Lucky number thirteen here, this one will be the 13th Founders beer that I’ll have reviewed on here and follows on from the bottle of their Backwoods Bastard that I enjoyed not that long ago. Like that offering, this one is an extremely limited edition beer from the brewery, of which one batch is released in April each year and usually sells out within the month. Described by the brewery as “a bit of backwoods pleasure without the banjo”, the beer is an 11.2% offering that is brewed with hints of coffee and vanilla before being aged in oak bourbon barrels for a year in the caves below Grand Rapids, Michigan. Previously known as Kentucky Breakfast Stout, the beer now just goes by the acronym KBS and is a different beer from barrel-aged versions of their Breakfast Stout which was the original recipe for this beer when it initially launched using Jack Daniels barrels before being tweaked some.
Coming in at 70 IBU’s, the beer is universally considered to be a classic and is currently listed as the 10th and 11th best imperial stout on the BeerAdvocate and RateBeer websites respectively, making it the first imperial stout that I will have tried to be rated higher than Bourbon County Brand Stout. I actually picked this bottle up at the end of May after a limited number made it to the UK and it’s one that I’ve been holding on to until the holiday season with it being the beer I’m most looking forward to trying alongside the bottle of AleSmith’s Speedway Stout that I still have to try. KBS is also currently listed as the 14th and 16th best beer overall on the BeerAdvocate and RateBeer websites meaning that Westvleteren 12 is the only beer that I’ll have tried that ranks higher than this one on both sites; surely this has to be an amazing offering and I can’t wait to find out for myself now.
Appearance (4/5): Pitch black in colour with a one-centimetre tall, tan coloured head that’s made of fine bubbles but took quite an aggressive pour to form. It does what you’d expect from such a strong beer and disappears after about thirty to forty seconds, leaving a thin circle of bubbles around the edges of the glass and the odd trace in the centre.
Aroma (9/10): I gave this beer a little more time to settle than usual before jumping in, mainly to let the temperature fall a little and I’m glad that I did as it was a very strong offering that came through with a tonne of vanilla and plenty of oak sweetness. The alcohol on the nose didn’t seem quite as strong as I’d assumed it would be but there was definitely a nice warming touch to proceedings with a little grain too. The beer was naturally quite dark on the nose with some ripe fruits coming through around the middle, most notably plum and raisins that were backed up by some coffee notes and a few burnt sugars. There was some bourbon notes and rich chocolate towards the end that helped add to the sweetness without overdoing things and I managed to detect some creamy notes right at the end as well.
Taste (10/10): Strong, rich chocolate flavours open the taste of this one up and are followed by some excellent vanilla flavours and a good amount of coffee. The beer is very dark with some ripe fruits coming through around the middle, the plum and raisin from the nose feature alongside some dates and figs. A few burnt sugars also carry on from the nose and there is plenty of roasted malts adding a subtle bitterness before some barely appears. There is a slight alcohol kick towards the end that is backed up by an oak sweetness and some butterscotch right at the death; an absolutely amazing tasting beer.
Palate (5/5): A rich and slightly creamy, full-bodied beer that was incredibly smooth and came through with soft carbonation levels. Naturally the beer was a strong one, it boasted a warming alcohol kick towards the end that felt quite boozy but remained easy enough to drink, relatively speaking anyway. There was a nice balance to the beer with the oak and various fruits adding a sweetness to proceedings that leveled out the roasted malts and dark flavours that kicked things off previously; excellent stuff really.
Overall (19/20): Another fantastic beer from Founders that was well worth the wait, I’m just glad that I was able to pick up two bottles at the time and still have another one to drink. The beer is full of flavour and comes through quite complex with a good combination of dark, ripe fruits and an oak sweetness on top of the excellent roasted flavours and dark malts. I enjoyed the warming alcohol touches that gave the beer a nice kick and despite the strength it still proved an easier than expected beer to drink with it going down quite easily; that being said, I definitely took my time and savoured this one. A beautiful beer and one of the best I think I’ve tried, I’m definitely looking forward to trying this one again now.
Brewed In: Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States of America
Brewery: Founders Brewing Company
First Brewed: 2005
Full Name: Founders KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout)
Type: Imperial Stout
Serving: Bottle (355ml)
Purchased: The Good Spirits Co. (Glasgow)
The final beer from those I tried over the Christmas holidays now, this one being a Spanish brewed pale lager from Brønhër Brew that I received as part of a box from Beer52 as a Christmas gift. The beer is my first from the brewery and one that I’d not heard of prior to opening the box, to be honest my knowledge of Spanish beers is pretty limited with this one being only my fourteenth from a country that is relatively close to the UK. This one will also be my first Spanish beer since last summer when I reviewed a bottle of Squiffy Sailor from Barcelona based Edge Brewing but hopefully, with a trip to Spain coming up later this year, I’ll be able to sample a few other beers and see what the country has to offer.
Appearance (4/5): This one pours a pale, light amber colour with a thumb-sized head that is foamy and white. The body is a clear one with a couple of bubbles rising to the surface and there is a touch of lacing on the sides of the glass too; not a bad look beer for the style really.
Aroma (6/10): This one wasn’t the most complex nose really, it started off with some light citrus and hay notes that are almost standard for the style before being followed by some lemon. There was some corn and a few earthy notes coming through alongside touches of coriander but it was relatively light but fresh.
Taste (6/10): The taste is kicked off with some light malts and grassy hops that match the nose well, there was some basic lager flavours coming through as well with corn and a background sweetness being the most noticeable. The beer tasted quite clean with the odd floral touch coming through but again it was quite one-dimensional.
Palate (4/5): A smooth and probably light-medium bodied beer, this one was fresh and crisp to drink with a good balance although, as I’ve mentioned already, it definitely wasn’t the most complex or varied beer really. There was a little dryness towards the end but overall the mouthfeel was a clean one.
Overall (13/20): This one was quite a nice lager whilst being quite a standard and basic one at the same time. There was some clean malts, a subtle bitterness and all the usual lager flavours coming through but nothing really stuck out and I’m not sure it will be all that memorable a beer.
Brewed In: Villajoyosa, Alicante, Spain
Brewery: Brønhër Brew
First Brewed: 2013
Type: Pale Lager
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
My eleventh beer from Ballast Point now and it’s a big one, a bomber of their Victory At Sea imperial porter that I picked up from the Brewdog online store a couple of months ago. This one is a beer that I was inspired to pick up because it features in the updated version of the 1001 Beers list (although not the version I’m working off) and I thought it would be good to check a couple off if I had the chance. Another reason for me grabbing this bottle was because of how much I enjoyed Orkney Porter and Flying Dog’s Gonzo in the past, two of the few imperial stouts that I’ve actually tried and I’m hoping this one is just as good as those were. This particular offering from Ballast Point has cold brewed coffee added to it from San Diego’s Caffe Calabria during the brewing process and it’s highly rated online with RateBeer listing it as the eighth best imperial porter on their site while BeerAdvocate also lists it as the eighth best, this time in the American porter category. As with all big beers, this is one that I’m really looking forward to trying and I just hope it proves to be as good as some of the brewery’s other popular beers I’ve sampled recently.
Appearance (5/5): This one poured opaque and pitch black with a thumb-sized, foamy head that was a tan brown colour. It slowly receded, ending up about half its original size but holding its shape well and leaving some nice touches of lacing on the sides of the glass too.
Aroma (9/10): Strong dark malts and a nice bit of sweetness to proceedings with a vanilla backing that comes through quite strong and is followed by hints of coffee, although these are slightly less pronounced. There was plenty of roasted malts coming through around the middle and a hint of alcohol makes itself known too, giving the beer a slightly warming nose. Some rich chocolate and burnt sugars appear towards the end with hints of smoke coming through as well and giving the beer a very nice and well-balanced nose.
Taste (8/10): Definitely a strong-tasting beer, this one kicks off with a lot of roasted malts and coffee, there’s a lot more coming through here than with the nose. I got some nice vanilla next and this was backed up by some rich chocolate and cocoa flavours plus hints of grain before some smoky flavours and an earthy bitterness appears towards the end.
Palate (4/5): The beer had quite a thick feel to it and seemed slightly warming as well thanks to the alcohol content coming through. There was some rich and complex flavours to this one, I got some smoke with a bit of light grain and a faint, earthy bitterness too but it seemed very well-balanced on the whole and went down well.
Overall (17/20): This one was an excellent imperial porter that came through with a strong alcohol kick and a lot of flavour, particularly towards the end when a warming alcohol kick really made itself known. There beer was well-balanced with nice coffee and vanilla flavours sitting on top of the dark malts and roasted flavours making this one an outstanding beer and one of the better porters I’ve tried so far, although Orkney Porter probably still comes out on top.
Brewed In: San Diego, California, United States of America
Brewery: Ballast Point Brewing Company
Also Known As: Victory At Sea Coffee Imperial Porter
First Brewed: 2007
Type: Imperial Porter
Serving: Bottle (650ml)
Purchased: Brewdog, Glasgow, Scotland
This one is a beer that I received as a birthday gift at the end of October and opted to hold off drinking it until the very start of this year, over the holiday season. The beer is my second from the Left Hand brewery based in Colorado and will actually be my second stout from them as well, this one being an imperial stout and the last being a sweet one but they’re technically both stouts. This one follows on from the bottle of Left Hand Milk Stout that I reviewed at the start of 2015 with that one being a beer that also featured on the 1001 beers list. This one is a strong offering from the brewery that comes in at over 10% abv. and is stored in cellars by Left Hand for over 4 months before being released to the public. It should be noted that this review is of the Nitro version of the beer, a version that I believe was only introduced in 2014 but hopefully I’ll get an opportunity to try the regular version at some point and see how they compare.
Appearance (5/5): The beer is a really dark mahogany colour with an opaque body that boarders on black and is topped with a one and a half centimetre tall head that’s creamy looking and a medium tan colour. Head retention is quite good with the beer showing very little initial movement and leaving a thick layer of lacing on the sides of the glass too; great stuff, especially given the strength of this beer.
Aroma (8/10): This one starts quite strong on the nose with a lot of dark fruits coming through initially, prunes and raisins being the most pronounced of the bunch though. There was some roasted malt flavours and a touch of barley following on behind and towards the middle I got some touches of alcohol sneaking in alongside some smoky notes and hints of vanilla sweetness. There was some faint chocolate smells and a hint of coffee towards the end of the nose with the aroma holding a nice balance throughout.
Taste (8/10): Kicking off with a smokey taste, there is some raisins and plumbs from the nose coming through early with this one and they’re backed up by some dates and figs too but the beer doesn’t seem quite as smooth this time round really. There was some creamy touches and a few dark malts before the roasted flavours started to appear around the middle along with a touch of alcohol grain. Towards the end some chocolate flavours and a little bit of sugar added to the sweetness with touches of espresso featuring as well. The beer was an enjoyable one without it seeming overly complex in truth but I won’t complain too much as it was a nice beer.
Palate (4/5): Quite a smooth and creamy beer from Left Hand here, this one was perhaps a touch thinner than I expected from such a strong beer though; it sat around medium bodied. There was some warming alcohol on the palate and soft carbonation levels with some sweetness from the vanilla and sugars as well as the chocolate that appeared towards the end but overall the beer had a nice balance.
Overall (14/20): This one was quite a strong beer with a lot of flavour coming through in its 10.2% abv., although it was a touch thinner than I’d have expected and perhaps not quite as complex tasting as some of the stronger Belgian beers I’ve sampled recently. There was some nice roasted malts coming through but the dark fruits coupled with the vanilla sweetness were what came out on top. The beer was definitely a nice one from Left Hand with a good balance but it’s probably not quite on par with some of the better imperial stouts out there if I’m honest and for that reason I’m not sure I’d pick this one up again in future; it was still a good beer though and I wonder if the regular version would be any different from this nitro one.
Brewed In: Longmont, Colorado, United States of America
Brewery: Left Hand Brewing Company
First Brewed: 2014 (Nitro version)
Type: Imperial Stout
Serving: Bottle (355ml)
Purchased: Good Spirits Co. Wine & Beer (Glasgow)
My final beer from Brewdogs Russian Doll series now (finally), this barleywine being the strongest of the four beers released and one that comes in at 10% abv. following the trend of each beer being 2% stronger than the one that preceded it. The Russian Doll four-pack is one that I’ve been surprisingly pleased with on the whole, granted the pale ale was average at best but both the IPA and the double IPA were very nice and I wouldn’t be adverse to trying either of them again; it’s not often I say that about Brewdog special release four-packs with their annual IPA Is Dead release never going down well. This is the beer from the series that I have been most looking forward to trying, that’s one of the reasons I’ve saved it until last, and it’s one that I’m hoping for big things from so here’s hoping that it carries on from the IPA and double IPA in the series and actually delivers. The beer will also be my second review of a barleywine from Brewdog in a row, following from another bottle of theirs that I had over Christmas and new year; their #Mashtag 2015 offering.
Appearance (4/5): Hazy and slightly murky brown with some orange and amber tinges coming through, this one forms a thin and foamy head on top of it that is a tan coloured surface lacing that gets slightly patchy looking around the edges.
Aroma (8/10): This one starts with some nice hops coming through on top of a solid malt base, there was some decent tropical notes early on with a bit of pineapple, mango and apricot coming through alongside a couple of darker fruits, most notably plum. There was strong caramel malts around the middle with a bit of alcohol backing it up before some raisins and sugars seen things out.
Taste (8/10): Quite a hop-filled beer that was strong and complex on the taste buds with some ripe, dark fruits opening things up along with a few sugars; plums and raisins seemed the most pronounced with some dates in there as well. The beer was further sweetened by some nice caramel malts and sugars around the middle before a bit of orange and some bitterness at the end helped to level things out a little.
Palate (4/5): Thick and full-bodied, this one came through with plenty of sweetness which seemed most pronounced at the start. There was a warming and slightly boozy feel to the beer like I was expecting, the balance was good though and carbonation was quite light too.
Overall (16/20): This one was quite a nice offering from Brewdog with a nice hop presence and some good tropical fruits on the nose that I wasn’t expecting. The dark fruits and malts seemed to take over by the time the taste came around but there was a nice warming feel to the beer and it proved highly drinkable, even given the strong alcohol content. An enjoyable and well executed beer that I enjoyed, it was also probably the best from the brewery’s Russian Doll series that I tried but it didn’t quite blow me away like I had hoped.
Brewed In: Ellon, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
First Brewed: 2014
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Price: £2.50 (approx.)
This one is the third beer from Brewdog to be released as part of their annual #Mashtag offering and follows on from the 2013 and 2014 offerings that I’ve reviewed in previous years. This one is a 10% American barleywine which makes it the strongest beer in the series so far, coming in slightly stronger than 2014’s 9% imperial red ale and well above the 7.4% of the original #Mashtag beer. I have enjoyed both beers in the series thus far but the last one was an exceptionally good beer and currently sits tied for second of all the Scottish beers I’ve reviewed here so far, hopefully this one can go one better but I’m really just hoping it’s another excellent beer. The label, featuring a skull and Brewdog crown on top of a black background, was designed by Mark Green and the beer itself is brewed with vanilla beans aged on toasted oak chips so I’m expecting big flavours with some decent sweetness coming through as well; hopefully it is a good one and I’ll pick up a couple more bottles as it seems like it is a beer that would age well.
Appearance (4/5): This one pours with an opaque black body that is topped with a thin, half centimetre tall head that looks medium tan in colour and fades to half its original size fairly quickly before holding at that point for a while longer. Eventually the head starts to turn slightly patch but leaves a little more build up round the edges of the glass and falls short of disappearing completely; not bad considering the strength of the beer really.
Aroma (9/10): There is quite a noticeable hop presence to this one up front, there is some good pine notes coming through alongside plenty of dark malts and roasted notes. The beer is definitely more fresh smelling that I’d expected and quite strong too, there’s a nice combination of tropical fruits coming through with a bit of mango and orange coming through that is accompanied by some lighter grapefruit notes. This is followed by a little chocolate sweetness, some faint touches of alcohol and a couple of sweet malts as well. All in all a very satisfying beer on the nose with a good mix of smells and some faint bitterness coming through towards the end.
Taste (8/10): Again there is some nice pine hops and touches of citrus coming through to open this one up, it’s quite a zesty tasting beer and not quite as dark as I’d expect from the style but some roasted malts and barely to feature early on, they just don’t come through as strong as the hops. I got some nice sweetness around the middle with a hit of chocolate and some background vanilla coming through on top of some sweet malts and a bit of caramel but the burst of orange and mango that carry on from the nose are what you really take notice of.
Palate (4/5): This one comes through with a medium to heavy body that is quite strong with a pleasant alcohol kick helping to give the palate a warming, almost boozy feel to it. There’s more hop bitterness than expected but some chocolate and vanilla sweetness help balance this out some. Carbonation levels on this one sit about medium and it wasn’t too hard on the way down despite the strength either.
Overall (16/20): This one was quite an enjoyable offering from Brewdog without being a stand-out classic and in truth I was expecting a little bit more from it given it was such a strong offering. The beer was a nice hybrid of a double IPA and a barleywine with some parts leaning towards an imperial stout; the pine hops in particular were quite nice. The beer was definitely a nice one but in truth I’d have to say I preferred the 2014 offering to this one, hopefully 2016 will see things back on track though.
Brewed In: Ellon, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
First Brewed: 2015
Type: American Barleywine
Serving: Bottle (330ml)
Quite a new beer now, this one appears to have been released around December of last year and is an exclusive collaboration between West Yorkshire based the Vocation Brewery and craft beer subscription service Beer52. The beer is one I received as part of a gift ordered from Beer52 for Christmas and comes from a fairly new brewery that I wasn’t aware of prior to seeing this can. The beer itself is a red session IPA that comes in at 4.5% abv. and it was one I was eager to try, although I’m hopeful that it won’t prove to be another disappoint session IPA that turns out to be a watered down regular IPA.
Appearance (4/5): Ruby red to amber in colour and topped with a thumb-sized, foamy head that’s a creamy colour and leaves a touch of lacing on the sides as it slowly recedes, losing a most of its initial height to leave a thick but slightly patchy surface lacing with a little more build up round the edges.
Aroma (8/10): Quite a hoppy beer on the nose to start, this one comes through a little stronger than I’ve come to expect from session IPA’s and that was definitely a good thing. There was some nice tropical fruits and pine to kick things off and this was followed by some touches of grapefruit and mango. There was some sweetness coming through as well with hints of peach and orange sneaking in towards the end as well before a few biscuit notes rounded things off, but it was the hops that dominated this one really.
Taste (7/10): Starting off quite sweet and hoppy, the taste began with a nice floral bitterness that was complimented by pine and grapefruit hops carrying through from the nose along with a few dried fruits and tropical flavours; most notably orange and mango but some apricot and peach too. Again it was quite a fruity offering along some sweet malts and biscuit were quite notable towards the end.
Palate (4/5): Quite and fresh and moderately bitter beer but one that was easy-going and definitely sessionable, although thankfully that didn’t translate to weak or bland. There was above average carbonation and quite a nice, refreshing feel to proceedings that was well-balanced with a few dry touches towards the end. 4.25
Overall (15/20): This one was a surprisingly good session IPA and a lot better than I’d anticipated, although I expected it to at least be enjoyable but part of me thought it might be a little weak or watery; thankfully this wasn’t the case at all. There was good bitterness throughout with the tropical fruits and pine flavours proving particularly enjoyable. It was definitely an easy to drink beer and a good session offering that makes me eager to try some other beers from the brewery now.
Brewed In: Cragg Vale, West Yorkshire, England
Brewery: Vocation Brewery
First Brewed: 2015
Type: Session IPA
Serving: Can (330ml)