Finally. After all the hype, the lines out the door at Founders, the phone calls, the Google searches, and the rejection, I finally got some of it. I of course mean Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout, the legendary maple syrup bourbon barreled oatmeal stout that has just been released in bottles that you can't get. All this hype and frenzy have been so ridiculous that it makes the Kentucky Breakfast Stout release seem like a regular Saturday delivery of Heineken keg cans.
Bottles of CBS are going for as much as $300 on the net. Stores stocked out in 5 minutes. One merchant told me of a fellow looking for it who had already purchased many bottles, knew that the store was not releasing its allotment until later that week, yet refused to leave the premises without being sold a bottle. It must be nice to be sought after that much; CBS must feel like a supermodel. If it failed to live up to the hype it would be a grave disappointment.
As for my own experience, I called my local wine store 10 times during release week, tried multiple locations, veritably begged them for it, and they ended up releasing it mid-day via tweet (and the dreaded Facebook post) when I was at work, miles away. It disappeared in 10 minutes. My other angle was through a raffle. That is, my local liquor store decided to raffle off its 6 bottle allotment with the money going to charity. Fortunately, tickets were a dollar so the likely wasted investment wasn't huge. By this time, my friend had come to town for the marathon, and she accompanied me to the raffle drawing. I had about a 6 percent chance of success, or, about half the ABV of the beer's chance. Suffice it to say, I did not win. Some guy allegedly celebrating his birthday won the last of the six. I momentarily imagined him opening it up and finding it filled with Bud Select. I must say that such a though was not unpleasant.
To make matters even worse, a buddy of mine, B, was "accidentally" sold an early released bottle by the wine store, the same store that I had on speed dial. Crikey! It seemed hopeless.
But I heard that Hopleaf bar in Andersonville had some, and after the marathon, my friend and I got some dinner near there. I happened to pop in to Hopleaf after dinner, just pathetically and desperately hoping to merely hear about how they had killed the keg, and how everyone loved it. Sadly, being close to CBS was to be enough.
Well, it turns out that they had it - at $45 a bottle. A beer that retailed at the brewery for $18 and $24 at the liquor store was the price of arugula and dozen bananas at Whole Foods. Although I thought the price ridiculous, my friend, exasperated at my obsessing about the beer, practically demanded that we split the cost so that her misery would cease.
So we bought it and split it in a couple of mini-English style pints. It was late, about 10 p.m. We got a table outdoors in the courtyard on a warm night. The CBS came out of the 22 oz. bottle just as I remembered it: nearly pitch black with a brownish head that massively bubbled up. The smell was magnificent, emitting chocolate, roasted coffee, roasted nuts, vanilla, maybe a bit of honey. The body was a dark pool, revealing nothing.
The first minute register on your tongue is sugar and smoke. That immediately folds into coffee, roasted nuts, molasses, and dark chocolate. There's something else there and you find out later that it's bourbon. The other flavors mask it, but it begins to register on the finish. Bourbon grows stronger towards the finish. By the last few sips, it's quite prominent, never powerful, but CBS finishes up as a bitter chocolate and maple flavored bourbon with the whiskey bite switched off.
This is a beer of astonishing complexity. I tried it again at a special Sheffield's tasting a few days later, this time on tap, where you had to buy tickets ahead of time. I was surprised at the small crowd that was there. Word had obviously not gotten out very much. Note that I didn't post anything about this one. They only had "20 samples available" and I found out about it at the bar the day before. Sorry, guys. Sheffield's distributed it into 8 oz. snifters with a narrow top. The brown top bulged way out of the narrow glass and threatened to lob off onto the floor.
I found it much sweeter out of the tap. The sugars were stronger. Lacing spackled the glass in tiny discs. The roasted coffee and hops dominated the early flavor and gradually succumbed to the maple, vanilla, and bourbon flavors. It finished boozier, much more bourbon dominated than the bottled version.
CBS is incredibly unusual. Its various characteristics are emphasized to a greater or lesser degree depending on the serving format, tap or bottle. It morphs into an entirely different beer as you drink it. Serious beer drinkers will be awed by the complexity. Casual drinkers will be drawn in by the slight to moderate sweetness and bitter chocolate.
But with so little of this out there, sharing it in more than minuscule amounts with mere novices is robbing the true enjoyment potential of this. It's a tough get but an amazing experience.
4.9 of 5 stars.