Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout proves to be hype-worthy, without the lines.
The Craft Beer Hype Train, having done its thing across Chicago on Black Friday, is firmly parked in Grand Rapids throughout this weekend.
Last weekend Founders kicked off the release for their Canadian Breakfast Stout for the first time since 2011, with a second round this Friday through Sunday. And that Hype Train only gained momentum when the Detroit Free Press called it “perhaps the most-anticipated beer event, ever, in Michigan.”
Here’s the good thing – with Founders making it a ticketed event and spreading out the bottle pick-ups over six days in two weekends, there is nothing like the “Mess On Marcey” that we saw with Binny’s Bourbon County Stout release. No early-morning wake-ups, no bonfires, no six-hour lines – in fact, no line at all – and one of the easiest bottle pick-up processes you’ll find. Even better, CBS seems to be in relative abundance at Grand Rapids-area party stores, without the price gouging that often becomes the norm around these hyped releases.
After a visit for bottle pick-ups last weekend, we’ve put together some pointers for those heading up this weekend, which is the last weekend to pick up bottles. It’s an easy drive and even if you didn’t get a ticket for CBS, it’s worth getting a hall pass for the day and jumping in the car with a buddy who did.
But first: the beer itself.
If it’s possible, Founders CBS is remarkably light for an 11.7% imperial stout. While it appears motor oil black, it’s a smooth and light and not at all what you’d expect. The roastiness of the coffee and sweet touch of chocolate that are blended in during the brewing process are both noticeable, as is the aging in bourbon barrels. Each of those come through on the nose, as well, as it’s well-balanced, with nothing overpowering. It’s not too sweet and shows no signs of the double-digit ABV.
What isn’t immediately apparent, when sipping it fresh from the tap, is the Michigan maple syrup that had previously been in those bourbon barrels. But then it warms. And that maple syrup emerges just enough to remind you that Founders CBS isn’t your ordinary stout.
Among those gathered on Founders’ outdoor patio (the outdoor-friendly weather being a bonus to going last weekend), opinions ranged from “that’s mind-blowingly good” to “it’s good, but…” That’s the thing about hype, I suppose.
The last time the Craft Beer Hype Train barreled through Grand Rapids was around Founders’ release of KBS, so our group shared a bottle of that to compare to the two pours of Founders CBS we enjoyed. Interestingly, that’s what helped push CBS over the top for me – for as good of a stout as KBS is, CBS was noticeably better.
Some say CBS even reminds them of a maple version of KBS. Either way, it took trying a favorite stout like KBS to really drive home CBS’s strengths. And there are many.
More Barrel-Aged Favorites from Founders
A few final notes from our weekend visit:
- Walking in, you’ll see two lines at the bar for beer. Don’t wait. Turn around and look toward the gift shop. There’s a small bar there and chances are, you won’t wait at all for a CBS pour there.
- Last weekend was optimal weather to enjoy Founders’ outdoor patio. With temps predicted to be in the upper twenties, this weekend won’t be. Still, it’s worth checking it out and – if the heating lamps are on – enjoying it as much as you can.
- Don’t sleep on the sandwiches at Founders. Not only are they good, but they’re large – enough for two, as are the appetizers.
- Some other Founders news: Backwoods Bastard and their Breakfast Stout are set to be year-round beers in 2018.
- There’s a great local beer group on Facebook, West Michigan Craft Beer Enthusiasts, where members regularly post helpful tips on where to find CBS on tap and to-go, as well as other beer happenings. It’s worth joining that group, seeing what’s happening around the city, and maybe even finding a beer trading partner or two. (Note: You literally have to know a guy or gal to join the group as it’s private.)
- The city is nicknamed “Beer City USA” for a reason. It’s no secret that breweries are abundant in and around Grand Rapids and if you’ve come this far, you should certainly check out places like Brewery Vivant, The Mitten Brewing Co., Perrin, Odd Side or others.
- And while Pike 51, in nearby Hudsonville, may not be on your radar, they should be. Their barrel-aged stouts are very good and only get better with adjuncts like vanilla, hazelnut and others.
- But the big surprise for us was discovering six-month-old City Built Brewing, where a flight of impressive beers was complemented by a Puerto Rican food menu. That was a brewery first for me and a welcome one.
*Photo above courtesy of Founders Brewing Co.