Thursday, April 2, 2015

Founders KBS: my all-time favorite beer

Founders KBS 003I always consider the last week of March and the first week of April to be "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," for many reasons. Firstly, both the college hockey and basketball playoffs are happening. Secondly, Founders Brewing Company traditionally releases their world renown "KBS" (a.k.a. "Kentucky Breakfast Stout") or or around April 1st.

I first got to try this beer in the summer of 2011 when a friend from Michigan sent me a bottle in a trade. I reviewed it for my 500th episode of my YouTube series Chad'z Beer Reviews. I loved it at the time and I knew it was among the best beers I'd ever had. You can read my text review of that 2011 bottle here.

(NOTE: I'm aware that I look like Egon from Ghostbusters in this video - why did I comb my hair like that? I also weighed about 40lbs more at the time.)

About a year later I was able to procure another bottle, but waited until September of 2012 to review it. I still enjoyed it immensely, but it seemed to taste different from what I'd remembered:

In 2013, Founders KBS finally made its way to the Capital District in both bottles and kegs, but in short supply. The Factory Eatery in Ballston Spa was the first venue to have a keg of it, which they were selling for $10 a glass. As soon as I heard it was available I brought my friend Shaun with me to try it with lunch:

I enjoyed it so much that I went back a week later with a bottle to do a blind tasting of the bottled version versus the draught version. This time I went with my friend Don from Albany Brew Crafters:

In 2014 I managed to score four bottles from three different stores, but I didn't do a video or text review. This year, I managed to acquire eight bottles from three stores (I was shocked that Albany Beverage Corp. was willing to sell me an entire four-pack! Wow, thanks!). I decided to give it yet another re-review last night in the form of both video and text (which you can read here).

It was still outstanding as always, but there's always a slightly disappointing feeling drinking this every year because it never seems to be absolutely mind-blowing like it was the first time in 2011. Perhaps certain years' brews are better than others, or maybe I just tend to romanticize my memories. Either way, I think Founders KBS probably is the best beer I've ever had and I'll gladly pay $24.99 for a four-pack once a year for it, but that's the only "Whale Hunting" I'll do anymore. I probably could've gotten even more, but eight bottles is more than enough for me. I'll certainly consider trading my extras if anyone would like to make an offer.

I should also point out that Founders KBS is not a beer that ages well. It's brewed with coffee and chocolate and both of these ingredients will fade. In fact, coffee tends to be quite perishable and will begin to develop a jalapeno-like flavor after a few months. Chocolate will simply fade away completely. In fact, if you watch my review of the 2012 bottle (which was shot in September of that year) I mentioned that these flavors had faded and the beer had begun to taste more like a traditional imperial stout with that classic black/sour grape flavor (Stone IRS thrives on that flavor component). It baffles me whenever I see people offering vintage bottles of this for trade, or whenever a "vertical tasting" of various years' vintages is held - of course the freshest bottle is always the best - its flavors haven't faded yet! But I suppose if you don't like chocolate and/or coffee in your beer, then by all means cellar away.
  1. Would you recommend aging Founders KBS?
  2. How does a vintage bottle compare to a fresh bottle?
  3. To what lengths will you go (or have you gone) to get it?
  4. What's your all-time favorite beer?

P.S. Here's a fun way to make any stout seem like a bourbon barrel-aged stout. Take some bourbon and swirl it around a snifter or other stemmed glassware for a minute or so. Then pour the bourbon back in the bottle (or pour it into another glass and drink it later). Now, pour a bottle of stout (or any style of beer, really) into the glass that held the bourbon. You'll notice it'll still have a pungent bourbon aroma and it should have a subtle bourbon flavor as well. I've tried different blends of bourbon to beer such as one tablespoon, teaspoon or even half a teaspoon but they tend to be too over-powering. This method, in my experience, works the best. Try it yourself.

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