On the first days of April, beer nerds begin a hunt for “the best” barrel aged coffee stout, Founder’s KBS. Or at least that’s what most beer nerds say is “the best.” Others say KBS is good, but it’s all about Sunday Morning Stout, or Big Bad Baptist, or Bourbon County Brand Coffee Stout, and the list of “the best” goes on and on.
Deciding that there had been enough talk about “the best” barrel aged coffee stout we put them all to a blind taste test. Here are our results!
When I talked to bottle shop and bar owners about my series on the 3 tier system one of their concerns and challenges was dealing with beer allocations. Each store generally only gets so much of each beer. Craft breweries are just too popular and too small to fulfill every demand for their beer in every store in every state. So read on to learn more about beer allocations and, most importantly, for the master magician (that’s me) to reveal his secrets on getting those rarer beers!
If you haven’t heard of Founders CBS I don’t blame you. If you haven’t heard of Founders then I am very sorry for you. Founders is a fantastic brewery out of Grand Rapids, Michigan that makes a range of amazing beers. The story of CBS starts with their winter seasonal Breakfast Stout. Founders Breakfast Stout is released from October through February and should be found in most better beer stores in most of the eastern half of this country. It’s a delicious oatmeal stout with flavors of chocolate and coffee, if you haven’t had it go out and buy it now.
Every April Founders releases KBS (Kentucky Breakfast stout). It is only available in the best (best at selling Founders that is) beer stores and you will likely need to enter a raffle or know someone at the store to get it. To make KBS Founders takes the Breakfast Stout and [correction: KBS is not exactly the same recipe as Breakfast Stout, just very similar] ages it in bourbon barrels for a full year. So you get all that awesome coffee, chocolate, and oatmeal action found in the Breakfast Stout plus the oak and vanilla attributes brought on by bourbon barrels.
Once, one single time, in 2011 Founders released CBS (Canadian Breakfast Stout). Instead of using standard 2nd use bourbon barrels (once for bourbon, once for beer) like they do with KBS they used 3rd use bourbon barrels that had been used to age bourbon, then used to age maple syrup, then used to age beer. Yep, bourbon maple syrup, I’d love to try that stuff. The maple syrup added more sweetness and complexity on top of an already complex and succulent beer. Here is Founders short blurb on this beer:
Canadian Breakfast Stout is an Imperial Stout brewed with a blend of coffees and imported chocolates, then aged in spent bourbon barrels that have most recently been aging pure Michigan maple syrup. The final product has had stellar reviews and is usually among the top 5 highest rated beers in the world on BeerAdvocate.
Founders CBS has become an unobtainable white whale for many craft beer aficionados out there. It’s so rare that in my 3 years of trading beer I have never once seen it offered for trade though many people are in search of it. I had honestly given up my hope of every having this beer until my annual trip to visit my family in Atlanta over Thanksgiving led us to The Brick Store Pub. The Brick Store Pub has an obscene cellar list that includes a bottle of CBS for $150 dollars! Though $100 of that goes to charity, so I rationalized this purchase because I always give around $100 to charity around the holidays but hadn’t yet this year. Thus that $100 took care of my yearly charity donation and I got CBS!! Enough of that, on to the beer!
Back in the heady days (of 2 weeks ago) when folks (or just me) were hounding around town trying to track down every last bottle of Founder’s KBS (my review) Josh told me to look for Epic’s Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout. This is a bourbon or whiskey, barrel aged beer just like KBS and from what I’ve been told it has a very similar profile. Luckily though, unlike KBS, it’s much more available much more often. I scored this bottle at Arrow Wine & Liquor up in Centerville and they had 2 more bottles left. Each batch of the Big Bad Baptist is slightly different than the others and this one, batch #10, has the following:
Big Bad Baptist Imperial Stout #10
Brewed on August 24, 2012. Packaged November 15, 2012.
This release was aged in both whiskey and bourbon barrels, primarily first-use whiskey casks, and second-use bourbon casks. Additional dark chocolate and fruit flavors mingle with the whiskey and bourbon notes.
Muntons Maris Otter Malt, Briess 2-Row Brewer Malt, Crystal Muntons, Weyermann Light Munich Malt T1, 2-Row chocolate malt, 2-row black malt, roasted barley
Ibis Coffee (Gayo Mountain Sumatra Dark) and Cocoa Nibs.
The following are my thoughts from the Founders “tap takeover” at the Moerlein Lager house. I say “tap takeover” since only the All Day & Red’s Rye were on tap, everything else was poured out of bottles. Also these aren’t as in depth as my usual reviews due to the nature of the sampling process and the possible alterations the Moerlein pretzels could have on my palate (by the way, if you haven’t had the pretzels at the lager house you must! They are fantastical).
Lastly before we get to the reviews, if you missed out on the lager house action last night don’t fret. Next Thursday at the Burgers and beer event at the Party Source they’ll have KBS on draft + growler fills. If you’re reading this it’s safe to say you like good beer and so I must enthusiastically tell you to get to the Party Source and try the KBS, I may be there just trying to get a growler fill of it.