Tasting Notes: KBS Espresso from Founders Brewing Co.

KBSEspressoPourFor this installment of Tasting Notes, we push through the second half of the workweek thanks to a coffee-fueled boost supplied by KBS Espresso from Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, Michigan).

Introduced in mid-November 2019 as the first-ever packaged variant of KBS (a.k.a. Kentucky Breakfast Stout), KBS Espresso (12% ABV) takes everything you love about Founders Brewing Co.’s iconic KBS – a Bourbon Barrel-aged Imperial Stout brewed with coffee and chocolate – and then ages it “on espresso beans after being removed from [Bourbon] barrels.” This added step results in “a fresh and snappy coffee twist on [a] classic barrel-aged beer.”

KBS Espresso is out now and will hang around through February 2020.  You can expect to find this Limited Release available in 4-packs of 12 oz. bottles, 750ml bottles and on draft at select craft beer-friendly establishments located in Alabama, Florida, Michigan and throughout the rest of Founders Brewing Co.’s nationwide distribution network.  **NOTE: KBS Espresso is not available on draft in Utah or in any format in Mississippi.**

Now that we have gotten all the background information on this exciting new variant out of the way, let’s get into these Tasting Notes and see how much coffee goodness KBS can carry!

Tasting Notes for KBS Espresso from Founders Brewing Co.

Appearance:  KBS Espresso presents itself just as you would expect any beer bearing the KBS name.  It is inky black in color and capped with a solid finger of frothy, mocha-colored foam.  When held to direct light, the blackness holds and blocks any light from penetrating.  The beer is completely opaque and gives no indication as to what the carbonation level could be.  Head retention is good, slinking down slowly to a creamy ring that notches the glass with fine arcs of lace after each pull.

Aroma:  The aroma absolutely explodes with big notes of espresso.  We are talking heavy notes of intensely roasted coffee joined by complementary notes of deeply roasted grain, dark chocolate and dark fruit.  The presence of espresso and roast is so powerful that it actually drowns out the majority of the bourbon notes, only allowing a touch of vanilla to come through.  The profile closes with a gentle waft of rich, earthy tobacco.

Taste:   The espresso is quick to consume the palate with an abundance of dark roasted coffee at the start of each sip.  Dark, bittersweet chocolate then joins the mix to create a satisfying note similar to those addictive little chocolate-covered espresso beans.  The barrel eventually works its way in to supply a soft undercurrent of vanilla and oak, but the bourbon tones are definitely here to take a back seat to the coffee notes.  The experience is rounded off with a smooth layer of dark fruit, leather and tobacco.

Mouthfeel:  Full-bodied with a moderate carbonation level, this Imperial Stout is thick and creamy on the palate.  The heavily roasted coffee and notes of dark chocolate provide a bit of bitterness, but that is quickly tamed by the vanilla tones provided by the bourbon barrels.  Shockingly, the 12% ABV provides very little booziness and offers only a touch of warmth in the throat at times. The aftertaste leaves behind a light presence of tobacco and freshly roasted coffee.

Final Thoughts: With the release of KBS Espresso, Founders Brewing Co. set out to ramp up and highlight the overall coffee character that has always been a part of the incredibly balanced KBS experience.  Mission accomplished.  The label on this variant clearly displays “ESPRESSO” in all caps, and that espresso lives up to its bold, intense reputation from start to finish in this beer. The brewing team was not at all shy about letting the espresso dominate the aromatics and flavor profile.  The roast is intense and imparts a pleasant bitterness that works beautifully with the beer’s roasted malts and chocolate notes.  The barrel character does fall off a bit (only offering a bit of oak and vanilla at times), but that is to be expected when you add a powerful ingredient like espresso to the beer after barrel-aging.  With that said, the grace of barrel that is present is more than enough because the intense coffee notes carry this beer with ease and in a wonderfully delightful way.

If you have ever wished there was more coffee in your KBS or are just curious to experience a different take on this legendary brew, you need to keep KBS Espresso in mind the next time you hit up your favorite bottle shop.  Just make sure you get your hands on some before its availability comes to an end in late February. Prost!