- Style: A barrel aged Imperial-stout, KBS is brewed with a massive amount of coffee and chocolates, then cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels for an entire year.
- ABV: Vintage 2017 – 11.8% and Vintage 2019 – 12.2%
- IBU: 70 (Both vintages)
This week we decided to have some fun and taste two different vintages of Founders’ KBS to see how they hold up with aging. If you don’t know, KBS is Founders’ chocolate, coffee imperial oatmeal stout aged in bourbon barrels. Every vintage always receives a rating of over 4.0 on Untappd, and it was one of the first stouts to be barrel aged and set the standard for aged beers to come. The 2017 was bottled n 2/20/17 and the 2019 was bottled on 2/11/19. OK then, lets get down to the nitty-gritty.
Both beers poured with a thin tan head that remained on the outer edge of the glass, and a super dark body reminiscent to coca-cola. The nose on the 2017 vintage was filled with raisin, chocolate, oak, dry apricot, and caramelized brown sugar. While the 2019 vintage had a strong presence of coffee which pretty much dominated everything else. On the back layers you could find some chocolate, oak, and burnt malt. The flavor in the 2017 came across as flat when compared to the 2019. Notes of milk chocolate, oak, and vanilla were noticed though. And minimal heat was present, even as it warmed up. The 2019 was filled with fresh roasted light coffee, chocolate, oak, and some heat as it warmed. The body on these was a bit syrupy, especially the 2017, but not syrupy to the point where it coated and stuck to your whole mouth in a bad way.
Overall I would suggest drinking KBS fresh. I had a much better drinking experience with the fresh version. It felt more balanced and put together. I feel like it can fall apart with more than 1 year of aging on this beer. Coffee’s essential oils just fade off far too quickly. The ABV is high but very smooth even on the fresh bottle. If you still want to age KBS I suggest buying a 4 pack, drink one or two fresh and cellar the rest. Try one every 6 months or so and see how the beer evolves. I find aging works best on unadjunct high abv beers, or wild/sour beers with a low PH. Most brewers do the aging for you, and release the beer when they believe it is ready to be drank. However there are some circumstances when the beer may not be ready and it is released early, like when a brewery just doesn’t have the space in their cellar to continue to age it.
I will leave you with a tidbit of what Founders brewmaster, Jeremy Kosmicki, thinks about cellaring KBS: “Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference. I, for one, do not intentionally age beer, but I know many people who really enjoy squirreling beer away for some future date. One of the most common cellaring habits I see is people collecting different vintages of a beer like KBS (our chocolate, coffee imperial oatmeal stout aged in bourbon barrels), and then doing vertical tastings to compare the fresh version versus bottles from years past. I can appreciate that, and it’s certainly interesting to see how the beer holds up/changes over time. I generally find that the coffee flavor is most intense in the fresh versions and it fades over time allowing the chocolate and oak flavors to shine through even more. A cool exercise for sure, but I almost always prefer the freshest version. Remember, the flavor will most certainly change with age – but that doesn’t necessarily mean for the better. When it comes to barrel-aged beers, we like to say that we age them for you. They’ve already spent a year “cellaring” in the barrel, so when we package it up for release, it’s primed and ready for consumption.”