Founders – Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) Review

KBSAll You Need to Know

Brewery: Founders Brewing Co.
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 11.2%
Cost: $8 (10oz)
Glassware: Snifter
Temp: 55°F
Availability: April
Purchased@: Federal Taphouse

Quick Take: It is a really easy-drinking bourbon coffee stout, but is that really enough for a beer held in such high regard? This seems like a high ABV barrel-aged stout for people that don’t like their stouts too strong or assertive. The aroma is so wonderful and promises such a fantastic beer, but the taste just doesn’t follow through on it. Given the overwhelmingly positive reaction to this beer, I feel like I need to have it again to either verify my thoughts on it or possibly develop a new take. The exclusivity and cost of this doesn’t seem to match the experience, at least for me. As it stands, it’s a good, not fantastic, beer, but one I would get again were it readily available.


Brew Facts: Founders cave-ages KBS (you can taste the stalactites) in bourbon barrels for an entire year. It also has a variation of KBS, called CBS (Canadian Breakfast Stout). CBS is made in a similar fashion, but it is bourbon barrel-aged in a barrel that recently had maple syrup in it. Unfortunately, CBS is a rare bird to find as it was last released in 2011 and is no longer brewed (to my knowledge).

Appearance: In my determination to finally try the KBS, I’m one of the few people there to open the bar and get the first few pours. When it arrives in front of me, it’s a bewitching motor oil black with a surprisingly light tan/brown head, what little there is. The surface is fairly still and this looks like it is going to be a dense molasses of roasty malt goodness. I expected a richer, frothier chocolate brown head on it, but not much else to say. Dark beer looks dark.

Aroma: I immediately smell creamy lactose, coffee roast, molasses and just a sweet wisp of chocolate. Diving in again reveals a touch of buttery vanilla. The coffee roast is reminiscent of Founders Breakfast Stout and mixes well with the other elements while remaining distinct. It’s a lovely aroma that encapsulates this darkly sweet imperial stout without becoming too indulgent.

Taste/Mouth Feel: The initial sip is syrupy thick and heavy with some mouth-coating oiliness to it. Not quite as swamp water thick as BCBS, but damn close. After a few more sips, it seems to thin out a bit as it warms. I’m really taken aback, yes aback, by how mild the flavors are. Tangy raisin works with the light coffee roast and the bourbon and wood make a timid appearance. A touch of warming booze sweeps in on the finish, leading to a baker’s chocolate. That bitter chocolate is rather dry and chalky, hanging around on the tongue long after the other elements fade. Timid is probably the best way to describe the flavors here. Every element hangs back and I really want some flavor or quality to assert itself (other than that chalky finish). The bourbon, coffee, chocolate, and roast, all of it hangs back and nothing steps up to take this beer over the top. This could benefit from a richer sweetness to combat the saliva sucking dryness of the bourbon.

Final Thoughts: When talking about a hugely-lauded beer, there can be a tendency to hit on either end of the beer review pendulum. You have to walk a fine line to avoid coming into the experience looking to take down a giant or so blinded by the hype that the beer can never match the expectations (it is just a beer after all). I definitely came into this hyped-up and ready to be blown away by a luxurious, rich, full-bodied bourbon barrel-aged stout. Perhaps due to these expectations, what I had was disappointing.

It is a really easy-drinking bourbon coffee stout, but is that really enough for a beer held in such high regard? This seems like a high ABV barrel-aged stout for people that don’t like their stouts too strong or assertive. The aroma is so wonderful and promises such a fantastic beer, but the taste just doesn’t follow through on it. Given the overwhelmingly positive reaction to this beer, I feel like I need to have it again to either verify my thoughts on it or possibly develop a new take. The exclusivity and cost of this doesn’t seem to match the experience, at least for me. As it stands, it’s a good, not fantastic, beer, but one I would get again were it readily available.

UPDATE: I was able to have this again on draft and confirmed my thoughts on the 2014 edition. Good, not great, beer that has smooth but timid bourbon flavors and a chalky dry roast coffee finish. There are enough positives that I will seek this out again to see what the 2015 version is like, but my pursuit will be far more laid back. I’m also aging a bottle of this, so I’ll be interested to see how it changes.

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2 thoughts on “Founders – Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) Review

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