I am not what the kids these days would describe as “cool”. The last significant fashion or trend I participated in was collecting Pokemon cards when they swept across UK primary schools in the late 1990s. Since then I’ve stumbled from one craze to another, constantly bewildered and always slightly too late to fit in with the cool crowd.
This week, all that changes. Because the latest trend is the 2018 edition of Founders KBS, and I have a bottle ready and waiting.
Founders have set the bar high: I tasted another of their barrel aged stouts at Christmas last year, the Canadian Breakfast Stout, and it was pretty damn lovely: maple syrup, coffee, smoke and molasses. This time I’d expect less of the maple and more of the smoke, though I’m keeping an open mind.
The Kentucky Bourbon Stout is a powerful beast, weighing in at a punchy 12.3% ABV. It’s probably an impressive imperial stout to begin with, but aging it in bourbon barrels for 12 months allows flavours to develop that you’ll struggle to find in unaged beers.
You already know it’s going to be molasses black with a toffee-coloured head. There isn’t much head to go around, however: just a smattering on each glass.
On the nose we pick up liquorice, chicory, cold-brew coffee and molasses. There’s an alcoholic edge to it all, perhaps from the bourbon barrels, perhaps from the staggeringly high alcohol content.
The palate is as you’d expect: sweet molasses again, cocoa, coffee. There’s an extremely pleasant undertone of oak, and a thick, creamy, satisfying mouthfeel. As the beer warms up the chocolate flavours become more apparent, with less of the coffee aromatics and a more pronounced, slightly sickly sweetness. A slick, oily texture coats the tongue, leaving a smokey chocolate aftertaste.
There’s nothing especially surprising about this beer: you’re told to expect coffee, chocolate, and malt, and you get spadefuls of all of them straight to the face. As with Canadian Breakfast Stout, it’s not a perfect beer. But it’s something exciting and fun, great for a special occasion, and well worth a try should you get the chance. 4/5