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: Pipeworks Sunburst Peacock IIPA

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Fish, Unicorns and Ninjas are a few of my favorite things when it comes to Pipeworks beers. In this review I have Sunburst Peacock from Pipeworks with honey, guava and citra hops! This series, as most of Pipeworks double ipas, has impressed me quite a bit. Sunburst Peacock comes in at 9.5% ABV.

Appearance: Very hazy, deep golden copper color. Very small head, sticky lacing not a ton of head retention.

Nose: Guava is the big component. Passionfruit, pineapple, orange and mango come in big as well. Tropical fruit, for the most part it smells very fruity and kind of syrupy.

Taste/Mouth: Guava, mango, tropical fruit with not a ton of bitterness. Medium carbonation that finishes dry and sticky. High ABV is really well hidden as usual in these big pipeworks beers.

Price/Availability: $10.99 a bomber which is solid pricing as usual and it is a rotating beer.

Overall: Another well executed double IPA from Pipeworks, not their best but they are always solid. They do a great job with balance and masking the usual high ABV in these big hoppy beers. Sometimes the fruit addition works and sometimes it doesn’t, I think it adds a nice aspect to this beer. I would buy it again for sure.

Grade: B+

Beer Review: Half Acre Double Daisy Cutter Pale Ale

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Half Acre, in my opinion, is the best brewery in Chicago and possibly the Midwest right now. Their year round lineup is incredible and their limited releases are equally as great. Double Daisy Cutter is the bigger version of their year round pale ale Daisy Cutter. Same basic malt bill but the hop additions are increased quite a bit. This beer drops only a few times a year and I look forward to it every time. Double Daisy Cutter comes in at 8% ABV.

Appearance: Hazy, golden copper with a 1 finger head. Frothy and nice sticky lacing down the glass. Always great artwork on these releases.

Nose: Dank resin, pine, some citrus, passionfruit, sweet candy notes and some pineapple. It is huge dank and citrusy with some juicy notes as well. It is like a beefy Zombie Dust.

Taste/Mouth: Tropical and citrus fruit notes, passionfruit, pineapple, grapefruit and orange. Nice dry bite of bitterness. It is really balanced nicely considering the huge amount of hop flavors. Good cereal and caramel malt notes as well. It is super balanced but full of such great hop flavors.

Price/Availability: $10 for a bomber at the brewery.

Overall: This is another bomb Double IPA from Half Acre. They continue to impress as Chicago’s best brewery in my opinion and this is a must have from them. There distribution foot print becomes bigger and bigger so it becomes easier to get, if you see it around definitely grab it.

Grade: A

Beer Review: Stone 20th Anniversary Citracado IPA

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Cheers to 20 years! To celebrate their 20th anniversary Stone brewed an IPA, like they have done so many times before for their anniversary. In addition they brought back some old favorites, a few of which I reviewed. Citracado is brewed with Citra hops and showcases avocado flower honey as well. Citracado comes in at 9% ABV.

Appearance: Hazy slightly darker amber, deep red copper color with a 1 finger head.

Nose: Pine, resin, grapefruit, orange and tangerine up front. Honey, caramel, juicy tropical fruit and citrus fruit aromas come through as well.

Taste/Mouth: This is definitely a Stone IPA and has some of its classic characteristics. It is piney, floral and has a nice amount of citrus flavors from the Citra. Good malt backbone with some caramel flavors and some honey as well. Easy to drink.

Price/Availability: The bomber itself is around $8 and also comes in the Encore series 4 pack of bombers which is around $23.

Overall: Stone can close the book on an extremely successful anniversary celebration this year as they celebrate 20 years of brewing excellence. Glad they brewed an IPA for the big 20 and although it is not their best ever it is a well done and easy to drink IPA from some of the masters of the hop. Looking forward to another 20 years of hoppy beers from Stone. Cheers.

Grade: B

Beer Review: Stone 10th Anniversary IPA

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Next from Stone’s encore series I have the 10th Anniversary IPA which comes in at a whopping 10% ABV.

Appearance: Deep reddish, copper, amber color with a 1/2 finger head which dissipates to a thin layer that sits above the beer. Decent lacing.

Nose: Caramel malt, resin, pine, woody, earthy, floral and some orange zest. You can sense some heat on the nose as well from the high ABV.

Taste/Mouth: Follows the nose closely with pine, resin, citrus, orange and is balanced out nicely by caramel malt. Some toffee and earthy notes as well. Surprisingly not a ton of heat but it is definitely there, chewy and full feel. Very balanced all the way through, good carbonation as well. It very much feels like an American Barleywine.

Price/Availability: Available in the 4 pack of bombers for Stone’s Encore series celebrating their 20th anniversary. The 4 pack was around $23.

Overall: This is a Double IPA very much bordering an American Barleywine. Pretty awesome, like the 5th anniversary, to finally get to try this beer. Stone and beer have some a long way since this, especially the Double IPA style, but this still stands the test of time as a super solid beer. The fact that Stone can bring back these beers from 10-20 years ago and they are still great is a testament to how well crafted their beers are, thanks Stone!

Grade: A-

Beer Review: Foundation Venture Maine IPA

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This is from when I took my trip up to Maine a few months ago and was able to make my way to the Foundation Brewery. They had a ton of great offerings on draft and I took a 4 pack of Ventures home with me to make sure I would be able to get a review of it up. Venture is a Maine IPA brewed with Cascade, Chinook, Columbus, El Dorado, and Mosaic hops. Venture comes in at 8% ABV.

Appearance: Active carbonation, 1/2 finger head and is a nice hazy golden orange color. A really nice looking beer, their cans are also very aesthetically pleasing.

Nose: Mosaic definitely comes out a lot in the aroma. Tons of mango, tropical fruit and citrus. Pine, strawberry, grassy and herbal notes are present as well. Very dank and deep nose.

Taste/Mouth: Creamy and full mouthfeel, drinks sort of like a session IPA and not a Double. Mango, tropical fruit and berry flavors stand out, it is pleasant and easy to drink. Definitely pretty juicy as well with pineapple and citrus juice flavors.  Not as complex and deep as Epiphany.

Price/Availability: Grabbed a 4 pack at the brewery for around $12 I believe.

Overall: It is definitely no Epiphany but it is another solid “Maine IPA” from Foundation. It has some nice deep juicy flavors and a dank aroma but lacks some of the complexity found in Epiphany. I am excited to continue to have more of Foundation’s beers as they continue to grow. I need to start to plan my next trip back to Portland ASAP. This one was super easy to drink and I went through the 4 pack like this was a Session IPA not a Double.

Grade: B+

Beer Review: Stone 5th Anniversary IPA

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Obviously a little late posting these next few reviews of Stone’s encore series but as usual they were drank fresh and notes written at that time! First up is the 5th anniversary IPA, a beer I have long wanted to give a try to and one I had heard a lot about. Stone 5th Anniversary comes in at 8.5% ABV.

Appearance: Nice deep honey, copper, orange color with active carbonation and a half finger head. Great retention and nice lacing. Stone always makes a pretty beer.

Nose: Citrus, resin, west coast all the way. Caramel, orange, tangerine and piney as well. The caramel along with some fresh bread notes compliment the hoppy notes nicely. It has a classic Stone nose.

Taste/Mouth: Perfect balance of hops and malt in a brutal west coast hop bomb! A trip down IPA memory lane really as this was probably the motivation for so many brewers and beers of today. Pine, resin, earthy, floral, lemon and grapefruit dominate. Caramel, honey, bready malt for balance and a piney, dry and brutal finish on the palate. Heat is there but well hidden.

Price/Availability: This beer was brought out of retirement for Stone’s 20th anniversary as part of the encore series. It was featured in a 4 pack of bombers which ran around $23, great pricing.

Overall: What an awesome 4 pack of bombers and what an awesome beer. Such a great idea to do this encore series and so happy they decided to bring this particular beer back. If you are a hophead you really need to experience this beer as it is certainly the building blocks for a lot of today’s beers. This was probably one of the earliest examples of a Double IPA, I don’t even think the style existed at the time this was first brewed. It is a great trip down memory lane and amazingly still holds up really well today. I loved getting to have this beer, thank you Stone.

Grade: A