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Founders Brewing’s 2018 CBS Showcases Greater Depth and Balance

Founders CBS
Taylor Laabs

Ah, CBS. Founder’s highly-praised Imperial Coffee Chocolate Stout returns for a second consecutive year starting November 2nd across their distribution footprint. This year’s version is different than the 2017 variant for several reasons.

First and most obviously, the iconic “mountie” is missing from the bottle and branding. Why? Everyone has ideas and Twitter has seen its fair share of wild speculation. My guess is they just wanted to refresh the brand and focus on this year’s beer. Which, by the way, is very very good. After a six-year hiatus, the CBS that returned in 2017 was good, but its maple syrup sweetness dominated the palate. That said, this year’s version is great, dare I say exceptional, because it brings this insanely complex beer back to equilibrium. It’s much more balanced than year’s past, which lets several flavors shine. 

Pour: Cracking this beer open is always a delight. The rich liquid quickly fills the glass with a deep brown hue and a small head that quickly vanishes.

The initial pour of CBS.

Aroma: Drinking this on a rainy Saturday was a good idea. On first sniff, I got huge notes of coffee and barrel, as the maple bourbon barrels CBS was aged in really stand up tall. With a bit of movement in the glass, you’re able to also pick up some rich chocolate notes as the maple syrup remains hidden beneath.

Taste: Balance, balance, balance. Having a stout, no less an imperial version, that can confidently carry three to four flavors at one time is impressive and is a testament to the expertise of Founders’ barrel brewing crew. This beer feels much more complex than the 2017 version, primarily because the maple syrup doesn’t dominate. Instead, you immediately pick up big notes of the bourbon barrel flavor, which kind of serves as a delivery vehicle for the roasted coffee and dark chocolate notes, which come in strong afterwards. The barrel is definitely the backbone of the beer and keeps you cognizant that this beer is 11.7%. That said, the beer definitely evolves as the drinking experience wears on. While I struggled to find the maple syrup notes at first, once you let this one warm, you get the subtle creaminess of the maple syrup on the backend of your sip. That added sweetness makes it a really delicious beer as it is well presented yet restrained by the barrel, so it doesn’t become overwhelmingly decadent.

Verdict: I enjoyed last year’s version of CBS but this year’s version blew me away. The barrel-aged and pastry strout market is rapidly expanding and increasingly competitive, yet 2018 CBS is able to find a nice niche for itself in between both. It expertly hits the high notes of maple and chocolate but keeps itself balanced with the bourbon and coffee. I highly recommend you try to get your hands on a bottle as it is a great creation by Founders.

CBS will be available in all markets on draft and in bottles beginning November 2 and will have a suggested retail price of $24.99/750 mL bottle. Happy hunting – cheers!

*I did receive samples from Founders

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