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: Sierra Nevada/Ninkasi Double Latte Coffee Milk Stout

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Finally we have reached the end! The collaboration between Sierra Nevada and Ninkasi, Double Latte, is the final beer review of the Beer Camp Across America! It was a long road but I am glad I got reviews done of all twelve beers. The pack featured many letdowns but some good beers as well. I saved Double Latte for last as I had heard from many people that it was by far the best one in the pack. I finally got around to drinking and reviewing it, so here you have it the completion of the twelve pack of collabs in the beer camp across america pack. Double Latte comes in at 7.6% ABV and 60 IBUs.

Appearance: Very dark black color with no light making it through. Nice 1 and a half finger head, very thick head creating some amazing lacing.

Nose: Coffee real big up front. Lactose, espresso, roasted malt, milk chocolate and brownies. Get a slightly nutty character coming through as well, like a hazelnut roasted coffee. Really enjoyable complex nose, spent a lot of time enjoying it.

Taste/Mouth: Really nice mouthfeel, silky smooth thick body. Lot of coffee and milk chocolate in the taste carrying over from the nsoe. Lactose again as well nice slightly smokey and coffee aftertaste. Milk chocolate all the way through this one. Low-medium carbonation and very drinkable. Warmed up nice too.

Price/Availability: One time only.

Overall: Heard it was the best in the entire twelve pack, definitely was up there in the top 3. I have had some Ninkasi beers in the past that I liked a lot and some that I was pretty underwhelmed or indifferent toward. Gotta say they really nailed it on this and in a pack featuring many breweries which I consider to be more elite than them, they proved they deserve to be in this pack and considered one of the best breweries in the US.

Grade: A-

Beer Review: Tree House’s That’s What She Said Milk Stout

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Following up my review of Tree House’s Julius I have the other beer I was able to grab when I visited the brewery their Milk Stout, That’s What She Said. As far as I know this is the only stout the brewery offers and it may be the only dark beer they offer as well. Don’t quote me on that but I have really only seen lighter beers come out of the brewery other than this one. TWSS comes in at 5.6% and IBUs are not given.

Appearance: Pretty damn dark can’t see through it. Has a nice 1 finger light brown head and as I drink it down this beer has some great lacing.

Nose: Chocolatey and roasty right up front with a little coffee as well. Smells kind of like a roasted marshmallow, smells very clean and can pick up the lactose and yeast a bit.

Taste/Mouth: Creamy full mouthfeel, very smooth and drinkable right off the bat. Good chocolate and coffee flavors in there as well. Great malt driven beer and the lactose adds a nice touch.

Availability/Price: $7 for a 750mL growler and its a brewery only beer as all of Tree House’s are.

Overall: Another amazing beer from Tree House and definitely one of the best Milk Stouts I have ever had. Not normally a go to style for me but this one was so drinkable I would definitely have it again. It has that unique little farm brewery vibe to it.

Grade: A-

Beer Review: Founder’s Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS)

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I am very fortunate and was able to get my hands on a total of 5 KBS’s this year, one a friend saved for me at Bottle King and I was able to buy an entire 4 pack at a local liquor store. I plan on doing reviews on the KBS at various different points in the aging process (6 months, 1 year etc.) and figured I would start with a nice fresh one, bottled sometime between 2-4 weeks before consumption. This is the first time I have had KBS but obviously not my first time having a bourbon barrel aged stout. That being said I will have a totally unbiased opinion, only thing I know about this beer is that it is one of the most hyped annually releases in the US.

Appearance: KBS pours a dark, dark black as you would expect from a BBA stout or any imperial stout for that matter. Really small vanilla colored head that turned into some really nice lacing as I slowly drank this one down.

Nose: This beer had a really nice, complex smell to it that kept me constantly picking up new scents as I made my way down the glass. I got lots of chocolate and coffee/espresso both initially and throughout the beer. I was picking up some hints of tobacco, vanilla, toffee and caramel along the way as well. Deep in the nose you could also pick up some of the oak and bourbon from the barrel aging process but I would have liked to get some more of that,

Taste/Mouth: First I would like to say that the mouth was way thinner than I expected it to be, I was hoping for a super thick stout but I would guess because of all the additions of coffee/chocolate along with the aging process this one thinned out a bit. Good carbonation. Initial taste is chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate. I mean damn this thing is loaded with chocolate flavors that run the gambit anywhere from milk to dark chocolate. You also get coffee woven in with the chocolate flavors as well but not nearly as obvious as the chocolate. Some other flavors I picked up were hints of vanilla, some raisin and caramel all of which carried over from the nose. It had a nice amount of hops to help bring some more balance to the malt and sweetness of this beer. On the back end of the taste you can get a little bit of the bourbon and some heat from the 11.2% ABV but not as much as you would expect. I would have liked some more oak and bourbon in the flavor.

Availability/Price Point: This is where this beer kind of sucks. I appreciate limited edition things and hype behind stuff but this beer just promotes price gouging. It is almost impossible to get a whole 4 pack of it and most places around me in New Jersey were charging $8.50-$10.00 a 12oz bottle. That is insane. Most stores only got 1-2 cases of it as well. I have to take that into my final grade of this beer.

Overall: I love Founder’s and think they are definitely among the elite craft breweries in the US. Like I said before I also appreciate the idea of a limited production beer but the hype behind this one didn’t quite live up to what I got. This is definitely an amazing world class beer but do I think it is better than some readily available bourbon barrel aged beers? Not really. I think it is probably right there with a lot of the other great BBA Imperial Stouts I have had (most of which are far more readily available), maybe this is a little better but is it worth spending $10 a bottle on, not in my opinion. I am really glad I got to have it and I am glad I get to see how this one ages with the other four I have in my cellar but not sure I will go out of my way to get it in the future. I know this and Breakfast Stout aren’t related but I’ll take a four pack of that over one bottle of this any day, and probably pay around the same price!

Grade: B+