By Tyler Estabrook
I am a firm believer in high-quality ales being available to the everyman, so if I sing the praises of a $22 four-pack, then it is because it was worth every penny.
My new favorite beer came to town in the form of Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, a slick-looking and even slicker-tasting chocolate coffee imperial stout aged a year in oak bourbon barrels.
This ale boasts a whopping 11.2 percent alcohol by volume, practically in wine range, and yet the familiar ethanol aroma and taste is not even noticeable. On top of that, the coffee and chocolate overtones are so mellow, a mainstream beer drinker might even enjoy them, if only you could get them to try it. To the non-stout-drinker, it looks like an oil slick in a glass, but there is so much more to it than that.
Kentucky Breakfast Stout is a “winter warmer” on steroids, so much so I would still choose this beer in 90-degree weather with equal enthusiasm. It is not a whole lot like the ordinary Breakfast Stout, which is nonetheless delightful, but has more of a traditional oatmeal stout base to it, and a black coffee bite in the aftertaste. The Kentucky Breakfast Stout is a tad smoother, much more “woody,” thanks to the oak-barrel aging, and has more of a chocolate bent to it.
While the Kentucky Breakfast Stout is certainly a specialty beer, it so much embodies what imperial stouts should be all about that it captured my imagination. There is a whole lot going on from the moment it hits the tongue to the moment it hits the stomach, but all these flavors, while being “active,” are all very subtle and in balance. The ale has a heavy body, but it flows smooth and easy. And it paradoxically produces both warming and cooling sensations on its trip down the esophagus, both of which are equally soothing.
Founders does not produce Kentucky Breakfast Stout in large numbers, so it may be difficult to find. But for the true stout fanatic, it is worth the effort because there is nothing else out there quite like this.
Send questions or beer recommendations to Tyler Estabrook at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the June 23-29, 2010 issue