Wednesday, April 3, 2013
Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout Release - 2013 Edition
This was the first year in which Founders changed the purchasing rules to more of a Dark-Lord-like model. Instead of the past format in which all KBS-buyers would purchase their case (it was "cases" in 2010) on the same day, Founders responded to last year's debacle by making purchasers enter a lottery for an advance ticket. In 2012 people camped out for beer and the ultimate line was so long on gameday that Founders had to cut allotment sizes down to half-cases just to accommodate everyone who had been waiting. I've heard rumors that portions were ultimately limited to single four-packs. This year, allotment sizes were capped at half cases (three four packs). The real impact on waiting times stemmed from the policy permitting customers to pick up their beer over a four-day period at their choice. This procedure shortened lines, made pickup smoother and resulted in far happier customers. As we awaited entry into the brewpub, you would see only the occasional customer walk out of the side door with his or her purchase. Kudos to Founders for getting this part of the process righted.
As for the event itself, by the 11 a.m. opening, there was a 100-person-or-so line to enter the brewpub, where, as always, the beer received its initial Saturday release on tap. This was great because if you wanted to try KBS on tap in lieu of buying it, you didn't have to worry about Founders running out of kegstock before the day most out-of-towners could travel to Grand Rapids. The line moved swiftly, and they further accommodated potentially excess crowds by setting up a tent outside that contained additional taps:
Inside the brewpub, it was pleasantly roomy. Since bottle purchasers didn't all descend upon the brewpub on the same pick up day, they were far less in number inside the pub. It was easy to get to the bar and order. The standard KBS pour was 8 oz. into a wide, bulbous snifter glass with the Founders name in cursive. Surprisingly, the only other "Class 2" or higher beer on tap was Old Curmudgeon. There were no rarities on tap this year, such as last year's deliciously dangerous coffee installment, Sumatra Brown. My pal and travel companion tried Curmudgeon for the first time and really liked it. I thought its sweetness and slight earthy flavor stood in nice contrast to KBS.
But our first and last round was indeed the legendary KBS, the star of the show, so perhaps the limited offerings were just as well. Several people commented that they thought it was watered down this year. My bartender pal Jere thinks it was perfect. My theory is that it was just a bit tight, and if you thought it was watered down, and I admit to an initial agreement with that characterization, you probably felt that way because you were comparing it to KBS that had aged for at least a few months. The last KBS you had probably consumed prior to the release was product that had been given a chance to open up a bit. I have had enough aged KBS to know that aging does wonders for it; like a Bordeaux, it's best when it sits around for a few years. Even tight, the KBS was wonderfully fresh and dominated by boozy bourbon, strong coffee, and bitter chocolate. The carbonation was robust. As it warmed up, the sweeter elements satisfyingly emerged.
The only downside of this year's staggered pick up schedule and smaller allotments was that there were fewer folks willing to sell even one or two bottles. One customer offered that he would not sell one of his beers "for a million dollars" and feigned disinterest at the cheeky offer of a billion. Just as we were about to give up and venture back to Chicago empty handed, a woman in a group which I had earlier approached about buying a couple of bottles at a premium tracked me down and offered us a four pack at face value. She noted that she was persuaded by my comment that I wasn't out to sell it on E Bay but was simply all about the beer. That was gracious of her, and she's right.
With beer this good, it should be all about the beer and nothing more.