If this record seems to be skipping forgive me, but to reiterate, some of the world’s best beer comes from that tucked away state called Michigan. And one of the most influential breweries from Michigan has had quite an impact since hitting the Central NY market just a few years ago.
(Of course, a little pub in South Utica was pouring their beer a while before that entry with the help of a certain Manhattan-based beer specialist who gladly hauled up barrels of “Dirty Bastard” or “Cerise” on every visit. I still fondly remember those magical unveilings each time his sedan would pull up to pop the trunk ...)
I could go on for some time about Founders Brewing Company and their contributions to this Golden Age of beer, but clearly I’ve done that before. There aren’t many brews from Grand Rapids that I haven’t fallen for on first sip, because most of their liquid hits the palate with a sumptuous decadence reminiscent of a Barry White track. (Nevermind about the “Lizard of Koz.”)
From IPAs, to fruit ales, sours, or malt bombs, Founders, without question, brews a few of the best beers on the planet. But, perhaps their greatest contribution to beer has been those infamously thick, roasty, chewy, malty brews like the porter, and of course, imperial stouts.
For some time, their imperial stout “Breakfast Stout” remained on the top of most beer lists; it still would be if such rankings were not driven by scarcity. Nevertheless, Founders Breakfast Stout created a new paradigm for stouts. And the spin-offs of this beer brewed with flaked oats, bitter and sweet chocolate, and Sumatra and Kona coffee have generated even more excitement. Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS), brewed with a hint of coffee and vanilla, then aged in bourbon barrels for over a year, is a release that has become so anticipated one could easily envision it displacing a holiday like Columbus Day. Yet, KBS, too, has become fairly “available” the past couple of years, which means less hype from the beanie baby-type beer collectors out there.
Every few years, however, Founders goes even deeper and releases their Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS), which brings the beer frenzy right back. This imperial stout variation is brewed with a blend of coffees and imported chocolates, and aged in spent bourbon barrels most recently used for Michigan maple syrup. Buckle up, because CBS is back this December. And if you are fortunate enough to find some, Christmas may arrive a few days early.
This week’s recommendation: Founders CBS, an imperial stout aged in spent bourbon barrels previously used for maple syrup. 10.6 percent ABV. Grand Rapids, Michigan.
— Colin Hubbell is co-owner of the Green Onion Pub and The Beer Hub in South Utica. His column appears weekly.