Founders Brewing | KBS 2017 Release
The continued meteoric rise of craft breweries affords beer drinkers an opportunity to enjoy special releases with unfathomable regularity. But, once in a while, a classic “gotta have it,” beer rolls around; be it Pliny the Younger, Utopias, or in this case — KBS.
Since 2002, Founders Brewing has been putting its coffee-chocolate-malty stout in whiskey barrels and then storing them below its Grand Rapids home for a year. Each spring, just as tulips emerge from the soil, KBS escapes the caves so it can be enjoyed by throngs of fans. Welcome to spring; welcome to KBS season.
Short Version: KBS 2017 Grade = A+
No shock, of course, because this time-tested recipe from Founders brewers Jeremy Kosmicki and Nate Walser has resulted in numerous awards, long-lines and a multitude of accolades. So, of course the beer is good. Nonetheless, each year adds to the KBS story, so let’s delve into this year’s new chapter.
Founders uses a variety of bourbon barrels from quality distilleries that Jason Heystek, Founders VP of Planning, Packaging, Inventory & Logistics would choose to drink. But, he’s not the only one that gets a choice because there’s more than one way to drink KBS. Do you like your KBS chilled, or do you like it warm?
Enjoying KBS 2017, Chilled (Fresh From the Fridge)
A cooler sip of KBS is perfect for those that want to immerse themselves in the chocolaty-malt goodness. But, before taking a drink, be sure to put your nose right in the snifter; the oak aroma entices you, begs you, compels you to take a sip. The oak notes up front quickly give way to the rich bourbon-whiskey flavor, but the booziness is muted (or softened) due to the chill. From the middle to the finish, it’s a dark, sexy malt that personifies the term, “beergasm.” Although the chocolate maltiness shines and you may not notice abundant oakiness, there’s just enough in the background to provide complexity to the sweet malt.
Enjoying KBS 2017, Warmed for 30 Minutes
The metamorphosis provided by the rising temperature of KBS 2017 resulted in a completely different KBS experience. Without as much chill, the booziness is set free. For a whiskey lover like me, it’s easy to pick up on the bourbon notes and the oak comes through much stronger, too. Yet, despite that pronounced whiskey and boozy quality, the chocolate malt remains the main player, notably at the finish. In the end, warming it gives KBS 2017 more body and more complexity, but any warming fire produced by the booze is doused by the superb stout base.
Personally, method #2 is the way for me. I recommend taking the bottle out of the fridge, letting it sit for 30-45 minutes (or longer!), and then pour it in a snifter, or any glass that allows the oak aroma to be fully enjoyed. After taking a nice sniff, tip the glass back and indulge in all the magic provided by cave-aged, bourbon-infused beer.
Judging a beer, year to year, is not something easily achieved. For me, KBS 2017 offered a stronger oak presence than previous years and finished a bit sweeter, but those are nuances at best. Ultimately, the beer tasted great two years ago, last year, and this year. So, don’t overthink it. Just drink it.
KBS 2017, as expected, is a superb beer.