Beer Review 0068: Founders Breakfast Stout

Founders Brewing Company is located in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founded in 1997 by Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers, Founders started by brewing well balanced but somewhat boring beers. The two men, who quit their steady day jobs in order to pursue the dream of beer, quickly decided that they needed to produce beer they wanted to make, not what everybody else wanted to drink.

The company now brews what it calls “in-your-face ales,” with huge aromatics, big body and tons of flavor. Their philosophy, which this website heartily applauds:

We don’t brew beer for the masses. Instead, our beers are crafted for a chosen few, a small cadre of renegades and rebels who enjoy a beer that pushes the limits of what is commonly accepted as taste. In short, we make beer for people like us.

As with most things of the heart, if you follow them, they take off and grow. Today, Founders is one of the most popular breweries in the world, but still only produces 50,000 barrels per year. They have five year round beers and a variety of seasonal offerings, and the beer reviewed today is their fall product, Breakfast Stout.

Breakfast Stout is an American Double Stout, brewed with copious amounts of flaked oats, bitter and imported chocolates, and two varieties of coffee — Kona and Sumatra. This beer is widely regarded as one of the best in the world, and it can be hard to come by, as most bottle shops only get a few cases per year.

I’ve seen this beer described by many as “breakfast in a bottle.” We’re not against drinking beer for breakfast, but with the 8.3% ABV (alcohol by volume), you might want to be careful with that. That being said…

Breakfast Stout pours a midnight black opaque liquid with ruby-brown edges and produces an average size head that is built to last. The head is light khaki colored and creamy in texture. The beer itself poured very muddy and thick, and due to the extreme dark color, I couldn’t tell if there were particles or sediment present. I’m guessing there are, because the bottom of the bottle had a nice coating of yeasty goodness. The lacing was excellent from start to finish; big, sticky sheets stuck to the glassware.

The aromatics were one dimensional and heavy, starring the malts. There’s strong black coffee, followed cocoa and some dark chocolate. I also got some sweet caramel notes. Here’s where the theme of this review might start: I know I rave about the complexity I find in some beers, but this one comes at the drinker with an opposite approach: the aromatics are so locked in and finely tuned to the chocolate and coffee, but so complex in its limited scope. The richness and brightness of the aromas are truly outstanding, and this beer smells vibrant in the glass. Vibrant in the glass! I know I’ve never said that about beer aromatics before…

The taste descriptors found on the bottle are a mirror to what my palate found: first, there’s deep roasted black coffee, followed by a wave of cocoa supported by hints of oatmeal. Then the beer transitioned into its seemingly never ending finish, riding an acidic note of coffee, turning from bittersweet to bitter as the flavors linger. The 60 IBUs (International Bitterness Units) really come out at the end of the taste, giving an almost hop-like presence.

As I wrote on my review sheet, this beer is like heaven in a glass. The big hurdle here is whether or not you like coffee — sadly, if you’re not fond of at least the smell of a fresh cup, I don’t think you will be into this beer. Still, don’t let that deter you. Founders Breakfast Stout is, without a doubt, a classic beer, for it does what all good chefs (and brewers) should set out to do: present simple flavors elegantly. This is a drink you’ll remember days after you enjoy it.

And with that, Breakfast Stout becomes the second beer I have awarded a perfect score!

Founders Breakfast Stout, 100 points. Price: $9.99 US for one four pack.

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