The label is a bit troubling. The Curmudgeon looks broken, with a resigned 100-yard stare that reveals he gave up about 20 years ago and just wants to eat his fucking flapjacks in peace. The only reason he is actually looking up is that his overbearing “better half” is holding his syrup hostage, and he has lost the will to call her bluff. His better half’s forced smile barely masks her underlying resentment built-up from wasting the best years of her life cooking and cleaning for this ungrateful bastard. And the ship in the distant background is clearly a metaphor for their long-since departed youth, hopes, and dreams becoming ever more distant. Depressing really.
Curmudgeon’s Better Half is Old Curmudgeon Ale (an old ale brewed with molasses and aged on oak) which is further aged for 254 days in bourbon barrels that have been used to age Michigan maple syrup. It’s from Founder’s Backstage Series, a limited release of some of Founders’ rare beers, previously only available at the brewery taproom or at select events. This thing set me back a Jackson, so it better be good, dammit.
It pours a reddish mahogany. The tan head recedes quickly to leave a thin layer. It smells as one would expect: malt, oak, whiskey, vanilla, and a hint of some dark-ass maple syrup.
But unlike Biebs, it doesn’t smell like it’s going to be all sweet and sticky. Note: I’ve never smelled Justin Bieber, but I am assuming he puts off a sweet, cloying Kavorka.
The taste leads with toasted malt, followed by slightly burnt brown sugar and some maple syrup, then bourbon (with its accompanying oak and vanilla), and a slight hint of bananas. Lastly, It finishes with maple syrup and bourbon alternately vying for your attention.
I expected this to be a huge, sweet, hot monster. But it was medium bodied, not super sweet, and smooth. I liked it. And it was more complex than most bourbon barrel aged beers. But I was not absolutely blown away. And at $20, I probably won’t seek it out again.
The Haybag: My feelings on the use of bourbon barrels are well-documented (even with intervening maple syrup). Bourbon and beer should be in separate glasses, and this beer did not change my opinion.