Unpopular Opinion: KBS is Overhyped

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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.

-HPMSNS

Beer Review: Founders ReDANKulous Imperial Red IPA

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For the thirteenth installment of their Backstage Series Founders has brought us ReDANKulous, an imperial red ipa packed with Mosaic, Citra and Chinook hops. The backstage series has been a really great series thus far and brought some of Founders best and most unique releases. ReDANKulous comes in at 9.5% ABV and 90 IBUs.

Appearance: Deep red, amber or even a light brown color. Nice big 2 finger head and some really sticky lacing down the glass.

Nose: Pretty juicy and fruity. Tons of tropical fruit and pine resin are what I pick up primarily. You also get some nice flowery, earthy and spicy hop aromas as well. Fair amount of caramel sweetness in there as well.

Taste/Mouth: Toasty and caramel malt flavors come to the forefront initially and are followed by a lot of piney, resiny hop flavors. You get some spicy and tropical fruit flavors from the hops as well. Super balanced and super drinkable despite the high IBU and ABV of this beer. The ABV is very well hidden under the balanced flavor, beer is way too crushable for the ABV.

Price/Availability: One off as part of the Backstage Series which is a rotating big beer series. All the Backstage beers are priced around $10 and this one was no different.

Overall: I am a huge fan of this style and I wish more breweries would explore it. This beer took home gold for it’s category at the 2015 GABF and it was well deserved. Would love to see Founders bring this one back in some way in the future as I would love to have it again. Pretty near perfect Imperial Red Ale.

Grade: A

Beer Review: Founder’s Backwoods Bastard Scotch Ale

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One of my favorite dark beer releases every year and one of my favorite beers to stick in the cellar. Founder’s Backwoods Bastard is their Wee Heavy Scotch Ale aged in bourbon barrels. This beast of a beer is released yearly in the winter months and is one of the best beers to warm you up on a cold night.

Appearance: Cloudy dark brown, what little head from the pour dissipates quickly. Decent lacing down the glass.

Nose: Huge bourbon nose with vanilla and oak making serious contributions as well. Lots of chocolate, cocoa, toffee and caramel all of those huge malt notes. You really get the bourbon in the nose more than many of the other Bourbon Barrel Aged beers. You can feel the heat in the aroma.

Taste/Mouth: Bourbon, coffee, chocolate, oak and sweet malt notes. Good amount of malt, booze and sweetness to balance out the strong bourbon flavors. Light carbonation and lighter mouthfeel than you would expect from such a dark beer. Pretty drinkable for 10%. Really an extremely deep and complex beer, more and more flavors come out and develop as it warms up.

Price/Availability: 4 pack for around $10 and an annual release, pretty easy to get in the Midwest.

Overall: Without some time in the cellar it is a little heavy on the bourbon flavors but with time this beer becomes perfect. That small flaw is really nothing though in retrospect of how amazing this beer is. One of my favorite malt bombs out there and certainly one of the best bourbon barrel aged options.

Grade: A

Beer Review: Founder’s Double Trouble Imperial IPA

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It is Founder’s Double Trouble season so my review of this infamous Imperial IPA was inevitable. One of the breweries most anticipated yearly releases and one of many hopheads most anticipated releases every year as well. I drank this fresh, I have just gotten behind in posting some reviews . This was also the first time I had this beer so my opinion was unbiased and my expectations were high but not influenced by any other years version of this beer. Double Trouble comes in at 9.4% ABV and 86 IBUs.

Appearance: Slightly hazy deep golden color with a 1/2-1 finger head which dissipates quickly and leaves some pretty nice lacing down the glass. Has one of the colors I really like a DIPA to have.

Nose: Very piney and resiny right up front, really dank nose that is pretty intense. Grapefruit juice and some malt sweetness and a hint of the alcohol as well.

Taste/Mouth: Good bitterness up front, has a nice feel to it with good carbonation which lends to its slightly dry and bitter finish. You get some warming heat on the back end but it is rather pleasant and expected with the alcohol content of this beer. Mostly piney bitterness in the taste but some tropical fruit flavors coming through as well. You get some biscuit malt in the taste as well to help balance the bitterness and heat.

Price/Availability: Seasonal release available July-September. Price is good most places but this beer also sometimes can experience a bit of price gouging since stores are aware that it is a very anticipated release. For the most part though it is pretty available and at a reasonable price.

Overall: A really great Double from Founders, a little different done Founders way. This is definitely a beer all hopheads should try at some point. A beer worthy maybe not of all the hype it receives but definitely worthy of some hype and a release I will definitely be seeking out in future years.

Grade: A-

Beer Review: Founder’s Centennial IPA

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Michigan based brewery Founder’s is definitely among the US elite craft breweries and has one of the most diverse catalogs of beer releases especially for a brewery its size. My next review is of one of their year round, flagship offerings Centennial IPA. While it does not specify on the bottle or on the Founder’s website you would assume this is an IPA hopped with nothing but Centennial hops. I have heard this is not completely true and that there are some other hops thrown in such as Cascade. If this is true or not I am not entirely sure but I assume the majority of the hops added to the brew and dry hop are Centennial or why would they name it after that specific hop. Centennial comes in at 7.2% ABV and 65 IBUs.

Appearance: Poured from a 12oz bottle to a pint glass. Copper color with a small less than 1 finger head. This beer is unfiltered and is pretty damn hazy which I like. It is kind of dark for an IPA though in my opinion and looks closer to an amber. Almost looks like a glass of iced tea.

Nose: Pretty dank nose smells of piney, earthy and lemon citrus. You get some malt sweetness on the nose too. It overwhelmingly smells of hop nuggets though.

Taste: Earthy and piney hoppiness carries over from the nose upfront with a nice wave of dry hop bitterness. Pretty nice balance with a good backing of malt sweetness. The all centennial (and maybe some of its little brother cascade) make for a really nice taste and mouth on this beer.

Availability/Price: Very available around the country and has a decent price tag. I like that it is now available in cans as that is definitely my preferred vessel for an IPA to be packaged.

Overall: This is a very enjoyable IPA from Founders, it is also very widely available which is nice. Is it the absolute best available, I don’t think so but it is definitely in the discussion for best readily available IPAs and some people could argue it is the best. I definitely always keep this one in the back of my mind when looking for a great fresh IPA to drink.

Grade: A-