Founders KBS vs. Founders Breakfast Stout
What do Kentucky and Michigan have in common? Probably a lot, but I’m not an expert on either. I’m simply trying to find a way to lead into an article about a beer. Founders Brewing Company is a craft beer brewery based out of the Grand Rapids area of Michigan. They are the makers of some of my favorite brews like Old Curmudgeon, Porter, Dirty Bastard and Centennial IPA to name a few. They’re no stranger when it comes to the Stout game either. Their Imperial Stout is one of my favorites. While that is one of the better beers I have had, Founders knows how to brew others Stouts as well. Breakfast Stout is a benchmark beer when it comes to flavored Stouts. Imagine an Oatmeal Stout that has been kicked in the ass by some coffee and milk chocolate (sorry vegans, I did say milk). This beer is a complex variety of flavors balanced by not only a superb grain bill, but quality secondary ingredients as well. In other words, it’s good. Now, take that beer and age it in bourbon barrels for about a year… the result is something amazing.
While this is not the first year that Founder’s has released their KBS, this is the first chance I’ve had to write about it. Kentucky Breakfast Stout is an annual treat that is slightly different every year. The subtleties are hard to notice, and thank God I am not comparing this years from years past. If you’re not sure what a bourbon barrel aged beer is, then I guess you have a hard time reading in between the lines, because it is exactly that. Take a beer, hopefully a good one, put it into a used bourbon barrel, and let it sit there for a while. The result is a base beer that has adopted many characteristics from the bourbon that was in the barrel before it. Many breweries use this technique to make mediocre beers a little better, Founder’s does not. As I stated earlier, they take a fantastic beer, and make it a little different.
I started this whole taste test thing wrong from the beginning. I was caught up in the whole hype of KBS and ordered it first. If I could do it over again, obviously I would have ordered the standard Breakfast Stout first. Anyway, my opinion may be a little tainted because of the sequence of events. KBS and Breakfast Stout both look the same. Both were very dark beers with a khaki colored head. Everything else, from aroma to taste was different. KBS hits you with the huge aroma of bourbon. Vanilla and oak, cola and booze bombard your nostrils, while Breakfast Stout seems a little subdued. I’ve had Breakfast Stout in the past, and just so you know, on its own, it’s far from simple. After drinking KBS though, all I get from the original beer was the sweet scent of lactose sugar, coffee and chocolate. Again, on its own it is the basis for a great beer. Flavor comparison is a little complicated as well. Both beers have the smoothness of an Oatmeal Stout, both have tons of milk chocolate and coffee. KBS however adds the element of bourbon once more. Sweet but not overly, oaky but not too dry, this beer was made for bourbon. Founders did a good job not making the bourbon too overpowering with KBS, something I feel they did with another beer of theirs, Backwoods Bastard. In a nutshell, the flavor of both brews are very well balanced. I lied when I said appearance was the only thing these two beers had in common. Mouthfeel is very similar too. Both beers, in my opinion, could be a little thicker, but are far from disappointing. KBS with its 11.2% abv was obviously boozier than Breakfast Stout weighing in at 8.3%, but I’m not complaining.
Overall, it is hard to say which one I liked better. Breakfast stout is an awesome beer, I gave it a 4.5 on Untappd. If you look at my check-ins, I only gave KBS a 4. To me, Breakfast Stout is an easy to drink, great Double Stout. KBS on the other hand is just as good, but I’m not sure if it’s quite the “all around” brew that the original is. All the hype and mayhem that surrounds KBS may have diminished my opinion a little, and by little, I mean, very little. I love both of these beers, I just like Breakfast Stout a little more, and that’s fortunate for me. If you can get your hands on KBS, get one, but if you can’t it’s ok. You really can’t lose with either.