This week I finally got a beer I’ve been anticipating for months. I stopped at Beer Heaven on Columbus Boulevard, and while prowling the cases I stopped in amazement — Founder’s Breakfast Stout. After grabbing a bottle, I immediately drove to Bella Vista Beer Distributor, which thankfully had a case in stock. It was probably the best $100 I’ve spent in a while.
Founders Brewing Co. is located in Grand Rapids, Mich. This brewery was opened in 1997 by Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers, homebrewers who had recently graduated from college. After deciding to quit their jobs and take out massive loans to start the brewery, their dream almost failed because of the bane of homebrewers: boring beer. While they were brewing smooth, well-balanced, technically excellent beers, their beers just weren’t getting people fired up enough to pay craft beer prices. To save their dream, this duo went back to their roots, brewing big, complex beers with lots of flavor and aroma. These beers are not brewed for the masses but for an eclectic few that love flavor above alcohol and who love malt and hops like no other ingredients — except maybe bacon. Many beer lovers are borderline carnivorous, and nothing goes with a good stout like bacon.
This beer is particularly strong, without quite the bitterness of a Russian Imperial Stout, so it will pair well with creamy, buttery cheeses like Gouda, havarti and brie. This will also pair well with smoked meats or game, and I think it will actually go well with spicy, nutty food like Sichuan cuisine. Also, this beer should be served in a tulip or snifter, although some masochists prefer to drink this stuff by the pint.
The beer poured jet black, with no light getting through — the meniscus only showed transparency, and even that was a dark brown. The head formed as a quarter-finger of coarse, very dark brown bubbles that dissipated in only a few minutes, leaving behind virtually no lacing. The aroma was a big, roasty coffee aroma, which was very nice without being too burned. The aroma also had some low amounts of malty sweetness and a slight licorice highlight.
The mouthfeel was very smooth and even a bit creamy, supported by a moderately low carbonation to give a very full-bodied character. The taste was a giant roasted malt character with a very nice coffee flavor to it, with some beautiful dark-chocolate elements lurking behind the coffee. The malt actually provided a fair bit of sweetness to offset a slightly bitter hop character, which lacked the acrid burned bitterness common in a lot of stouts. The finish was an interesting roastiness counterpointed with a lingering sweetness.
This beer is absolutely fantastic; I can’t recommend it enough. The malt profile is great, with a beautifully balanced complexity. What really sets it off for me, though, is the fact that the hop character is restrained enough to really let the malt shine. This is especially impressive because it clocks in at 60 international bittering units, so the malt is impressively powerful to shine as strongly as it does. The relatively low perceived bitterness makes this accessible to people who like strong, black coffee and dark chocolate but don’t drink a whole lot of beer. Also, if you see Kentucky Breakfast Stout, buy it. That beer is, in fact, their regular Breakfast Stout aged in bourbon barrels, and it is supposed to be truly amazing. Unfortunately, I have yet to acquire a bottle.