Overhyped, overrated, overpriced; yes you are reading that right. I am using all of those words to describe Kentucky Breakfast Stout by Founders Brewing Co. Sorry not sorry, it is true. Maybe, just maybe, at one point in a lot of peoples eyes this was the best Bourbon Barrel Aged stout in the game. It never was for me, I certainly held it in higher regard back between 2012-2014 when less breweries were doing BBA Stouts really well.
So why the article? No I am not bashing Founders, I actually really like Founders and despite writing this article there is a good chance I will buy a KBS at some point this year (I have a few in my cellar from past years). I just have had this feeling toward KBS for a few years now and have talked and ranted about it to friends of mine in the community and while some agree off the bat, some don’t and I feel like my opinion toward this beer is important and not one people always want to explore. So we are exploring it!
Overrated seems harsh. Yeah, maybe it comes off as harsh. Don’t think I am saying KBS is a bad beer, that would be harsh and also not true. KBS is a great beer, but people hold it in such high regard and hence I find overrated to be the right word. Like I mentioned above, just think of all the breweries doing great BBA Stouts. Even just regionally here in Chicago so many breweries are doing amazing things with barrel aging beers. Here are some easy quick examples of barrel aged beers I rank higher than KBS in the Chicagoland area; Pipeworks The Jones/Hyper Dog, Transient Kentuckley, Revolution Deth’s Tar, Half Acre BA Big Hugs. I could make a really long list, but that seems unnecessary and overkill. You get the point, I guarantee you can do the same for whatever region you are in. Every year KBS just becomes a little less special and less unique. So many other breweries are cracking the code and making top tier BBA Stouts. Even Founders makes a better BBA beer in my opinion and I will get to that later. What I am saying is that I do not think in the year 2018 KBS is worthy of garnering the attention it gets as one of the biggest beer releases of the year.
KBS represents a lot of what is wrong with beer releases on a national scale. Founders is the largest independent craft brewery in the US. They can’t and don’t do anything on a small scale anymore. Every year they release Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS), the beer this article is about, an imperial stout aged in Bourbon Barrels. Despite it’s name it is not just a barrel aged version of Founder’s Breakfast Stout (a beer I actually love), the base beer for KBS is allegedly similar to FBS but has differences. The release of KBS every year marks a frenzy for everyone from beer snobs to casual beer drinkers to snatch up as much as they can. Hitting multiple stores in a day to grab each stores bottle limit and hoarding as much of it as possible. That sucks. I get why people do it and I am sure I have done something similar in the past but stockpiling a beer just because you can is dumb. That seems like a topic for another article. The release of KBS is just a larger scale version of a beer release at a brewery. Some people are able to get there, stand in line and walk out with the beer they desperately want to try while others are not. If you are not able to get to your local store the day they receive KBS within hours of them receiving it you are not going to get it. Walking in to a store and finding a readily available beer that you are excited to drink is awesome and that seems to rarely be the norm these days. Beer releases are now stressful by nature.
Founders are the masters of building hype. Founders rides the KBS hype train every year and now more than ever the hype can grow and extend to people who are even just getting into craft beer or are more casual beer drinkers because of how big they are. Their marketing and advertising team kill it, they make all their beers seem like you need to get them and if you don’t you are a craft beer leper. When hype is dying for a certain brand of theirs they stash it away a while and let it build back up until people are begging for those beers to return to the lineup (Double Trouble and CBS). I mean I was on the CBS hype train for sure, I was at the brewery picking up my bottle allotment. KBS has never not been in demand, every single year that beer sells out without a doubt. Sure you can argue that it is because the beer is so good that missing it if you are a craft beer fan is the end of the world. It is more that we are all almost conditioned every year that we are doing something wrong if we consider ourselves craft beer fans/nerds and we aren’t going out and trying to get KBS. As Founders has grown they have continued to make more and more KBS and it continues to still sellout every single year. Can’t knock them for building that kind of hype and maintaining it.
Is KBS worth buying? Short answer, no not really. You are going to pay probably $20-$25/4 pack best case scenario or anywhere from $7-$10 for a single bottle. KBS is one of the most price gouged beers. Don’t overpay for it, if it is more than $25/4 pack go somewhere else, that place obviously sucks and you should not support them. If you want a great barrel aged beer from Founders buy Backwoods Bastard. That beer is ALWAYS readily available, cheaper ($15/4pack) and is far superior in my opinion. It just isn’t KBS and doesn’t have the hype behind it so people don’t line up to buy it. I am pretty sure they announced it is available year round now as well so there you go. I will say for new craft beer drinkers I think drinking KBS is an important step in the process of building your craft beer resume. You need to check the classics off your list and KBS isn’t a must have in my opinion but it is certainly an important beer in the grand scheme of craft beer history. If you want to drink KBS do it at a bottle share, they pop up pretty regularly at those or grab it on draft somewhere, it is always popping up places on draft in Chicago.