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Monday, February 4, 2013

Founders Brewing Co.'s Breakfast Stout

  • Style: American Double/Imperial Stout
  • ABV: 8.30%
  • Season: Fall/Winter
  • Ease to locate:  Well distributed east of the Mississippi, but this is a popular beer that sells out quickly.  Grab a 4pack if you see it.  Here's a beer finder to give you a head start
  • Color: Black as the darkest night, deep as the bottomless sea
  • Head: Two finger head with amazing lacing
  • Aroma: The fudgy scent of chocolate and cream, backed by a bit of coffee bitterness and  roasted malts
  • Mouthfeel: Thick, lush and creamy
  • Finish: Long with a friendly bit of bitter hops
  • Food friendly:  While it's full & flavorful enough to be a food on it's own, try it with simply prepared beef.  Pair it with buttery cheeses such as Gouda and Swiss. 

 Hype is a difficult thing to live up to.  I sometimes tend to avoid overly hyped things for as long as I possibly can, then delve head first into super fandom.  Thus, I became obsessed with Battlestar Galactica a year after the final frakking episode aired.  Smartphone technology?  Up until three months ago, I owned a cheap $30 flip phone from Target that wouldn't even text.  Now I feel positively naked without the Iphone in one hand and an Ipad in another.   Why not jump on the bandwagon sooner?  Because it's a rare and beautiful bird that can actually deliver on it's own hype.  So it was with a bit of trepidation and a healthy amount of skepticism that I poured out my first bottle of Founder's Breakfast Stout.

You will meet a tall, dark stranger...

American Imperial Stouts are inspired by the traditional Russian Imperial Stouts, only without the thick accent and fuzzy hat.  These stout are typically aged in bourbon or whiskey barrels and infused with coffee and chocolate flavors to give depth to the beer.  American Stouts in general tend to have a higher ABV (alcohol  by volume) than those from Asia or Europe and the Imperial version is no different.  The IBU (international bitterness units) is often greater in American Imperial Stouts as well.  This means that there is a more distinct hop presence in the American cousins, but since they are still stouts after all, the presence is only a minor note.  Because American Imperials are heavy in malts, the higher IBU is used to balance out all that sweet roasted maltiness.  For instance, you may drink an IPA with an IBU of 30 and an American Imperial Stout with an IBU of 50, but still perceive the IPA as being more bitter than the stout.  Yes, I know that you were promised that there would be no math.  Just be glad it's an American Imperial and doesn't use the metric system. 

Kind of makes you want to lick the glass, doesn't it?

Founder's Breakfast Stout poured a very dark black/brown color.  Imagine the absence of all light and you'll be close to the coloring in the glass.  Delicious mocha foam formed a two finger head that settled nicely to a thick, spongy surface skin for most of the drink.  Gorgeous clusters of lacing clung to the sides of the glass like they were  shipwreck survivors grabbing at a solitary life raft.  I could smell the chocolate without even lifting the pint to my nose.  As I inhaled the aroma, I also found strong scents of coffee and fresh creme.  It was almost as if I had walked into an old world  Swiss chocolate shop.  If I thought that the smell alone was decedent, I was in heaven when I actually tasted the beer.  Rich dark and milk chocolate mixed with caramel malts.  The coffee note was a true coffee flavor.  It was if they had bottled that first fresh cup of coffee for the morning.  As the beer warmed, a bit of roasted nuttiness emerged and the welcome burn of the alcohol poked it's head out to see what's up.  There was even a little hint of smoke layered in.  I had finally found a stout that delivered on it's promise of creaminess.  The mouthfeel was lush and thick, coating my tongue in imperial  luxury.  The bitterness of the hops arrived on the tail end of the long finish, giving the perfect balance to all of that decadence.  After taking that all important, yet heavy with the possibility of disappointment, first impression sip, I literally sighed and declared out loud "That's what I'm talking about."  Of course, I was alone in my kitchen so only the microwave and overhead light could appreciate my satisfied declaration of love, but what can a fangirl do?

Look at that lacing.  Fan pages are made of this.

Founders Breakfast Stout is more than enough of a drink to stand as a desert course all on it's own.   You could also try pairing it with roasted or grilled meats, but I think it might be more interesting to drink it with a smoked standing rib roast basted in bourbon and steak seasoning.   The smokey heat and the bourbon baste will echo back notes of the beer's subtler flavors, but still be hearty enough to stand up to all of the richness in the drink. I have hear tales of craft beer enthusiasts (sounds better than drunk beer hoarders, doesn't it?) cellaring bottles of this stout with amazing results.  I'm going to sock a bottle away and see what it tatses like next year.  If it doesn't kill me, I'll be sure to let you know.

Founder's Breakfast Stout will most likely serve as my benchmark for all other American Imperial Stouts.  Hell, I doubt any other stouts at all will ever really measure up from now on for me.  They will always be the Buck Rodgers to Founder's Star Wars.  When I was a kid, I could recite lines and rattle off facts & figures on every major or minor Star Wars character at the drop of a Bobba Fett helmet.    Why?  Because when something promises you hype and then actually delivers, it deserves all the acclaim, obsessions and fan pages that it can get.   Now I'm just wondering if Founders makes action figures?