Two of the most sought after, highest rated beers in the world are produced less than 200 miles from each other in the heart of Midwestern beer country. When it comes to bourbon barrel-aged imperial stouts, it’s hard to top Founders KBS and Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout. Yesterday the 2014 edition of BCBS was released, so it seemed like a good time as ever to do a little blind taste test between the two. For reference, the beers tasted are the 2013 version of BCBS and the 2014 KBS (I’ve had no luck securing any 2014 BCBS, no thanks to my local bottle shop failing to inform me they had a list when I initially asked).
A couple months ago I recruited Mrs. GLP to provide a second opinion as we poured each into glasses, covertly marked underneath so we wouldn’t be swayed by knowing which was which. BCBS is a big beer, dominated by strong flavors of soy sauce, chocolate and vanilla. The barrel character presents itself more in the form of vanilla rather than actual bourbon. It’s sweet, it’s thick, and as Mrs. GLP put it, “You’d get sick drinking too much of it.” That said it’s still a delicious beer, albeit one best enjoyed in small doses.
KBS is the much more nuanced of the two. The bourbon and coffee notes play extremely well together. The barrel aging imparts much more of a true bourbon character to the beer, as if the base Breakfast Stout were simply mixed with bourbon after the fact. There’s quite the bourbon burn on the tongue. Of the two it’s much more drinkable and balanced.
Which of the two did we pick as our favorite? In the end the more balanced KBS won out in the blind tasting. If it were simply a matter of taste between the two, BCBS may have won out, but the KBS would be the one we’d pick for a full beer. Truthfully it would be pretty great to taste a couple years of each at the same time to determine what effect age has on the beer. But, really, in this matchup there were no losers.