When I lived in Michigan, I was five minutes away (by foot) from the New Holland Brewing Co. brewpub, an hour from Founders and maybe 90 minutes from Bell’s. Michigan had an incredible brewing scene and four years after leaving it’s even better! I miss it, but luckily we’re able to get a lot of Michigan beers here in Kansas City. Good thing!
Founders makes excellent beers. Period. I guess you can stop reading now! They got their start brewing at the same time as the guys who started New Holland… they were in the same fraternity at Hope College and they all homebrewed together. The founders of NHBC stayed in Holland, MI and the buys from Founders went to Grand Rapids and they both make great beers.
Founders is probably most famous for this one, their Breakfast Stout, and it’s bourbon barrel-aged sibling, Kentucky Breakfast Stout (which is a much more limited release and a lot harder to find). Breakfast Stout comes in a 4-pack for around $10 or so. If you see it, buy it. You’ll love it.
To get the details out of the way, Breakfast Stout is 8.3% ABV with 60IBU’s and it is considered an imperial or “double” stout. Because of it’s name, I’m having it as a quasi-breakfast on this glorious work-free Friday (although it is 10:51AM, so I’m not breaking too many taboos). The beer pours black and thick and it has a nice dark tan head that is about like shaving foam from a can (shudder the thought). It looks a lot like the crema on a good espresso shot.
Breakfast Stout gets its name from the fact that it is a stout with all the stuff in it people love for breakfast: coffee (essential), oatmeal (yum!) and chocolate (sugary cereals, chocolate donuts, the breakfast of champions). These are all things that are commonly added to stouts to begin with, so to find all three in one beer is genius. I guess they could’ve added lactose to make it a milk stout, too, but they must’ve had good reason not too.
The aroma is awesome on this beer. For once my nose seems to be working, and if it’s going to work I’m grateful it’s on this beer! There is nice roastiness on the background, but the main aromas I get are coffee and semi-sweet chocolate. It’s one of those beers I’d be happy just smelling for a while! Oh, and as with most beers, particularly stouts, my preference is to drink these at warmer temps. I probably had the Breakfast Stout sitting out of the fridge for a good 35 minutes before pouring. Your mileage may vary.
Now, to preface this review, I haven’t had a beer in about a month (one at BWW doesn’t count because it was Bud Lite) and I’ve been on a REALLY good diet with no sugar, wheat, alcohol, etc. This is a super treat for me. I may be more excited that I should be! Now, at this warmer temperature I can definitely get some of the alcohol, so I may have it 10 degrees too warm or so. The aftertaste is slightly astringent, giving a slight dryness to my mouth about 30-40 seconds after swallowing, and there is a nice lingering bitterness that is hard to know whether to attribute it to the hops (mainly in the beer for balance) or the roasted components.
The sip is very complex. Chocolate (but bitter chocolate, not sweet) is on the front end and carries through about 75% of the sip. Right after sipping a big wave of bitterness (I think from the coffee component and the roasted malts) that is accentuated by alcohol (again I think I let this warm up too much, but I like it like this) warming hits, then the aftermath of that big wave carries out for a long aftertaste of cocoa powder, slight chalkiness and lingering roasty bitterness.
I don’t know if that sounds good, but it is! I can see now why they didn’t add lactose to make this a milk stout, too. Lactose is an unfermentable sugar, so it stays in the bottle and sweetens the beer without being converted to alcohol by the yeast. Left Hand’s Milk Stout is my favorite example of “milk stouts” (because lactose is a sugar found in milk) or sweet stouts, and it is AWESOME, too. But, I think adding a lot of sweetness would take away from this beer.
The mouthfeel is great. Oatmeal added to beers creates a slick, smooth mouthfeel, and some people can taste the oatmeal on beers, but I don’t think I can. It does make a really rich, full mouthfeel that I always enjoy. The chocolate and coffee are really nicely balanced and the alcohol is a tad hot, but that’s more my mistake than a problem with the beer.
The astringency on this is pretty heavy, more like a porter, with a pronounced drying effect on my tongue and cheeks, so it makes me want to sip more frequently! This is a big beer and I think it is complex enough to make me suggest drinking it by itself. Of course it would go great with all the typical desserts, but this would do well as dessert in and of itself.
Breakfast Stout ranks up there with Bell’s Expedition Stout as one of my favorite imperial stouts and it is world-famous for a reason. Get some!