Category Archives: Beer Review

Founder’s Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS): Only the 10th best beer in the world?

I need to get my hands on the other nine....

Kentucky Breakfast Stout
Founders Brewing
Imperial Stout
ABV: 11.2%
100% on RateBeer
10th Best in the World (Beer Advocate) (when I published this it was actually ranked 8th)

Like Girl Scout cookies, this beer comes once a year and the fervor and fanaticism with which it is met, far surpasses the Tag-Along and Thin Mint hardcores that adorn Walgreens entrances this time of year.  (STL was pretty much tapped the day it arrived.  Myself, I drove an hour roundtrip to get it)  In both cases, some of the frenzy is due to the product being a special release (a fact the Girl Scouts use to their advantage).  In the case of KBS, it truly is that good.

Kentucky Breakfast Stout is a stout brewed with coffee and chocolate and aged in a cave in bourbon barrels (hence the “Kentucky” of KBS) for a year.  One full year for all of the maltiness to develop and all of the competing flavors of chocolate and bourbon and hops to mellow.  One full year for the magic to work and the motor oil to fully mature.  One year to create a taste you won’t soon forget.

KBS comes in a four pack.  It is $18.99 and I spent the entire drive to Friar Tuck’s in Fenton deciding how to ration the (presumably) only four bottles I would be getting this season.  I decided that my wife and I would share one bottle when I got home.  We would then each get one bottle to drink at our own discretion (mine was consumed with my buddy Patrick while writing this review–yes I am that good of a friend).  And the last one I am “cellaring” for a year.  I never cellar my beers (I also played with ALL of my action figures), but I am curious to see what this beer will taste like in a year.

I love this beer, but it’s only true downfall (and it’s a biggie)  is that it does not, as the label points out offer relief “from rheumatism, neuralgia, sciatica, lame back, lumbago, contracted muscles, toothache, sprains, swellings, and all manner of distress.” If you’ve got anything else, though, I highly recommend it!

When we tasted the beer, Patrick and I jotted down a couple tasting notes.  Here’s what we came up with:

Tasting Notes:
It’s so good.
Balanced.
You can find the bourbon if you’re looking for it, but it’s not ultra present.
Coffee, vanilla, malt, dark chocolate as it warms.
Melted chocolate milkshake (in a good way)
70 IBU’s, but extremely balanced

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Another Step in the Journey: Bell’s Expedition Stout

Bell's Expedition Stout: Motor Oil-y!

Bell’s Expedition Stout
Imperial Stout
ABV: 10.5%
100% on RateBeer

I love a great Imperial Stout.  I love the fact that it feels as though it is sliding down my throat when I drink it.  I love the slight alcohol burn as it warms.  And I love the dark, bittersweet taste of malt.  There are very few things I don’t like about Imperial Stouts, which means I try a lot of them.  I have journeyed through Left Hand’s Wake Up Dead, Avery’s Czar, Great Divide’s Yeti and most notably Founder’s Imperial Stout.  Founder’s has been the pinnacle; that by which I measure all others.  However, after trying Expedition, I’m beginning to think that I’ve been a bit shortsighted.  Expedition Stout gives Founder’s a run for it’s money as top Imperial Stout in my books.  It’s a good thing that there really is no need to just choose one.

Tasting Notes:
pours motor oil thick with a thin head
heavy chocolate aroma
tastes burnt, but in a good way…like roasted marshmallow skins
warms to a nice creamy caramel
nice warm alcohol tingle

Like a cold winter’s day, John J. McCauley III’s voice will chill you to the bone.  And like Bell’s Expedition Stout it’ll heat your soul like a blazing oil drum trash fire in a dark alley….perhaps I stretched the metaphor too far.  Here’s Deer Tick with “Piece By Piece and Frame By Frame”.


Urban Chestnut Brewing Company


My wife and I had a date night last night (we’re both pretty anti-Valentine’s Day, so it is merely a coincidence that it was this weekend–at least that’s what she tells me).  We started at Pho Grand (http://www.phogrand.com/) where I had some fantastic Chicken Curry (19.04 if you know Pho) and then headed to Urban Chestnut Brewing Company (http://www.urbanchestnut.com/home).  I had been hearing a lot about this new STL brewery, so the hype factor was certainly high.  The brewery is housed in a 1920s era garage in St. Louis’s Midtown Alley (one of the newer STL urban renewal areas) and has a very calculated industrial chic feel to it–exposed beams and ductwork, brushed metal and warm wood.  The original workshop area of the building is where the actual brewery is located; large metal and glass windows (where the bay doors would have been) are illuminated at night to show off the shiny

A packed Saturday Night @ Urban Chestnut Brewing Company

brewing equipment from the street.  The main part of the building has become the warmly lit and very inviting tasting room and was, last night at least, pretty packed.  The crowd seemed to run the gamut from beardy beer geeks to older couples out for the night and, for the most part, everyone seemed to be digging the live music.  The atmosphere was altogether warm and inviting (I kept looking around for Tiny Tim and a blazing hearth) and really seemed like a great place to go and hang out on a regular basis (wish I lived closer).

Amy and I were able to try two beers (we were kind of pressed for time and the distance from home limited how much we could drink).  Urban Chestnut has two “lines” of beers:  Reverence (“Our celebration of beer’s heritage ~ brewing classically-crafted, timeless European beer styles”) and Revolution (“Our contribution to the renaissance of craft beer—brewing artisanal, modern American beers”).  We decided to try one from each.

Hopfen: "Bavarian IPA"--ABV- 6.2%, IBU’s- 55

Being the hop lover that I am, I went with the Hopfen (ABV- 6.2%, IBU’s- 55)–a “‘Bavarian IPA’…brewed and dry-hopped with a variety of Hallertau Hops”.  I loved it immediately.  Bold, hoppy, crisp and refreshing.  I could have had 10 of them, judging by how easily the first one went down.

Amy is a malty kind of girl, so she went with the Harwood Myth (ABV- 5.3%, IBU’s-28) an English Style Brown Porter with a smooth and light presence that betrays its deep brown color.  There was cocoa and caramel just like the description said and as my wife commented, “smoked chocolate?  If there is such a thing…”

I can tell  that repeated visits to Urban Chestnut will be necessary to fully determine it’s place in the St. Louis beer scene, but the preliminary data is definitely positive.  The atmosphere is like someone’s living room (assuming of course that someone has great taste and lots of beer) and the beer itself doesn’t seem like it should be from a brewery that is in its first few months of production.  In fact, pretty much every aspect of the brewery–website, logo, marketing, tap handles, glassware–is extremely polished.  I can’t wait to see where Urban Chestnut goes in the coming years. If they keep on their current track, the only place to go will be up.

Have you been to Urban Chestnut?  What did you think?  Let me know in the comments.

Hopslammed!: Bell’s Hopslam (2011)


Worth the hype?

Bell’s Hopslam
Style: Double India Pale Ale
ABV: 10%
100% on RateBeer

So let’s just get this out of the way.  This beer is 18 bucks a six pack.  Yes.  $18.  That’s like wine prices.  3 bucks per bottle makes this beer more expensive than most bar prices of Bud Light/Select/Weiser/Wheat/Dry/Ice.  That said, this beer, in so many ways, is not for the faint of heart.  But I promise you, if you take the financial leap your taste buds will thank you.  (Well….maybe that’s not entirely true.  If you are not a fan of the IPA style you probably won’t like this beer.  Also if your thing is to drink a whole lot of beer at once because you’re still living vicariously through the memory of your college days when the beer tasted like water, there are other beers for you.   At 10% ABV and nearly double the price of most sixes of “good beer”, Hopslam is meant to be enjoyed and, dare I say, cherished.)

Hopslam also seems to be one of the more sought after beers in the area, despite its price.  It is only released as a seasonal and is therefore limited.  There’s a good chance that even as I write this that St. Louis retailers might be dry.  I got mine at Bombay Wine and Spirits in St. Charles and it was the second to the last six pack of two cases that had only come in an hour before.  The Wine and Cheese Place tweeted that Hopslam was finally in stock on January 18th and then tweeted again shortly thereafter that they were sold out.  The Stable tweeted today that they were tapping a cask of Hopslam tonight (1/21) at 6 pm, which is sure to go extremely quickly.  Now, this may be a case of Bell’s shorting supply to increase demand–like Cabbage Patch Kids, Tickle Me Elmos, and the Wii–but when you taste it, it’s hard to argue that Hopslam is merely hype.  This is a good beer.

The first thing that hits you when you pour the beer, is the floral aroma of the hops.  It’s sweet and citrusy, but definitely hints at the bitterness to come.  If you’re not a fan of IPA bitterness, this will definitely drive you away.  However,  if you are adventurous your pioneering spirit is rewarded with an extremely balanced and fresh tasting hoppy treat.  Grapefruit and honey.  Peach and Pine tree.  And a nice hop bite on the back end.  And you will never realize this beer is 10%.  There is no alcohol burn during any part of the tasting.  It is easy drinking and smooth.

Hopslam is a fantastic beer–one that I wait for each year, but I don’t think I would recommend it to everyone.  This is mostly because I’m selfish and that would push demand even higher 🙂 , but also because I don’t really think this beer is for everyone.  If you aren’t a fan of bitter beers, you aren’t going to like this and it will possibly turn you off of the IPA style altogether (I would recommend a Founder’s Centennial IPA or if you want to get local an O’Fallon 5 Day IPA those are much more akin to “gateway” IPAs than Hopslam).  This is a serious beer for serious beer drinkers with a fairly steep entry fee.  But I promise you….it’s worth it.

The following band, Sleigh Bells, is an acquired taste–and I’ll be honest, I haven’t really acquired it yet–but I love the sound of this song and thought it would pair nicely with a bottle of Hopslam….plus the band has the word Bells in it so it totally fits 🙂  Here is “Rill Rill” by Sleigh Bells:

A Celebration in My Mouth: Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 2010

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale (2010)

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
Style:  India Pale Ale
ABV:  6.8%

Celebration Ale is a much loved seasonal beer (98 on RateBeer!) from Sierra Nevada.  The beer is, “dry-hopped for a lively, intense aroma. Brewed especially for the holidays.”  Even though this tastes nothing like the holidays to me (maybe it tastes like California holidays), this is a great beer.  I’ve come to look forward to it each year.    It’s so fresh and grapefruity.  I love it.  It makes a nice counterpoint to all of the rich, dark, spicy beers I usually drink at this time of year.  The beer has an excellent hop bite that gets you right on the back of the tongue, which for some reason feels different than the typical IPA bite.

I wouldn’t say that this beer is for those who are generally not a fan of IPA’s–it does have a kick–but if you are open even just the littlest bit to the floral/bitterness of hops, then you might want to seek this one out.  It’s not going to knock your socks off with the hops, but it’s no Pale Ale either.

Review: Schlafly Coffee Stout

The leaves are changing and the weather is getting colder.  Sweaters are emerging from bottom drawers and the night air is dominated by that “campfire smell.”  This means a couple of things to me:

1.) It’s ridiculously close to the Christmas season and all the rushing around and family get-togethers and insanity that comes with it.

2.) It’s Stout season.

I love a good stout.  Give me the motor-oiliest, dark as tar, chewy stout you’ve got.  I love it.

While it’s not exactly a “chewy stout”, Schlafly Coffee Stout is a pretty nice treat in St. Louis around this time of the year.  It is a solid stout with very mellow coffee hints.  It’s easy drinking and the best part?  It’s pretty easy to find.  Even QuikTrip carries Coffee Stout.

The beer pours a nice deep brown color with a tan head.  The mouthfeel isn’t very heavy despite its dark color and the coffee flavor won’t over power you.  And while there are no “bells and whistles” to this beer, it always seems to please beer geeks and non-geeks alike.  If you have a chance to get this beer before the season is over, do.  At 7 bucks a six, you won’t regret it.

The Classics: Rogue Dead Guy Ale

Rogue Dead Guy Ale

Rogue Dead Guy Ale

Style: German Maibock
ABV: 6.6%

I am a bit ashamed to admit that it wasn’t that long ago that I tried this beer…as in, this year.   I have long been a fan of the Shakespeare Stout and the Hazelnut Brown Nectar, but I never really felt the urge to give the Dead Guy a try.

To me, Rogue Dead Guy is the kind of beer that I would consider a “foundation” beer.  In keeping with the Maibock style, there is an expected malt presence, but it’s never the only thing there.  There is a definite hop character that gives it a little tinge.  All that to say that it’s extremely balanced–no “extreme brewing” here.  Nothing ornate.  Nothing fancy.   Nothing really jumps out at you when you drink it.  In fact, the main thing I was thinking while tasting this again was how utterly unremarkable this beer is.  And how in the world of the taxidermied shoat encased bottle, I am completely fine with that.

Dead Guy is a cornerstone of the craft beer world that everyone should try.  This is absolutely the perfect beer to recommend to someone who is just jumping off into the craft beer world.  There is nothing offensive about its 40 IBUs and the craft newbie won’t think that he is chewing his beer.  A six pack of can be relatively pricey, but you definitely feel like (as with most Rogue beers) you are getting something for it.

Dead Guys

While the connection to the Grateful Dead is coincidental for Rogue Dead Guy (it comes from the celebration of The Day of the Dead), I couldn’t resist posting such a solidly classic Grateful Dead song as the pair to this solidly classic craft beer.  Enjoy!

Have an idea for a classic craft beer I should review?  Leave a comment or send me an email at hopostle@gmail.com