Tasting: August 23, 2012
If a bourbon-barrel aged stout is simply a stout that showcases its bourbon influences, can you simply add bourbon to a stout and achieve the same thing? I figure that I can’t be the only idiot that had this thought of this or can I? I assume brewers are not allowed to add hard liquor to a beer. Maybe the brewers don’t tell anyone about the small puddle of bourbon that couldn’t be extracted from the barrel. All an Internet search yielded were comments from a lot of snobby bourbon drinkers that can’t even stand the thought of water or ice in their libation let alone wasting even a few drops in a beer.
There’s only one way to find out, so back to the lab I go! Mission? Create a homemade KBS.
My favorite bourbon barrel-aged stout is Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS). I may be wrong, but I guess that it’s simply Founders Russian Imperial Stout (92 points) that hits the barrel for six months of aging. So, that will act as my base brew. I might even get a little crazy and see if I can re-create Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS), since CBS is simply KBS aged in a bourbon barrel that was repurposed to make maple syrup before it made the brewery.
I found the acceptable proportion on-line as being one-half teaspoon per twelve ounces. So, I’ll start with six ounces of my base stout and I’ll halve the bourbon and add one-quarter teaspoon of bourbon. I take a test swig from the control bottle and a few sips from the subject. You know what? It does bring in bourbon in the right proportion but not the wood flavor. Really not bad, it flattens out the chocolate flavors from the original stout. Did I improve it? Maybe a little bit. Did I recreate KBS? No. Did I like it? Yes. I’ll put my homemade KBS at 93.
For my CBS attempt, I’ll take the other six ounces and and this time I’ll kick up the bourbon to three-eighths teaspoon and add two drops of mapleine (artificial maple flavoring concentrate). Right off the bat, I think the mapleine is too artificial for this example. It tastes like extract before it settles to the maple flavoring. If I try it again, I’ll heat up some real maple syrup and stir it in. Everything clashes a bit. I’ll tolerate it but I’ll call this one a fail as I didn’t improve on the original. Still drinkable and enough there to have some interest — 84 points.