Founders 'KBS' Bourbon Barrel-Aged Chocolate Coffee Stout

Founders KBS Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout 1
Founders Brewing 'KBS' Bourbon Barrel-Aged Chocolate Coffee Stout. 12.3% abv. Black color, dense, with thin mocha head that fast falls to a sustaining collar and scattered surface. Moderate retention, decent lacing. Nose of bourbon, charred oak, dark chocolate, vanilla. The bourbon aroma steps forward as the temp rises.

Front taste is bittersweet chocolate, black coffee, plum, with vanilla and wood notes on the back end. Aftertaste is tall bourbon, bitter cocoa, raisins, molasses, with a dry finish. Full body. Mouthfeel is warm-hot, round, creamy, sticky, viscous, astringent, boozy.

Two of my recent reviews were also Founders beers, with one being a surprisingly solid experimental wood-aged red, while the other turned out to be one of the worst beers I’ve had in years. Comparing notes with other beer enthusiasts, it would appear that Founders is one of those breweries that is bold and fearless to a fault, so daring that it affects their batting average. They’re hit-and-miss, particularly with their novelty offering. However, I went into today’s review unafraid, as it’s not only one of their classics, but one of THE classics of modern craft beer, a benchmark of its category.

Simply put, this is an extraordinary, big, rich, full beer, a true BBA stout, with a boozy aroma and flavor profile supported by chocolate and coffee, wrapped with a mouthfeel you can sink your teeth into. This is a sipping beer. A dessert beer. It’s meant to be a an occasional decadent treat with a complex taste, and it delivers on its promise.

Consistently ranked as one of the best beers in the world, this beer now has battalions of competitors who have met or exceeded its high standard. That being said, even in this day of bourbon-barrel aging mania, in a time when every brewery is experimenting with a barrel program, and mostly succeeding, KBS is still a knockout and a standout, still one of the best, with quality and craftsmanship evident in every sip and sniff. I’m sure you’ve had this famous brew before, but regardless, I highly encourage you to seek it out and let it warm you inside-out during a cold winter. Strongly recommended.

From the brewery:

"What we’ve got here is an imperial stout brewed with a massive amount of coffee and chocolates, then cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels for an entire year to make sure wonderful bourbon undertones come through in the finish. Makes your taste buds squeal with delight."


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Founders 'Mango Magnifico Con Calor' 2016

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Founders Brewing 'Mango Magnifico Con Calor' 2016. 10% abv. Honey-orange color. Hazy and dense with sediment. Thin off-white head that quickly falls to a sustaining collar. Moderate retention, little lacing. Nose of vanilla, mango rind, bitter greens, fruit pastry. As the temp rose, the aroma quickly became unpleasant, with a dominant scent of salty, buttery crackers, apricot jam, and Parmesan cheese.

Front taste is mango, butter, honey, black pepper, with apricot on the back end. Aftertaste is where the jalapeño finally emerges, with roasty chili pepper tones over a jammy, herbal expression. Ends on a sweet, if not vapory finish. Medium body. Mouthfeel is cool, round, tingly from the delayed spice, increasing heat.

This is a bizarre, disappointing, nearly offensive beer, a failed attempt at combining unlikely flavors to create something special. The promised mango and jalapeño tastes are delivered in spades, but that is not necessarily a good thing, at least not within this recipe. The combination here results in an odd, off-flavor, confused beer that starts with an aroma of Parmesan cheese mixed with a jar of apricot preserves and the rotted skin of a mango. Think of a stinky foot, smothered with spoiled jam. The spice notes from the jalapeño seem to only accentuate that odd smell and taste.

I haven't had a beer this bad in years. I ended up pouring the last third of it out. I got a headache from the sugar syrup in the beer. An overall unpleasant experience. Part of me wants to try this beer again, just in case I had an infected or turned bottle. That occasionally happens with every brewery. However, the experience was so bad that I don't think I could pick up another bottle of this. 

If you like fruit beers or hot pepper beers, there are many far better choices out there. Even if there weren’t, I’d still avoid buying this failed experiment again. Pass on this one.

From the brewery:

"Mango Magnifico is a high-gravity fruit beer brewed with mango and a touch of habaneros to add just the right amount of heat. The delicate flavors imparted by the sweet richness of the mango are punctuated perfectly by the subtle heat of the habaneros, proving that fruit beers do not have to be one-note. Each 750mL bottle of this 10% ABV ale is both sophisticated and refreshing, making it the perfect beer to share… or to keep all to yourself. Mango Magnifico is part of a long lineage of Founders’ fruit beers, including Rubaeus, Cerise, Blushing Monk and Big Lushious."


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Clown Shoes 'Space Cake' Double IPA

Clown Shoes Space Cake Double IPA 1
Clown Shoes 'Space Cake' Double IPA. 9% abv. Amber color with two fingers of bubbly, ivory head. Superb retention, excellent lacing. Nose of bright, spicy hops, sweet bread, stone fruit. Malt aroma and further spice expression come through as the temp rises to room.

Front taste is caramel, bright citrus peel, herbal hops, with sweet malt and tangy orange zest on the back end. Aftertaste is bitter fruity hops, tangerine, botanical resin, with a dry finish. A taste of marmalade comes to mind down the glass. Medium-full body. Mouthfeel is cool, round, tangy, thick, slightly sticky.

This is an excellent beer, a DIPA whose Mosaic hops' spice notes punch up the flavor of its malty backbone while accentuating the herbal and bready expression throughout. Its tall bitter hop bill that is balanced well with its malt base and fruit pastry profile. Think of a holiday fruitcake soaked in Grand Marnier. If that imagined taste appeals to you, this beer is sure to please. It surely pleases me. Well recommended.

From the brewery:

"Why are Miracle Mike and his dog, Bionic, being chased by many evil laser beam shooting cupackes and two giant layer cake mother ships?  Because we’re straight up lunatic fools?  Well, maybe, but with a few brain cells remaining we managed to craft Space Cake double IPA, utilizing citrusy Mosaic hops and an immaculate West Coast style malt backbone.  Dude… chill out.  Enjoy some Space Cake."


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Founders Brewing 'Dankwood' Imperial Red IPA 2018

Founders Dankwood Imperial Red IPA 1
Founders Brewing 'Dankwood' Imperial Red IPA 2018. Aged in Bourbon Barrels. 12.2% abv. 65 IBU. Deep ruby color with two fingers of thick, frothy, off-white head. Outstanding retention and superb lacing that sticks to the glass all the way down. Nose of maple syrup, oak, bourbon, bright floral hops. The bourbon aroma stands tall at the temp rises.

Front taste is fruit pastry, vanilla, bourbon, roasted malt. Aftertaste is strong bourbon, herbal and citrus hops, wood and botanical notes sustain on the back end. Full body. Mouthfeel is hot, sticky, clingy, astringent, boozy, woodsy.

This is an excellent beer, a big, boozy, barrel brew that attempts to balance the hop forward profile of an IPA and the amber malty backbone of a red ale with a nearly piercing oak and whiskey expression. It is one of the most complex flavor profiles I've tasted in a long time. Take note that this is a unique taste that will surely put off fans of those individual categories, but will sure to please connoisseurs of experimental beers that grab you firmly by the tongue. This beer is unafraid to combine the towering strengths of three completely different beers in one glass. If you welcome huge, complex taste, this is for you. Strongly recommended.

From the brewery:

"What do you get when a big, bold imperial red IPA meets an oak bourbon barrel? A palate stunner that’ll send your senses spinning or, as we like to call it, Dankwood. Rich caramel notes emerge from the depths of the IPA, highlighting strong malt character while the bourbon barrel-aging develops the complexity. A dank, sticky and slightly sweet sipper, Dankwood is the perfect alchemy of wood and hops... Dankwood is the third release of 2018 in the Barrel-Aged Series, preceded by KBS and Backwoods Bastard, our newest year-round beer."


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New Belgium 'Oakspire' Bourbon Barrel Ale

New Belgium Oakspire Bourbon Barrel Ale 1
New Belgium 'Oakspire' Bourbon Barrel Ale. 9% abv. 20 IBU. Honey-orange color with a thick, white, foamy head. Excellent retention and lacing. Nose of mild bourbon, vanilla, brown sugar. Herbal notes and dank fruit emerge as the temp rises.

Front taste is bourbon, maple, charred oak, bitter walnut. Aftertaste is roasted nuts, herbal hops, leather, strong bourbon on the back end, particularly when the temp reaches room. Dry finish. Medium body. Mouthfeel is warm, boozy, tangy, carby, round.

This is an outstanding beer, one with a lot of flavor and character for such a simple ale. It is marked as a "bourbon barrel ale," but take note that this is not actually aged in former bourbon barrels. It's aged with oak spirals and charred wood that once lived within such a coveted barrel. The difference is cost - and complexity - but the lovely taste is still something to savor. The profile of bourbon and wood are clear and present, with the mild boozy tones balanced well. For a budget version BBA, this is a winner. Well recommended.

From the brewery:

"A limited-edition collaboration between New Belgium and Knob Creek, Oakspire is a unique bourbon barrel ale aged with bourbon-steeped oak spirals and char from inside the barrel. Smooth notes of toffee, vanilla and caramel wrap up with a pleasantly warm finish. Oakspire: Where innovation meets tradition."


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Epic Brewing 'Big Bad Baptista' Imperial Stout 2017

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Epic Brewing 'Big Bad Baptista' Whiskey Barrel Aged Imperial Stout 2017. 11.5% abv. Deep black in color with two fingers of creamy mocha head that slowly recedes to a thick sustaining surface. Outstanding retention and superb lacing. Nose of bourbon, almond, cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa powder. Aroma lingers down to the last drops in the glass.

First taste is semi-sweet dark chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla, oak expression throughout, whiskey coming through on the back end. Aftertaste is black coffee, vanilla, almond cookie, with an alcohol sustain and sweet finish. Big body. Mouthfeel is hot, rich, boozy, creamy, clingy.

This is an outstanding beer, a bounty of rich flavors that have mellowed well in the year since its release. The many tastes of chocolate, spice, coffee, whiskey, and wood all merge together beautifully. Each flavor can be singled out, yet they do not fight for attention, achieving a perfect balance. Each sip was savory, smooth, and slightly sweet, with a touch of boozy punch. A special, marvelous, well-crafted beer. Highly recommended.

From the brewery:

"Rare Release 2017. Big Bad Baptista is inspired by traditional Mexican coffee, Café de Olla, which is served with cinnamon and piloncillo, an unrefined sugar. The Cinnamon adds another layer of complexity and accentuates the earthy character of Mexican Coffee, but more importantly, it captures the essence of a place and its culture. As beverage geeks we wanted to pay homage to that rich tradition and offer our unique take. Big Bad Baptista is a combination of Vanilla, Cinnamon, Mexican coffee roasted by Blue Copper, and Solstice Chocolate cacao nibs. It’s luxurious to say the least, with a pleasant warming sensation generated by the cinnamon and alcohol. Enjoying the interplay of chocolate, malt, oak, and spice is the perfect way to spend a cool evening, with friends around a fire."

"Inspired by the spicy and bold flavors of a Café de Olla, we added vanilla and cinnamon along with Mexican coffee beans and cacao nibs to out 100% barrel-aged Big Bad Baptist. The result is luxurious, complex, and the perfect after-dinner companion on chilly evenings."
[source: bottle]

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My friend Chris and I shared a bomber of Big Bad Baptista with a couple of cigars. A perfect combination.

Indian Wells Brewing Co. 'Whiskey Barrel Brew' Amber Lager

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Indian Wells Brewing Co. ‘Whiskey Barrel Brew’ Amber Lager. 12% abv. Deep ruby color. Thin ivory head that falls to a sustaining collar. Fair retention, little lacing. Nose of sweet amber malt, grain, corn, white bread.

Front taste is caramel, herbal hops, faint whiskey, wood expression on the back end. Dry finish. Aftertaste is treacle, bitter herbal, vegetal, yeasty. Aroma of a sweet bread emerges as the temp rises. Medium body. Mouthfeel is cool at first, warm-hot as the temp rises to room. Thin, tacky, boozy, slightly carby.

This is sadly a mediocre beer at best, one that doesn’t benefit from its whiskey barrel treatment, a technique that usually guarantees some level of richness and flavor. It feels and tastes like a bourbon barrel aged beer that been watered down. The thin body betrays its image of a big beer, while the flavor profile is plain and weak. 

Mt first thought was that perhaps an amber lager is not ideal for a barrel program, because t then I remembered the world class barrel beers from Firestone Walker, whose brewmasters can make barrel aged gold from any category of craft beer. I’ve been disappointed by Indian Wells before, a contract craft brewery that seems to keep their creations at arm’s length. Today’s tasting is unfortunately no exception. Pass on this one.

From the brewery:

"Truly unique! We started with a special amber style beer to complement the beautiful glow of great whiskey and then racked our special brew - which is made with 2-row malt, Munich, and Caramel Malts with Noble & Mt. Hood hops - into freshly decanted Evan Williams bourbon barrels where it lagers until ready. The outcome is a perfect "sipping beer" with a wonderful flavor, aroma and whopping 12% alcohol content! This beer is made in very small batches, under carefully supervised conditions. We're certain every beer drinker will love our very special limited quantity 'Whiskey Barrel Amber'!"

"As a young boy in the 1940’s, Cliff Fyffe used to contemplate the old, broken whiskey barrels in the Evan Williams Distillery Yard. He noticed the barrels were giving off the aroma of the aged Kentucky whiskey in the summer heat. Cliff shared this memory with the Indian Wells Brewing Co. founders, Rick and Greg, who suddenly had an inspiration! They reached out and contacted Kentucky whiskey distilleries and purchased used oak barrels for their own whiskey barrel aged beer. Indian Wells Brewing Co. then left these barrels in the direct Mojave Desert sun until ripe. When the barrels were ready, they brewed a special 'amber' style lager by using their own natural artesian spring water, filling the whiskey barrels and allowing them to lager down to 34-degrees for months. Our own delicious whiskey barrel aged amber lager. It pairs well with BBQ and is just great for sipping. We hope you enjoy drinking it as much as we enjoyed making it."
[source: bottle]

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The beer was completely flat within minutes of the pour.

Clown Shoes 'Blaecorn Unidragon' Russian Imperial Stout

Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon Russian Imperial Stout 1
Clown Shoes 'Blaecorn Unidragon' Russian Imperial Stout. 12.5% abv. Deep black in color. Finger of foamy mocha head. Outstanding retention and excellent lacing. Nose of bourbon, raisin, plum, molasses. Anise comes through in the aroma as the temp rises.

Front taste is bittersweet chocolate, dried plums, sweet bread, allspice. Dry finish. Aftertaste is cocoa powder, black coffee, tart plum, ample fruity bitter hops. Medium body. Mouthfeel is hot, sticky, boozy, carby.

This is an extraordinary beer, a great big Russian with a complex flavor profile that balances bitter dark fruit with spice, hops, and boozy tastes. The complexity is alluring, toying with your palate. The spice blend brings to mind anise, allspice, cloves, and coriander, even though I doubt any of those spices are present. There is a distinct bourbon whisky aroma off the pour, even though no bourbon was used in the making of this beer. 

With its high abv and hefty overall construction, this be can be aged for further excellence. A wonderful big beer from a colorful, creative, brewery that seemingly can do no wrong. Strongly recommended.

From the brewery:

"Brewed with a monstrous amount of malt and combined with aggressive American hops, this beer is powerful and complex and designed to age. Smokiness is subtle but present and blends nicely with the rich, dark flavors."


"What should we call our Russian Imperial Stout? Black Unicorn? Soul Dragon? Nahhh. Let's combine them and create the ultimate mythical creature: Blaecorn Unidragon! Imbued with a monstrous amount of dark malt and aggressive hops, Blaecorn Unidragon is a powerful and complex brew designed to improve with age."

[source: bottle]

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Almanac Beer Co. 'Pumpkin Pie de Brettaville' Saison

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Almanac Beer Co. 'Pumpkin Pie de Brettaville' Saison. 7% abv. Orange in color. Hazy. Thin white bubbly head that dissipates alarmingly fast. Poor retention, no lacing at all. Nose of tart berry, pungent peach, wine vinegar. Sour aroma steepens as the temp rises.

Front taste is sour citrus, red wine, sweet pumpkin, bright spice, cloves, vegetal on the back end with a bitter sweet finish. Aftertaste is tart stone fruit, cinnamon, nutmeg, notes of caramel, squash, faint wood expression underneath. Medium body. Mouthfeel is cool, thick, juicy, clingy, yeasty, sour funk.

This is a pungent, juicy, sour beer with a myriad of spice and fruit flavors. The promised pumpkin is here, but you have to hunt for it, while the oak expression is nearly absent. The dominant flavors are tart fruit and red wine. If you were to taste this blindfolded, you'd think it was a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon with slightly rotted fruit tossed in. As harsh as that sounds, it appears to some, while turning off others. I belong to the latter group, though I admit I still haven't fully adapted my palate to sour beers. 

Regardless of the flavors, the beer was not crafted very well, likely due to the Brettanomyces yeast, which tends to be a wild card in brewing. The head retention and lacing were virtually absent, and there is no attempt to balance the flavors. 

To be clear, this is not one of those quasi-sour beers that can be enjoyed by all. It's a full-bore sour, squarely meant for those who have fully acquired a taste for sour brew. If you are a sour fan, you'll love this beer. If you are a hop head or a malt maniac, or a fruit fan, you might want to pass on this one. It's a solid beer for its category. Take that as you will. Mildly recommended.

From the brewery:

"Farm to Barrel. Farmhouse ale aged in oak barrels with roasted heirloom pumpkin and spices."

[source: bottle]

"Pumpkin Pie de Brettaville is a magical mix of barrel- aging and the rich flavors of autumn. We start with heirloom pumpkins from Bodega Bay and roast them whole to create a deep sugary caramelization. We add the pumpkins to a bright brettanomyces-fermented beer, and then age it in oak casks with a selection of our favorite pumpkin pie spices; whole vanilla beans, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. Finally we blend the barrels back together to create a cohesive whole with rich layers of oak, spice and caramelized pumpkin. Pair this complex sipper alongside autumn campfires, turning leaves and one extra slice of mom’s Thanksgiving pie... Our Farm to Barrel beers focus on the eons-old tradition of aging beers in oak barrels, and our de Brettaville saisons expand upon this tradition by highlighting the magical properties of wild brettanomyces yeast. We start by brewing a bright and aromatic farmhouse ale with a blend of twelve 'brett' yeast strains. After a vigorous primary fermentation, the beer is racked into wine barrels to mature. In cask, the beer takes on the complex flavors of the oak, and the brettanomyces yeast creates an exotic melange of earthy funk and tropical fruit flavors. This wild ale is alive in the bottle and will continue to mature for years."


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This is the head immediate after pour. It fell alarmingly fast.

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This is the head about 30 seconds after the pour.

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This is the head (or lack thereof) less than two minutes after the pour.