Few events bring out the alegeek in us better than the launch of a BeerAdvocate top 10 beer that’s only available once a year. You need look no further than Dark Lord Day, a near-holy pilgrimage to the beertropolis of Munster, Indiana. Or Brother Barley’s semi-conscious stagger to the hallowed monastery of Westvleteret. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the gracious invitation that Beerford McBrewin’ made to us last month to join him for happy hour in Portland (a 4-1/2 hour flight) to try Pliny the Younger.
On its way into this pantheon is the annual release of Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS). I believe that only Kid Carboy and I had access to the KBS at our local bars and bottle shops. But “access” doesn’t exactly describe it. One distributor told me that there were only 20 cases of KBS for all of Central Ohio–home to about 2 million people. (This wasn’t true.) Most bottle shops only got 2 or 3 cases. I was only able to find one bar that had it on tap (Bodega). Even then, it was limited–a single 1/6 barrel was tapped at exactly 6:00 on a Saturday night, and was gone in 20 minutes. A 1/6 barrel is 60 pints… 60 pints for a city of millions! It’s absurd.
Because of this high level of “access,” back in February, the other Aleheads asked me to send them some KBS. I couldn’t promise anything but I agreed to try.
Alas, I was scheduled to be out of town on March 15, the day that local bottle shops anticipated receiving the KBS. Herr Direktor, ever the
sucker dependable drinking buddy, agreed to pick up a couple cases while I was away. Little did he know what he was in for.
Starting at noon on the 15th and continuing into the evening hours, Herr Direktor put over 50 miles on his car and came up empty-handed. He visited four bottle shops. Three hadn’t gotten the KBS by 6:00 p.m. on the 15th. A fourth, the douchebags at Weiland’s Gourmet Market, claimed to have gotten the beer and sold out of it, then in response to my telephone inquiry said they believed everyone in town was sold out. (Does this alone make them douchebags? No. But selling KBS for $7.50 per 12 oz. bottle, when everyone else in town sold them for $5.25-$5.50, does.)
In fact, Founders’ distributor didn’t get to all the bottle shops until the 16th. At about 11am, I called my friends at Barrel & Bottle to see if they had any. Yes! Off I went. 10 minutes later, I was in possession of the per-customer maximum (!) of two bottles. I was imbued with a new sense of optimism. I saw 1,000 tiny bubbles of carbonation, if you will. (That’s probably all the bubbles you’d get in an entire case of KBS.) Next up, Kenny Road Market, where I got 2 more bottles. I headed out to The Anderson’s on the northwest side of town, where I was informed that they were scheduling a Friday night beer tasting around KBS, until which time they would not be selling KBS. Probably the fairest method of distribution, but still… a long drive for nuthin’.
Then I hit the jackpot. When I asked the proprietor of Grandview Carryout whether he had any KBS left, he said “Sure, how much do you want?”* I asked if there was a limit. “No.” I asked if he had two 4-packs. “Yes. We got 20 cases.”** Ummm…
* He also rolled his eyes at me. Apparently for weeks he was inundated with males between the ages of 25 and 40 asking about KBS. He couldn’t comprehend the hysteria about one particular beer. On the one hand, I was a little surprised that the owner of the bottle shop that got by far the biggest allotment in town of KBS didn’t appreciate the hype. On the other hand, he was willing to sell me as much as I wanted of it, so how much do I really care what he thought of my zealous behavior? The answer is none. I care none.
** No mystery here. He says he orders $2,000 worth of Founders per week. That might not be much by New York City standards, but here it’s hard to imagine a single store selling 200-300 six-packs of Founders every week. Also, the guy’s cat is named Guinness.
So my case of KBS (!!) and I left Grandview Carryout. Why did I only get one case? I guess I thought it would be greedy to buy out both cases that he had left. I went to dinner down the street. At dinner, I decided I should have gotten the second case. So I went back. They were sold out. Damn me and my phony altruism!! I went around the corner to Boulevard Carryout, where I was told the KBS was only for regular customers. But it was out on the shelf, so I forced the issue and left with eight singles. (We made a deal–I paid the singles price for 4-packs. Whatever. I’m a fucking journalist*** and we have rights.)
All told, I picked up 32 bottles of KBS. The tab was about $165, plus gas.**** While that’s expensive for buying 12 oz. bottles at stores, it’s actually pretty reasonable for a beer of KBS’s caliber. After all, there are places in town where you couldn’t drink 32 Bud Lights for $165.
*** I have just been informed that I am not a journalist and have no rights.
**** Herr Direktor got a bottle of KBS for his troubles and I owe him another. Frankly, I’m hoping he forgets. Which he probably will until he reads this. Damn you, internet!
Was it worth it? My answer is absolutely yes. It isn’t a close call. KBS pours jet black with the viscosity of synthetic motor oil. You’d have to pour it out from atop a step ladder to get it to create a head. It has little carbonation.
The nose of KBS is an earthy combination of chocolate and coffee with hints of its sneaky-strong hop profile. The taste is… Divine. Sublime. Heavenly. Thank god it only comes out once a year or I’d be an alcoholic.***** If ever a beer deserved 4 hops, it’s this one.
***** Thanks in advance for not bursting my bubble.
I invite my fellow Aleheads who received this bounty in the mail to add their own tasting notes in the comments.
Next week’s post: the tribulations of packaging and shipping 26 bottles of KBS.