Picture Black Friday. Now picture it again with 850 adults, mostly men, who have been drinking since the night before and are still drinking as they wait outside of a building on a brisk 37 degree morning. And unlike Black Friday, you can’t go to any other location for this particular item.
What am I talking about, you ask? I am describing a beer release when the brewers only choose to bottle a small quantity of a very rare beer.
I initially thought my husband was joking when he informed me that we would be heading to Grand Rapids and spending the night outside of the Founders Brewery on a Friday night in October. But when he mentioned that the release was for CBS, I immediately agreed to the adventure, as long as we could purchase some comfortable lounge chairs and toasty sleeping bags.
Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS) takes the imperial stout to a whole different level. Founders’ regular Breakfast Stout tastes of coffee and chocolate. It is a fantastic stout to have at any time of the day, including breakfast. For their Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS), which is probably the best stout I’ve ever tasted (until this release), the brewers cave-aged their breakfast stout in bourbon barrels for an entire year. The CBS takes the aging process one step further by first aging maple syrup in the bourbon barrels before aging the beer. The end result is a beer currently ranked 3rd in the world on www.beeradvocate.com.
Back to our story…New comfortable lounge chairs complete with pillow and foot-rest were purchased. Although for some reason we didn’t pack those chairs. Instead we packed the $5 bonfire/camping chairs that everyone has multiples of in their garage. The sleeping bags were passed over. This step in the trip planning still evades me as we knew in advance what the forecast was. We did pack multiple layers, a blanket, hand warmers, and winter accessories. Oh, and a cooler of beer. And so on Friday, right after work, we piled in the car and thus began our journey.
5 hours later we were in Grand Rapids checking into our hotel. 15 minutes after that we were down the street at a craft beer bar eating “crack fries” and drinking fabulous warming beer. Did I mention it was below 40 degrees?
After 3 hours of sleep. at 5:00 in the morning, we found ourselves sitting in extremely uncomfortable chairs freezing every inch of our bodies off all in the name of beer. The first two hours may have been some of the worst of my life. We were thankfully spared from the gusting wind by the wall of the building. However, the wind still whipped around us. The hand warmers were barely producing heat inside of our gloves. My scarf was wrapped around my head and neck a few times. I had a peep hole the size of a silver dollar from which to view my surroundings. There was no speaking during the first 2 hours. It took everything we had to conserve our warmth and body heat.
As the sun began to creep up, I forced my husband to drive to McDonald’s and buy me a hash-brown. Mind you, I haven’t eaten McDonald’s in at least 5 years and I may have been possessed when I said through chattering teeth, “Get me McDonald’s…now.” When he came back with the gift from the Gods (yes, I said that about an Egg McMuffin and hash-brown) he chose to inform me that the temperature gauge on the car registered a toasty 37 degrees. The sun did not heat up the area surrounding us even by one degree. I attempted to stand in the small patches of sunlight to get warm for the next 4 hours.
During this time many things were occurring. People all around us were drinking a wide-variety of delicious craft beer. We had brought a 4-pack of Headhunter IPA from Fat Head’s Brewery in Cleveland. I refused to drink cold beer. If it had been hot, I might have given it a shot. People were opening and sharing Pliny the Elder, Zombie Dust, Parabola, BORIS the Crusher, BrewDoo, and tons more. Also, during this time the line had grown way past my what my imagination had allowed. People were sitting and standing in a line that wrapped around the building, down the parking lot, into the street, around the corner, and down the next block. It was definitely a sight to behold.
At 10:00, the brewers came out and began passing out tickets. Founders only released around 1700 bottles and were only allowing each person to purchase 2 bottles each. We were 80th in line, after having gotten to the brewery at 5:00 AM. There were some die-hards who hadn’t left the brewery the night before after the 2:00AM closing. I was happy to be 80th. That guaranteed beer but it also meant we had a great chance to get inside the brewery after purchasing our beer to sample CBS on draft.
At 11:00 the doors opened and person #1 in line was able to purchase his 2 bottles of CBS. By 11:30, we had slowly shuffled to the front of the line. We exchanged our $72 for 2 bottles of CBS each (yes, $18 a bottle) and then ran around to the front of the brewery to attempt to get inside the taproom for a sample on draft.
Is this a bit much? Can it really be worth all of that? The answer, my friend, is a resounding YES! CBS is an amazingly drinkable beer. The initial aroma hints of coffee and bourbon. It is extremely rich and creamy with a definite coffee and bourbon taste. The sweetness at the end that overpowers any booziness that a 9% beer might emit clearly comes from the maple syrup. As with most beers I review, it gets even better as it warms up. I could have stayed at Founders all day sipping on CBS. This is definitely one of the best beers that I’ve ever had and lives up to its hype in every way.
The question you may be asking is, “Will you sit outside a brewery for a beer release again?” If Founders is releasing CBS, I certainly would. Although next time I will make sure to pack the comfy chairs and sleeping bags.