Kyle’s Files: Founders KBS

Now, this should be interesting. KBS, née Kentucky Breakfast Stout, is an absolute delight of a beer from Founders. Come to think of it, pretty much everything I've ever had from Founders has been an absolute delight. Put them right up there with Bell's in terms of "jack of all trades" breweries. Of course, both are also masters of many, but I digress. My past experiences with KBS have been wonderful. The first time I ever tried it was during my craft beer infancy. I had first started reviewing beers on BeerAdvocate back in January of 2009. When KBS was released that spring, I was already well aware of the hype surrounding this beer despite being relatively new to the game. I was also well aware of its rarity. I read reports of stores in various states enforcing a one-bottle limit for customers and expected the worse for little old South Carolina. You can imagine my surprise when I found out that my friends at Green's had secured cases upon cases of KBS for purchase. $20 per four-pack certainly hurt the wallet, but I had to take advantage of my good fortune. I bought a four-pack or two for myself, then eventually three more to trade with people all around the country. So not only did KBS deliver a great drinking experience right out of the gates, but it also allowed me to try rarities from a wide range of states.

I know how I feel about KBS when it's fresh. I love it. However, I've never tried an aged bottle. Until now. Sitting in front of me is one of my last bottles from my original purchase. This one was bottled on February 8, 2009, making it just shy of 49 months old. Since it was one of my first great beer purchases, I've got to pour it into one of my first great beer glass purchases, the Delirium Noël snifter. Come on, who doesn't love flying pink elephants pulling Santa's sleigh?


Brewed by: Founders Brewing Co.

Style: Imperial Stout

ABV: 11.2%

Serving type: 12 oz. bottle

How does it look?

The pour is about what I expected for a four-year old KBS. The body is a thick, oily black with a thin, cocoa-colored head. The foam fizzes away with haste, something I noted during my tasting of this beer back when I first tried it. No worries there. It appears to have maybe thinned out a bit over time, so it's not that 10w40 pour that the heavyweights possess. But it's close. During this stage of the review, I like to hold the glass up to the lamp to my left and see what kind of light gets through. KBS, like the Temple Run segment of Legends of the Hidden Temple, lets nothing pass through. Yeah, I've got links.

How does it smell?

When fresh, this beer fills your nose with coffee and bourbon. After four years, I'm smelling a lot more of the barrel, with vanilla being most prominent. Lots of oak jumps out, too. The ground coffee bitterness and boozy heat have been relegated to the background. Again, not at all surprising, as those are components that will fall out of a beer over time. There's still plenty of chocolate in here as well, giving sweetness a slight edge in the overall aroma.

How does it taste?

It's no longer a coffee bomb. It's no longer a bourbon bomb. It's a balance bomb. Those flavors are still there, but they've obviously been scaled back a bit. Instead, it's a sort of vanilla-chocolate-bourbon sweetness up front with the coffee-like roast lingering in the finish. It's a really interesting transition of flavors because it's so smooth; it's like the plane landing you hope for every time you fly. One minute you're in the air and the next you're on the ground, with no harsh bump in between. Nice work, pilot. For once, I won't mind the excruciatingly long wait while everyone struggles to retrieve their oversized carry-ons from the overhead bins.

How does it feel?

As I thought while pouring, KBS has thinned out a little bit over time. The body is still a solid medium-full, though. The carbonation level was practically non-existent before, so I'm sure you can imagine how it is now. The texture falls just shy of NyQuil. Of course, in this case I wouldn't be trying to figure out how the hell to get the taste out of my mouth immediately after swallowing. I would be thinking about other uses for it. It's so silky, so slick, that one could easily put away a few of these with no little difficulty.

How does it drink?

This beer drank beautifully fresh off the truck. The alcohol was never present as anything more than a warming sensation when it was fresh. At year four? Wow. If this were served to me in a blind tasting, I wouldn't guess that the ABV was any higher than 6%. Being nearly double that, KBS could be dangerous. It's rare that 12 ounces of imperial stout could seem like far fewer. And again, KBS is like this FRESH. At that stage, it's right around my top 10 out of over 400 beers reviewed on BeerAdvocate. At this stage? It hasn't dropped off a bit. This is still an elite beer. It's really, really hard to keep from opening this beer for an extended period of time, but it's totally worth it if you can acquire multiple bottles.

Final score: 4.6/5 Pints