Battle of the Breakfast Stout


Brian Hayes

Founder’s Canadian Breakfast Stout proves that bourbon has a place at the breakfast table.

Everyone loves breakfast. Crispy bacon, shiny eggs, roasted coffee and sweet maple syrup all laid out on the table. The flavors of breakfast are distinctive. So, what could be better than breakfast? A breakfast beer, more accurately a breakfast stout.

The stout is the only beer big enough to incorporate all the flavors of the heartiest meal of the day.

A breakfast stout is brewed with maple and coffee and sometimes other adjuncts to create something uniquely breakfast-y. What is the best breakfast stout?

Today in The Sunflower’s test kitchen — a.k.a the patio at Central Standard Brewing — sports editor Matt Crow and I will taste test 4 different breakfast stouts.

First off, boasting a home-field advantage, “Born with Teeth,” CBS’s offering for a breakfast stout. Although, it’s not actually advertised as a breakfast stout, but it fits the bill. Coffee, maple and chocolate; checks all the boxes.

Brian Hayes
“Born with Teeth” is Central Standard brewing’s offering in the breakfast stout category.

This 10.5-percent ABV stout drinks like it’s 5-percent. The notes of dark chocolate and coffee hide the alcohol well, there’s only a twinge of it on the back end of the palette. The double mash make this one of the thicker beers we drank, despite not being barrel aged. It has legs. The dark brown head streaks the sides of the glass as we drink it down.

Heavy on the coffee and chocolate, the maple doesn’t show until it warms.

“It’s good, dark and heavy, like a strong cup of covfefe,” Crow said as we neared the bottom of our first glasses.

Next up, “Short, Dark & Breakfast.” This beer is the breakfast variant of Other Half Brewing’s “Short, Dark & Handsome.” The additions of maple syrup, coffee and lactose make it fit the breakfast stout bill.

Brian Hayes
Other Half’s “Short, Dark & Breakfast” puts the syrupy sweetness in the breakfast stout.

This beer clocks in at 7.4-percent. There’s a good deal more carbonation than “Born with Teeth.” It’s much thinner, it lacks the viscosity of the previous stout.

Brooklyn-based Other Half Brewing nails the sweetness in this beer with the addition of lactose sugar. It has the sweetness but lacks the maple — even as it warms the maple isn’t there.

“It goes down well if you don’t like the harshness of some of the heavy stouts,” Crow said.

I struggled to finish my pour of the 16-ounce can we split. I wanted to see if that maple would ever come out— it didn’t.

With a name like “Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS),” the next beer we sampled by Founders Brewing has set the expectation very high. I imagine after a bottle of this we should end up dressed like the Royal Canadian Mountie on the bottle, lapping at the tap on a maple tree. Sadly, we did not.

Brian Hayes
Founder’s Canadian Breakfast Stout proves that bourbon has a place at the breakfast table.

CBS was bottled in 2017, it was the first time since 2011. My first impression is buuuuurrrben. Before the glass even hits my lips, I can smell the sweet oak-i-ness of the barrels. The barrels used are what makes this beer so special. The barrels were used to age bourbon, then after they were spent, they added pure Michigan maple syrup. After the syrup was drained this imperial stout packed with coffee and chocolate was added to the barrels to set until it absorbed the flavors of the previous two occupants of the barrels.

All that work and patience paid off with an incredibly drinkable, exceedingly thick breakfast stout. Notes of bourbon, maple, coffee and chocolate all work together to make this an ideally balanced breakfast stout. It’s never too sweet or never too boozy.

Last but by no means least, “Kentucky Breakfast Stout” is made by Founders Brewing as well. This is the same base beer as the CBS but aged in regular oak bourbon barrels. It’s just as thick but lacks the sweetness that mingled so perfectly with the prominent smooth coffee and chocolate.

Brian Hayes
Kentucky Breakfast Stout by Founders is released once a year.

Overall, all the beers featured coffee, chocolate and maple, but they were all vastly different, due to brewing style and technique. “Born with Teeth” and “Canadian Breakfast Stout” were the ales that I’ll remember and want to drink more of.

Disclaimer about my affinity and biases toward breakfast as the unequivocal best meal: I wrote this while wearing breakfast themed socks. My home WiFi networks are named “Waffle House” and “Extra Syrup.” My last meal would be an All-Star Special smothered and covered with a well-done waffle. The love runs deep.