Brewer’s Per­spec­tives: Break­fast Stout

Craft Beer & Brewing Magazine - - Contents -

A pro­fes­sional pi­o­neer of the style, Founders Brewing Co.’s Jeremy Kos­micki talks about the process of break­fast stout.

If break­fast is the most im­por­tant meal of the day, it’s no won­der Break­fast Stout and it’s vari­ants from Founders Brewing Co. are so pop­u­lar. While the brew­ery never trade­marked the style, it is syn­ony­mous with the rich, full, sweet stout that Brew­mas­ter Jeremy Kos­micki says started out as a home­brew recipe. In­ter­view by John Holl

Break­fast Stout is a beer so many peo­ple know to­day and al­most take for granted. How did it come to be?

“I was friends with for­mer Head Brewer Nate Walser be­fore we started work­ing at Founders. When we came to the brew­ery, [the own­ers] were just about ready to throw in the towel and started mak­ing these crazy beers. Nate fab­ri­cated a one-bar­rel pi­lot sys­tem and in 2002. One of the beers we made was Break­fast Stout.

It was in­spired by my home­brew days. I re­ally loved cof­fee beers, such as Red­hook’s Dou­ble Black Stout. It was a boozy bomber for $3 and so a great deal. Bell’s Java Stout was an in­spi­ra­tion as well. Then I had Young’s Dou­ble Choco­late Stout. That was a rev­e­la­tion! So it got us think­ing, and we started fool­ing around with cof­fee and choco­late, and I started melt­ing choco­late and steep­ing cof­fee into an oat­meal stout.”

So, pro­fes­sion­ally, it started off small?

“We’re set up for a 30-bar­rel pro­duc­tion, so that was a lot of beer for us back then, es­pe­cially if it wasn’t go­ing into a bot­tle, so we wound up mak­ing two bar­rels at a time and just serv­ing it in our tap­room. It was a way of get­ting our friends to come down and visit us and to get new folks to come into the pub. We soon re­al­ized that there were a lot of peo­ple with a pas­sion for craft beer and that if we had beers like this, business would blow up. We looked at Bell’s and their Ec­cen­tric Cafe where they al­ways had dif­fer­ent beers on tap just at the bar, and we wanted to cre­ate an at­mos­phere like that. It’s how a lot of beers such as Red’s Rye, Dirty Bas­tard, and—of course—break­fast Stout came to be. We got cre­ative, and even­tu­ally they started mak­ing their way into the bot­tle.”

You’ve said in the past that Break­fast Stout is a la­bor-in­ten­sive beer. How so?

“Be­cause of the cof­fee and choco­late, it’s a lot more in­volved than a reg­u­lar beer. Back in the day, we’d get these 10-pound bars of choco­late, and we’d have to bust them up to get them to a size where they would melt prop­erly dur­ing the brewing process. So, we’d get out a mal­let, sledge­ham­mer, what­ever we could just to bust these bars apart. With the cof­fee, we like to use it on both the hot and cold side so that just makes ex­tra work for ev­ery­one, es­pe­cially steep­ing in the hot wort.”

What do you look for with both choco­late and cof­fee when putting to­gether a Break­fast Stout?

“You want to avoid choco­lates with a lot of milk fats. We use a dark, bit­ter­sweet choco­late and some choco­late liquor discs that don’t have a lot of fats and oils be­cause those will mess with the

head. When we first started mak­ing this beer, we had a lo­cal cof­fee roaster in town that also car­ried Bel­gian choco­lates, and they were a great re­source in help­ing us find ex­actly what we needed and what worked. We’ve out­grown them on the choco­late side but still use them for cof­fee. We use a Su­ma­tra on the hot side, and it draws on the earth­i­ness of the bean and adds a lot to the beer recipe. You want a coarse-ground cof­fee so you get a good steep from it, and hon­estly as long as you’re us­ing a good-qual­ity cof­fee—don’t throw Fol­gers in there—you’ll be okay. Go to a lo­cal roaster and ask them for opin­ions. They can help steer you in the right di­rec­tion.”

What about the base beer? How do you go about putting it to­gether?

“At first we made just a reg­u­lar stout, but we re­al­ized that the choco­late and cof­fee came out thin, so the next time around, we im­pe­ri­al­ized it. There’s the usual choco­late malt, roasted bar­ley, and black patent malt, too. A big dose of oats helps with mouth­feel. For the cof­fee and the choco­late, we use the wort as the medium. I know other places might do dif­fer­ent things, but this is the way we’ve al­ways done it. We melt the choco­late into the wort and then we steep cof­fee. In the old days, we were open­ing 5-pound bags [of cof­fee]; now we have su­per sacks that we hang.

For home­brew­ing, I’d say go ahead and use a bunch of spe­cialty grain, and a thick body is an im­por­tant part. You don’t want it to come out too thin. Then, get the choco­late melted but never boiled and re­ally the most im­por­tant thing is us­ing high-qual­ity in­gre­di­ents, and then go to town. We’ve scaled up the process but still want to make sure it’s the way we want it to taste. If you mess with it too much, you get away from it. It’s an amaz­ing beer, but it’s still a pain in the ass to make.”

How long be­fore you guys started putting the beer into var­i­ous bar­rels?

“It was about two years af­ter we first made Break­fast Stout. We got out first few bar­rels, and it just made sense to use them with the beer. That’s how Ken­tucky Break­fast Stout (KBS) came to be.

Then, there was a lo­cal guy, a chef and a foodie, who did a lot of bar­rel ag­ing, and he was ag­ing maple syrup in bour­bon bar­rels. He came by and asked if we wanted [the bar­rels] for beer. So we im­me­di­ately jumped on it, and at first we had only six or eight of them so it was a small batch that we dubbed Cana­dian Break­fast Stout (CBS). But, it just makes sense with the fla­vors of the bour­bon, plus the sweet and rich maple; all the fla­vors in the base beer just work re­ally well.”

You re­leased CBS again in late 2017 af­ter a sev­eral years’ ab­sence. These bar­rels are tougher to come by I imag­ine.

“They are. It’s why we only re­lease the beer when we can and not as of­ten as we’d like. We need more peo­ple to age maple syrup in bour­bon bar­rels!”

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