from craft beer enthusiasts across Founders’ wide distribution.
Though there was a small employee release in 2014 followed by a keg only stint in 2015, this is the first full release of CBS since 2011. While I was certainly of drinking age that year, a $25 bottle of maple syrup barrel aged stout was neither on my radar nor in my budget. That made this year’s release my first real opportunity to taste the wonder of CBS.
In true Founders style, the brewery created Canadian Breakfast Stout almost by accident. Always with an eye on innovation and bold flavors, Founders came across bourbon barrels that previously aged maple syrup and decided it was a good idea to dump beer in them. The beer they chose was the base beer for their popular Kentucky Breakfast Stout (itself an imperial version of the regular Breakfast Stout).
Like many before it, this gamble has paid off for Founders in a big way as CBS is currently the 18th ranked beer on Untappd, and, if my social media feeds are any indication, a must buy and huge hit among the craft beer community.
The size of the bottle is intimidating. 750ml of 11.7% ABV that packs quite a punch, and me with no bottle shares on the calendar or drinking buddies available.
The look and aroma were equally intimidating. CBS is a still dark beer in the glass, nearly black and totally opaque. I would say it looks like black coffee with a head, but it is darker than black coffee. That head fades relatively fast, though it does cling to the glass.
It takes skill, patience and attention to detail to craft a mouthfeel like Founders did with CBS.”
The first smell wafting out of the bottle – even before pouring – is the 11.7% alcohol. In the glass, the aroma mellows slightly and the notes of sweet maple, vanilla, and chocolate play up. Those scents pair with some woody characteristics imparted from the barrel aging to form an aroma that has me excited for my first sip of Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout.
It’s a complex taste. Surprisingly, at least to me, the vanilla is forward and really the first clearly identifiable taste. The vanilla gives way to notes of anise, coffee, sweet chocolate, and maple. It’s the maple that’s really such a different taste for a stout, and it is the roasty sweet and wine-like phenolic qualities it brings to CBS that separates it from other excellent stouts in my mind.
A stout can be sweet to begin with, age it in maple syrup barrels and you have a recipe for a syrupy cloying beer. CBS manages to avoid that fate and remain balanced with a huge boozy punch, clear notes of wood and plenty of bitterness. The booziness is obviously present, but it’s rounded – not at all sharp. It folds in nicely with the sweetness for balance, never harshly spiking.
Supporting all of these flavors is a full bodied velvety smooth mouthfeel. For all of the barrel aging adjunct adding madness that consumes brewers when crafting imperial stouts, it’s the silky soft mouth coating goodness that separates the best from the mediocre. Dumping enough vanilla or coffee (or maple) into a beer will give it flavor, but it takes skill, patience and attention to detail to craft a mouthfeel like Founders did with CBS.
My first taste of Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout definitely didn’t disappoint – now if you’ll excuse me, I have two thirds of the bottle left to finish.