Three years ago, you could not get me to drink a beer. Beer produced by the big breweries tastes bad and has a poor calorie to effect ratio, so I relegated beer to those occasions when it was the only thing available (think stranded on a desert island when a bottle happens to wash ashore). Then the craft beer craze started, I got a taste, and my relationship with beer changed forever.
In early 2013, I was working in Nashville with a friend of mine and (out of boredom) we decided to educate ourselves regarding this craft beer thing. What is the taste difference between the different styles of beer? What makes a superior beer in any given style? What breweries make the best beer? As is my modus operandi when performing due diligence, the research to answer these burning questions started with spreadsheets compiled from ratebeer.com and beeradvocate.com. Soon, armed with our list of Top 150 Beers, we set out on a quest to obtain and try as many of these as we could find.
The problem is that we could only find a handful of those highly rated beverages. As it turns out, the most highly rated beers are also highly prized and thus are very difficult to obtain. Either they are produced in such limited quantities that you have to be connected through social media to find out when the beer will arrive in stores (and get there in the first hour), or, worse, distribution is limited to a single city or state. To get a feel for the passion of those who seek the holy grails of beer, click here to read about the lunacy that ensued during the 2014 Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout release party fiasco at Cigar City Brewery in Tampa, Florida.
With a few years of experience under your belt, you learn how to play the game. Don’t chase beer that is unobtainable and concentrate on those that you actually have a chance to get. The rotation in my refrigerator currently includes Bell’s Expedition Stout, Bell’s Hopslam, and Founders Backwoods Bastard. The first one is an excellent stout that is widely available during the winter, but the other two beers sell out in Birmingham in less than an hour. I have my daughter’s sharp eyes to thank for my stash of those brews. Sometimes it is pure luck. Recently I obtained a single bottle of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA (I have NEVER seen it on the shelf) when the cashier hiding a case behind the counter asked me if I was interested.
Now we have arrived at the defining week in my annual quest for great beers. On Tuesday, March 31, Founders Brewery will release the 2015 KBS. Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) is the excellent and widely available Breakfast Stout that has been aged in oak bourbon barrels for one year in caves under Grand Rapids, Michigan. The result is a completely different stout of unparalleled complexity with hints of coffee, bourbon, chocolate, and vanilla. KBS is the highest rated beer brewed in the USA that you might actually have a chance to get your hands on. Last year, KBS arrived on April 1st and I stood in line for an hour to get my two bottles and then rushed to a second store where I managed to score one more bottle before it was gone for another year. Two of those three bottles are still in my refrigerator waiting to be replaced by the 2015 KBS release.
If any members of my family are still reading along, KBS would be a great gift for me (even if I have to pay you twice what you paid for it). However, your window of opportunity is very small.