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Chicagoist's "Beer of the Week": Founder's Kentucky Breakfast Stout

By Chuck Sudo in Food on May 9, 2007 4:00PM

2007_05_botw19.jpgGood American-made stouts are plentiful these days. With more breweries applying aging techniques to their beer, barrel-aged stouts are just as plentiful. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout benefits greatly from being allowed to age in 12-year-old Heaven Hill barrels. Three Floyd's DarkLord, the stout of the moment, has an aged version that uses barrels purchased from Woodford Reserve and allowed to sit for a year. Because wood is permeable, barrel aging allows a stout to acquire many of the positive characteristics of bourbon - including an increased alcohol content, while the beer itself mellows with time. The result is something more akin to a liqueur than a beer, and available at a more affordable price point that, say, Sam Adams Utopias.

The Grand Rapids-based Founder's Brewing Company is another brewery that dabbles in barrel aged beers. Their "Kentucky Breakfast" stout is brewed with hints of coffee and vanilla, then aged in bourbon barrels for two years. We found ourselves with a bottle a few weeks back, and were much impressed. It isn't the aged DarkLord, or even regular DarkLord, but it's a worthy candidate for "BotW" nonetheless. It poured a syrupy black in color, like oil. Kentucky Breakfast comes in at ten percent alcohol, by volume, so head is non-existent. Refrigeration is the worst thing one can do to this beer. To really get an idea of the flavors in this beer, it needs to be served at room temperature. Do that and you'll discover that the barrel aging enhances the coffee and vanilla used in the brewing. You'll also find prominent notes of chocolate malt, oak, smoke, and dark cherries. Like bourbon, this beer is made for sipping, or maybe as a pairing with French vanilla ice cream or angel-food cake.

Founders Brewing selections are available in Chicago, but you're gonna have to hunt down, and possibly pay a premium, for Kentucky Breakfast. The bottle we got our hands on was at our usual gold mine for exotic beers, Lush Wine and Spirits' University Village location, which isn't necessarily the cheapest place around. But our primary objective was to get our hands on some good beer. In that regard Founder's Kentucky Breakfast stout, Chicagoist's "Beer of the Week," certainly qualifies.