Redux Review 0007: Founders Breakfast Stout

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Back in December 2011, almost exactly a year ago to the date, I reviewed Founders (Grand Rapids, Michigan) Breakfast Stout, an Imperial Stout brewed with flaked oats, imported chocolates, and Kona and Sumatra coffees. I was so impressed by the beer that I rated it 100 points, perfect on my rating scale.

A year ago, I hadn’t tried the amount of Stouts that I’ve had the opportunity to taste today. Knowing that this would make an interesting redux review, I stashed a few bottles of this away last winter, and today I’m pulling out a Breakfast Stout that has been aged exactly one year (bottle date: December 8, 2011), and a fresh 2012 version (bottle date: August 20, 2012).

I can tell you that since the first review, my love for this beer remains unchanged. In fact, after that review, I bought a case of the beer so I could enjoy it throughout the year, as it is a seasonal release (September-February). And, up until this year, this beer was a bit hard to find. Thankfully, Founders have made tons of Breakfast Stout for this year, so you can readily walk into just about any bottle shop and find as much as you need.

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So…with a year of age on the bottle, and a year of age on my palate — a year of which I have tried a ton of new brews, lots of them being Imperial Stouts — what has changed?

Important numbers about Founders Breakfast Stout: this beer comes in at 8.3% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 60 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

Breakfast Stout 2012

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The pour drew out an average size head, lasting in nature, and creamy and soapy in texture. The color of the beer was deep midnight black, opaque, and the pour itself was fairly muddy. The liquid was too dark to tell about particles or sediment, but Founders does not filter its beer, so there’s probably a little bit of something floating around in there. Lacing was fair, leaving behind a few bits here and there.

The aroma follows exactly what is printed on the bottle: lots of black coffee, some dark chocolate, and a hint of smoke. This just smells creamy, and it’s pretty sweet. Pungent and quite fragrant. Delightful.

On the taste, there’s lots of dark roasted coffee, leading to a dark chocolate middle that brings on some alcohol warmth. The beer is sweet up to the finish, which starts with a gentle smoke puff, black coffee and dark chocolate, this time more-so on the lightly bitter end. As always, full-bodied, with a thick, creamy texture.

Rich and robust, these simple flavors combine in Founders Breakfast Stout to make what I consider to be a classic beer. Each year, you pick this up and it’s just damn tasty. Each year, I know I look forward to September when this is released, and I pick up many four-packs in each given Stout season. Super enjoyable fresh — a must try for any beer lover.

In my personal beer drinking experience, the Stout that makes you fall in love with other Stouts.

Founders Breakfast Stout (2012), 95 points. Price: $9.99 US for a four pack.

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Breakfast Stout 2011

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Vintage 2011 Breakfast Stout looked basically the same as the 2012 version, save for better lacing. Again, the same dark black opaque beer, muddy in pour, and with a steady, creamy head that is slightly lighter in color than 2012.

There are big differences in the nose; 2011 features a heavy coffee note that replaces the chocolate with a dark fruit (prune) note and a light floral hop. The aroma is still sweet and does have a hint of chocolate, but it also has a small oxidation note and a bit of ash. More complex than 2012, but not as pungent or enjoyable.

On the taste, there were a bunch of prune and dark fruit flavors up front, mixed with very black, almost burnt coffee, and a major dial-down of chocolate. It’s richly sweet, which makes the same transition as the 2012 beer in the middle of the taste, offering more dark fruits, more black coffee, and dark chocolate, while amping up the bitterness to nearly overwhelm the sweet. Full-bodied, and a thick, creamy mouthfeel.

Oddly, the 2011 Breakfast Stout is more complex but just not as tasty as 2012. I think you might be able to chalk that up to how simple the flavors are in this beer; you’ve got a thick layer of chocolate, and a thick slab of coffee. Founders do those two palate-pleasers very well, so when you allow this to develop more in the bottle, the intensity of something that is already very good gets turned down and added are flavors you might like, but don’t want in this beer.

While still very good, and I think the score here says a lot (as in: still better than many other beers), I say enjoy Breakfast Stout as fresh as you can, while you can, for the optimal experience.

Founders Breakfast Stout (2011), 89 points. No longer available.

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