This week’s segment of Tasting Notes shows some appreciation for the classics by taking a look at the 2017 vintage of KBS from Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, Michigan).
As we reported a little over a month ago, Founders Brewing Co. initiated their annual frenzy within the craft beer community on April 1 when they began to distribute this year’s vintage of KBS. Known as “one of the craft world’s most prized annual releases,” this highly coveted Imperial Stout is brewed with generous amounts of coffee and chocolate. Once the brewing process is completed, the beer is then aged in oak bourbon barrels for over a year “in caves that were at one time gypsum mines, beneath Grand Rapids.” This all results in an 11.8% ABV offering filled with complex layers of indulgent chocolate, coffee and bourbon. Although KBS is an incredibly limited offering that quickly sells out each year, we have still seen it on shelves at various locations in Alabama and Florida. If you strike out at the bottle shop, your best bet is to track it down on tap at fine beer bars and restaurants throughout the distribution area of Founders Brewing Co.
Any day is a good day to get into a glass of KBS, so let’s pop the top on this bottle and take down some Tasting Notes!
Tasting Notes for KBS (2017) from Founders Brewing Co.
Appearance: A steady pour of KBS produces two fingers of creamy, mocha-colored foam resting above a body that is black as pitch. Completely opaque, there is absolutely zero opportunity for light to find its way through this brew. Over time, the head reluctantly falls to a chunky top cap that dutifully notches the glass with lace after each sip. Simply a gorgeously presented Stout.
Aroma: The aromatics open with rich, lush notes of fine chocolates. In particular, dark chocolate and bitter cocoa nibs develop nicely to fill the bulb of the glass and hit the nose on every approach. This shifts to a lightly bitter, but wonderfully roasted note from the coffee and malts. Vanilla, molasses and just a grace of bourbon close out the profile.
Taste: Molasses, brown sugar, and dark caramel notes get the party started in the flavor department. A massive chocolate presence follows closely behind with tones of cocoa, dark chocolate and milk chocolate. Roasted malts provide a hearty grain presence that readily supports a heavenly vanilla note and a blatant bourbon quality. This immense flavor experience eventually subsides to leave behind a lingering note that strikingly reads as dark chocolate covered espresso beans.
Mouthfeel: This beer is full bodied with a moderate to low carbonation level. This produces a silky-smooth texture that displays some weight and completely envelops the palate. At 11.8%, the ABV is somehow incredibly tame this year and it actually takes quite a bit of searching to locate a slight tinge of heat near the end of the glass. Considering its weight and size, the aftertaste does settle in for the long haul to allow the drinker to get lost in notes of espresso roast coffee and dark chocolate.
Final Thoughts: Imposing. Unapologetic. Beautiful. These three terms are applicable descriptors for any year of KBS, but it never fails to amaze how each year’s batch seems to take on its own personality. This year’s vintage absolutely offers up more pronounced tones of vanilla and chocolate than previous releases. Chocolate . . . it is simply impossible to express with words how much luxurious chocolate fills this glass. Although the bourbon is clearly present, the beer manages to avoid having that one dimensional barrel character by allowing so many other flavors and aromas to establish themselves. One of the more remarkable achievements of 2017 KBS is how it handles its ABV presence. Last year’s batch came out of the gate pretty hot, leaving its drinker with the impression that a little aging could do the beer some good. Not at all the case with this year’s supply. This may just be the easiest drinking batch of KBS we have ever experienced, and it easily allows you to enjoy every aspect of this beer as fresh as possible. Seriously, it is perfect NOW . . . so drink it NOW and as often as possible to learn why KBS has earned a reputation for being one of the best barrel-aged Stouts in the world. Prost!