We in the Brew Crew had so much fun doing our review of last year’s KBS from Founders Brewing that we decided to renew our fealty to the lord of bourbon, chocolate, and coffee with a four-year tasting, spanning 2015 to 2018 vintages of the stout much beloved of us in the Crew. Without further ado …
Solo: Here we go again.
Nomicon: (speaking to the microphone) Is this thing on, man?
Luke: Hey, Luke showed up to this one.
Nomicon: The last one (our somewhat recent Ska Face Barleywine review) wasn’t that incoherent.
Solo: No, we were fine. You were just wearing a winter scarf indoors with the heat on and then this delicious sandwich was born.
The sandwich in question is called the Jumanji, and consists of mayo and croutons among other ingredients. We always wonder where we left the Jumanji parked for some reason. But, I digress.
Nomicon: Fucking seasoned herb croutons, man!
Solo: Well, yeah, it worked out.
Nomicon: I bought an extra package of seasoned herb croutons even though I have a package already. I don’t know why I keep ending up with more packages of croutons.
Solo: Do you want more?
Nomicon: No, I do not want more. I am set on croutons. Instead of rose petals I’m going to sprinkle croutons on my bed. You know girls like that type of thing.
Solo: Crouton bed?
Nomicon: Yeah, crouton bed. Bed of croutons. (After looking at something online) Whoahoahoa…
Solo: The Founders’ rum ham beer? (For those who did not see it, Founders’ April Fools day joke beers were Rum Ham IPA and Milk Steak Stout)
Nomicon: The Abyss rum barrel variant, ham.
Stout: It’s the new version of rum ham, what kind of rum ham is this? Abyss rum ham!
Nomicon: The rum ham stares into you.
Solo: It just needed a little more, uh … injection! Eeeeeeeeeeee. (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas reference to the adrenochrome) Dude, your head will swell up like a watermelon, you’re about to explode! And, you will sound like a raccoon!
At long last, we begin our KBS journey with the 2015 vintage:
Solo: Aroma of bourbon and soy sauce. Soy sauce ain’t bad at all.
Stout: Hint of dark chocolate.
Solo: It all sort of melts together.
Luke: Yeah, it (individual components of the beer) doesn’t stick out.
Solo: It definitely has that aged, tannic quality, kind of like the very end of a cabernet or something.
Various tangential ramblings ensue wherein we discuss the finer points of Dark Lord Day and ponder feasting.
Nomicon: Yeah, I’ll wrap a turkey in bacon and you make the rum ham!
Nomicon: Yeah, this is really rich.
Luke: It has held up pretty well.
Stout: Yeah, I’d say so, you can kind of taste it a little in the mouthfeel, where it is a little thinner.
Solo: Yeah, it has mellowed. Just sort of …
Luke: We would call KBS sessionable.
Nomicon: It has the flavor of the dark chocolate, but it doesn’t go down like dark chocolate.
Solo: No, and it doesn’t attack the mid-palate like this beer did last year.
Luke: It hits you up front and then slowly fades back.
Stout: I think the most notable thing is how minimal the coffee is.
Nomicon: Yeah, the coffee is not distinguishable. It’s a good oak finish, there’s a nice barrel finish.
Solo: You get that vanilla from the oak.
Stout: A little heat up front and then the oaky vanilla on the back.
Solo: Just a nice, mild burn as it goes down. Last year this had a lot more of the barrel presence. This actually starts to remind me a bit more of the chocolate flavor in stouts from the Bruery, because they have that subtle warming chocolate presence to them, and that’s exactly what this in character reminds me of.
Nomicon: There’s still the dark chocolate as it warms, but also kind of a cocoa (flavor). I wouldn’t say cocoa powder, but something kind of like that. I wish this was a little more coating because that mouthfeel is just a little thin, but that’s totally fine. I mean, the flavors are still on point. This year is definitely more chocolate forward.
Solo: At this point.
Nomicon: The booze didn’t mellow at all.
Solo: No, it shouldn’t.
Nomicon: If anything I get more of the bourbon notes. That definitely pops through on the finish on the mid-palate. Kind of a bourbon explosion, along with the chocolate, and then the finish is all earthy with the oaky notes. The vanilla and everything like that kind of lingers around. I’d say it held up well though.
On to the 2016 vintage!
Luke: This has a little more rich texture to the head, a little darker brown.
Nomicon: That smells hotter than the ’15 did.
Luke: I would even say spicier, but not really spicy per se.
Solo: The weird thing is this one was just super mellow chocolate last year.
Nomicon: OK, so coffee is pulling forward.
Solo: This one is definitely changing, lots of chocolate and hot bourbon.
We then went off topic discussing some of the Prairie Bomb variants which are also among our favorite imperial stouts.
Solo: This has a little bit of a smokiness to it almost, kind of like a scotch, just a hair. That might just be from the barrels.
Luke: It almost feels like it has a tiny bit of ancho chile around the end, but not that prominent. It has that little rounded flavor where it goes up in intensity at the end.
Nomicon: So I’m getting more coffee out of this one than the last one, where the coffee was virtually nonexistent. It is definitely still there in this one, and this still has the same kind of effect that I got on the last one around mid-palate, where it bursts a bit of bourbon and then it is finishing with less oakiness, and I’m getting a bit more hotness on the finish.
Luke: I’m getting less vanilla, like where you add vanilla to cocoa, and I’m getting more of a burn.
Solo: Which in this case is fantastic.
Nomicon: Yeah, it’s hotter. It’s not like the last one where I got more earthy oak and vanilla notes and not as much bourbon. This one I definitely get more of the bourbon … Limes? Are those limes?
Solo: We have limes, do you want some limes with your KBS?
Luke: It’s a KBS libre! That should be their next April Fools Day beer.
Solo: Unleash the fucking fury!
Luke: Release the Kraken!
Solo: Somewhere E-Rock, his ears are burning…
Stout: The call of my people!
Nomicon: They need me! They need me!
Further rambling ensues including a retelling of the breaking of a fence, breakfast ribs, and Stout Challenge VII. We then went off into the main nerve of Fear and Loathing, as is proper, and according to our nature, and then finally returned to the delicious task at hand.
Luke: This felt like it was more cohesive, more whole. The ’15 felt like the flavors were more strung out.
Nomicon: This one’s more balanced than the last one. The other one was more chocolate forward. I’d say there were a couple of different layers of chocolate in there.
Luke: Definitely a little oxidation in the last one, but I don’t feel like there’s much of that in this one.
Nomicon: And, that could’ve just been that specific bottle, too, but it wasn’t overwhelming by any means.
Solo: No, just a hint. It was starting to oxidize more prominently, but didn’t do any real detriment.
Luke: I definitely wasn’t licking wet cardboard with that one.
Solo: No wet cardboard, no bandaids, or other off flavors.
Luke: That was good, I like that. Two years then seems to be best (for aging).
What follows is some *unintelligible gibberish* and barnyard noises from all of us in a call and response, not unlike the howling of aeons between demons of a certain ilk which I will not utter here.
Solo: Old man yells at cloud.
Nomicon: OK, I almost just yanked myself back with my nose.
Solo: How many croutons did you have?
On to the 2017 vintage. The demonic gibberish which had subsided for a moment, suddenly returns and consumes us in a wave of anticipation of our dark and delicious third offering of the evening.
Nomicon: Yow, that smells fucking boozy.
More noises indicating something of approval commence.
Luke: It’s thicker. This one is chewier for sure.
Solo: This has that wonderful bitter chocolate that hits right before you get the barrel.
Stout: It’s probably the most balanced one we’ve had so far.
Nomicon: So it’s not as hot as it warms up. It was hot in the nose and on the palate at first, but definitely calmed down, but still more chocolate forward. Actually, (it was) more chocolate forward than even the last one.
Luke: More chocolate forward than the ’16, I agree.
Nomicon: The ’16 was more coffee forward in character.
Luke: I would say there were more highs and lows in terms of mouthfeel in the ’16 than in the ’17.
Stout: As far as the heat goes, I’d say the heat is balanced.
Nomicon: I’d say that’s the one thing that’s been consistent as far as the aging and the qualities that you get from the barrel aging, I get booziness in all of them.
Luke: Which is the booziest so far in your opinion?
Nomicon: I’d say the ’16 so far is the booziest. ’17 wasn’t quite to that level. It was still boozy, but I would still say that the ’16 was a little more boozy from an overall perspective, not just from alcohol warming or the like. Strictly from a standpoint of all of the qualities from barrel aging I get a lot of bourbon. I didn’t get as much of the oaky barrel flavors or vanilla. This one (the ’17) gives a lot more chocolate, so it is kind of like the ’16 was when we tasted it last year with it being so chocolate forward.
Our conversation then turned to the finer points of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels versus Snatch, which went on for some time.
At long last, we persisted in our efforts and made it to the 2018 vintage to conclude our tasting. With our final glasses in hand, we raised one up to our dearly departed friend Justin Shearer and shared a moment of silence in his honor.
Solo: Too weird to live, too rare to die.
More grunting of an excited nature ensues as we dipped our snouts into the dark mist of the aroma wafting off the surface of our goblets.
Solo: (In a nod to this last season of Twin Peaks) Cooooo-feeeee?
Luke: Oh man, that’s sharp.
Nomicon: Rich as shit.
Nomicon: Yeah, that’s a rich motherfucker.
Stout: My god.
Solo: Yep, this is what I expected.
Nomicon: It’s really rich, but that’s a lot of coffee actually, too. It’s got the most coffee out of the four.
Solo: The coffee seems to fade year by year. Last year’s when it was fresh had a lot of coffee, and after a year of sitting it just chilled out. But, this is probably the most balanced vintage I’ve had out of the five years I’ve tried fresh. Because the others have all been a little bit where one flavor is more forward than the others. In this case, it hits the nail on the fucking head.
Luke: I was looking at these beers like, everyone has their flavor spikes, one had the spike in the front but the dip in the end, some had their spikes in the middle, this one is just …
Luke: Yeah, everything is just up, down, here, there, all over your palate.
Solo: This one is consistent, but it does undulate forward, a little bit in the middle, and it just hits right off the back.
Luke: Yeah, because you can taste very much the barrel aged and everything else.
Solo: You get your chocolate, you get your fucking coffee, your barrel, you get your stout. You can taste a little bit of the malted grains themselves in there, too.
Luke: It’s a full-flavored beer for sure.
Solo: Might be a pain in the ass to brew, but damn it’s delicious.
Nomicon: We need to find a cave to age a stout in.
Solo: You’re not wrong, we could make our own cave.
Nomicon: We could …
Solo: I have … land!
Laughter ensues followed by the sounds of the Bren Gun blasting at full volume in the background and drowning us all out as we were watching Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels at the time.
Luke: That should be the end of our tasting.
Nomicon: And, end scene.
Solo: That was the Bren Gun!
Stout: Aaaaaand we’re back!
Nomicon: Yep, that was the Bren Gun. The bourbon’s more forward on this one, too. It’s less mellow and more like you are drinking something that’s been sitting with bourbon. It’s been playing well, it’s been playing nice, but not that nice.
Solo: It’s got that lovely little bit of almost caramel/crystal malt flavor from the bourbon that’s just beautifully cutting through the bitter chocolate, the somewhat astringent but not overly astringent black malts.
Nomicon: I think it’s got a little more roast and a little bit of other notes coming out. A little bit of leather coming out.
Solo: Hell bent for leather.
Luke: A little leather and tobacco.
Nomicon: Denim and leather!
Solo: Have we got a traffic warden?
We then rambled on the topic of upcoming metal shows including Goatwhore (May 11) concluding with the upcoming Converge appearance in our neck of the woods.
Nomicon: I am going to murder so many fucking people.
Solo: That’s definitely going in the article.
Nomicon: I haven’t been to a Converge show in years and the last time I did I broke my fucking ribs at that show because someone fucking kicked me. I was still fucking jumping on stage.
Solo: I think we finally got the KBS that we were told existed, the one that was hinted at, whispered about, the unicorn. This is all melded together wonderfully.
Luke: Ahab’s whale.
We then descended into a chaotic maelstrom of conversation, including our favorite Avery stouts, more metal, and so on and so forth. What did you expect? It’s us. Well, that about does it for this year’s mini KBS vertical and review. Our overall consensus is that you should go forth and procure the ’18 posthaste and enjoy the beastly stout in all of its burly glory, ere the coffee fades and the monster loses some of its rage. From all of us at Darkside we wish you eternal hails and good ales!
— Franz Solo