Beer Review: Founders Backwoods Bastard

Next up, Founders Backwoods Bastard:

I have been longing for this baller since I missed out last year. It’s the bourbon-barrel aged version of Founder’s Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale, which seems pretty damn conducive to some barrel-aging. So I quickly snapped up a four-pack of Backwoods Bastard this year.

The guy on the label looks like Popcorn Sutton from the Discovery Channel series Moonshiners, which I have been watching lately. God, I love those little ‘shine-addled, law-breaking rednecks…especially Tickle. And I know Tickle hasn’t been to law school, but he regularly fires off such Cicero-worthy gems as: “It ain’t illegal till you get caught.” He doesn’t have an MBA either, but he wisely summed up their business model: “If’in we ain’t makin’ liquor, we ain’t makin’ money.”

C’mon, people, the man has LED lights in the brim of his hat.

It pours mahogany, with some reddish highlights. It’s got a beige head that recedes pretty quickly. The second you pour it, you can smell the bourbon. Upon further inspection, there is oak, vanilla, toffee, and a little smoke that tries to pull the smell over to the scotch side of the whisk(e)y spectrum. The taste follows the nose with the addition of brown sugar and a slight hint of chocolate and dark fruits from the Dirty Bastard base beer. It’s sweet, but not cloying. And it’s 10.2% ABV, so a 4-pack of these could lead to one of those mornings where you wake up in a strange place with a degree from University of Phoenix.

The Haybag (from her shot glass sized pregnancy portion): Too boozy. I like Dirty Bastard better. Although, maybe it’s because I can’t drink enough right now to make Moonshiners bearable. Now, switch it to Hart of Dixie. That Rachel Bilson deserves so much more than just Teen Choice Awards.

Founders Devil Dancer Triple IPA: The dreaded triple alpha dog dare.

Next up, Founders Devil Dancer Triple IPA:

Reserving my right to take a Children of the Corn angle on this review.

This beer seems to have received a lukewarm response from some. Whenever I see this with a big name beer (with 112 IBUs) that otherwise flies off the shelf, it gets me curious. I guess I’m a hype whore.

I think I have only encountered the elusive “Triple IPA” twice: Pliny the Younger back in ’06 and Moylan’s Triple Hopsickle. Actually, I don’t even know if it’s a recognized style. It’s single defining characteristic seems to be its righteous indignation begotten by you thinking you’re worth its time. That, and after you drink one you can’t taste anything for a couple hours. But a hophead and his money are easily parted. So, let’s do this thing.

It pours rust with a dense off-white head that recedes slowly and leaves a little lacing. It smells like an epic battle is about to be waged on your palate between rich citrus and resinous pine hops, sweet caramel and toasty malt, and alcohol.

But like sumo, there will be no winners. Only dirty, shameful regret.

It starts out somewhat amicably. It’s pretty sweet and malty with a rich, citrusy, resinous, oily hop character. And although it’s extremely bitter, it’s not unbearable. Then apparently my tastebuds returned from their lunchbreak. The sweetness becomes a little oppressive, the booze gets violent, and bitterness a little unnecessarily harsh. At one point the sweet, bitter, and alcohol hint at hop-flavored cough syrup. It’s way low on carbonation (perhaps that would have provided some quarter). And this thing is so dang big that United Airlines would make it purchase an extra seat.

An epic battle for my palate’s heart? No. Less like Ali vs. Frazier. More like AC Slater vs. Zack Morris.

“You made me look like a jerk at the Max.”
“Well that’s what you are.”
Oh dang!

The Haybag: I think you’re being a little harsh. It’s not bad. It’s just not quite worth the pricetag and difficulty to procure.

Founders Blushing Monk – Keepin’ raspberries trill up in here.

Next up, Founders Blushing Monk:

In search of some Funky Buddha beers, I headed to Churchkey (the poorly lit, well-stocked über beer bar in DC that has more than its fair share of ironic mustaches and short, cropped bangs). Unfortunately, they had drained all but one keg the night before for a SAVOR event. So my change of plans included this little fella’.

Founders describes this as a Belgian Raspberry Ale. I don’t know what that means or what the base beer is, but I do know it has a shitload of raspberries and is pretty strong at 9.2% ABV.

I had it on tap, and it looks like a vigorously poured, super-dark grape juice with a little pink head. It smells like what I believe raspberry cough syrup could smell like if pharmaceutical chemists weren’t such dicks: sticky, sweet, syrupy raspberry puree. With the first sip, it appears this will be a raspberry juicebox affair, like Founders is all slinging their wares preschool snack-time style. Then the carbonation quickly kicks in to tone things down, and I’m all:

Awww, that was a cute and sweet little number…

Then, shit got trill:

Suddenly you realize the moderate carbonation’s benevolent mercy as the tartness kicks in. I have seen people say this isn’t that tart. Perhaps my sour beer receptors are not jaded enough (although I do like kumquats and crazy-sour lemonade). And while it’s not exactly salivary gland twisting and automotive-screwdriver-to-the-jaw tart, I thought it was significant.

Things cool down for a split-second, and I notice some teeth-drying from the tannins and a slight red wine-like quality. Then a new sourness kicks in at the finish, except this time without any comforting carbonation. I like it, though, in a sick sort of way.

I think this was my favorite beer of the afternoon. I may have to rethink my unfavorable stance on fruit beers…especially 9.2% ABV fruit beers. And I may be seeking out some more sour stuff.

P.S. Thanks to Marshall for covering AOTD for me, while I went and got my Friday afternoon drink on.

Beer vs. Wine: Lamb Edition, Round 1

I have mixed feelings about this post. One of the great things about beer is that it’s approachable, unpretentious, and generally free from a slew of inviolable rules on how to enjoy it. And really, we have enough rules to live by already: Don’t go to Wesley Snipes for tax advice. Don’t mix sleeping pills and laxatives. Don’t stiff a Colombian prostitute…

But I want beer to be considered as useful with food as wine is. And generally, I think it is (perhaps even more so). Beer pairing suggestions abound these days on the Internet. And beer even goes well with dishes that are otherwise wine no-brainers. Not long ago, at the Federalist in DC, I ordered a Port City Porter with my turtle soup and my duck entre. It tasted great together.

Mmmmmm…cute, pond-dwelling creatures.

And I like getting beer when all the smuggy-buggies are ordering wine. I’m probably not supposed to, but I take a little pride in being an uncivilized beerbarian.

But here’s the rub. Beer needs to continue its growth and acceptance if we want to have great beers widely-available to throw down our pie holes, whatever the occasion, restaurant, or meal. I just hope that as it does so, it doesn’t become less approachable, more pretentious, and subject to a slew of inviolable rules. Because if you want Miller High Life with your filet, I support that.

With that out of the way, and nearing my word limit, maybe we should finally get to the damn purpose of this post. Can Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Ale beat out a decent Cabernet Sauvignon (2009 Black Stallion) on red wine’s home turf: Lamb Chops (seared, then finished off for a couple minutes at high heat in the oven) with a Haybag-concocted mint chimichurri on the side?

Luckily, I briefly paused to breathe…and take a picture.

Founders Dirty Bastard: It smells and tastes like the morning after a Heath Bar and a Medjool Date went on a brandy and scotch bender and made some bad decisions together (this is a good thing…albeit awkward for the Heath Bar and date). I thought its smooth maltiness and ever-so-slight kiss of smoke would be a good match with the seared lamb.

2009 Black Stallion Cabernet Sauvignon: I picked this because…hell if I know. I just always pick Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon with lamb.

This round: Wine won. The Dirty Bastard was good with the lamb, and they didn’t fight. But it was sort of like well-behaved, 2-year-old parallel play: It’s nice, but the lack of interaction is a little boring, and in the back of your mind you worry about it suddenly all going to shit when one of them smashes a Tonka truck over the other’s head.

The wine was a better match. It communed with the lamb in a way that Dirty Bastard didn’t. Its rich flavors and velvety mouthfeel went nicely with the richness of the medium-rare lamb. And its peppery and chocolate notes were a nice addition, too, especially with the chimichurri. They were all like OMG BFFs 4 evs. P911 TML8R.

So what next time? Actually, in a Twitter exchange, the Beer Wench suggested a smoked porter and pointed me to these handy suggestions. She also acknowledged that mint is an odd herb with beer, but perhaps just a dry stout or porter would work. I can’t believe the Beer Wench actually responded to my tweet. Between that, and the fact that beerbecue is the #1 Google search result for “Loch Ness Monster’s G-Spot”, I am running out of blogging goals.

You win this time, red wine. I’ll keep you around for steak, lamb, and red sauce pasta dishes. But there will come a day, and I hope that day is soon, where I will just have a bottle of you around for guests.

Hop-epedia Project: Centennial Hops

Next up on the Hop-epedia Project: Centennial Hops. Centennial is an aroma-type hop that is also used for bittering. Yet another hoppy brainchild of the USDA (see lineage below in Hop USA specs), its versitility in different beer styles, resistance to disease and fungus, and moderate storagability make it pretty popular. Along with Cascade and Columbus, it is one of the “Three Cs”.

Centennial hops are known as the “Super Cascade” for their higher bittering capacity, but similar aroma/flavor profile: floral, citrus, and slightly spicy character. But the flavor and aroma comparisons between Centennial and Cascade are all over the place. Some claim Centennial is not quite as floral as Cascade. Others claim that they are not quite as citrusy. And I’ll be damned if I don’t taste a bit of pine when I crack open a Two-Hearted or a Centennial IPA (two Centennial hop beers). Ugh. Who knows? What’s the fucking point?

Oh shit! It just got all existential up in here.

Although, I will say that once the Two-Hearted and Centennial IPA stop being all up in your grill and warm-up a bit, any pine fades and the floral and citrus come out.

Indeed, Centennial and Cascade are often substituted for one another or used in tandem, but how are they distinguishable? Centennials are higher in alpha acid, so they impart more bitterness. Both can be grapefruity, but I usually find Cascade to be more so (there may be disagreement here). I find Cascade to be slightly more piney. And I think Centennials are a little more floral. I have even seen some rare bitching on homebrew forums about Centennial being too floral (I have never heard that said about Cascade). I even heard of someone saying that Two-Hearted reminds her of a hair salon. I can infer from this that I have been going to the wrong hair salons, and that Centennial has a substantial floral character.

If you are looking for substitutions, try Amarillo or, obviously, Cascade. I have also seen that, by the numbers, a mix of 70% Cascade and 30% Columbus will have a similar profile. This would make some sense as the Columbus would boost the bittering alpha acids and could impart a slight pungent kick needed to super-fy the Cascade.

As always with the Hop-epedia Project, comments and additions are encouraged.

Some Centennial Beers
Bell’s Two-Hearted
Founders Centennial IPA
Sierra Nevada Northern Hemisphere Harvest (Centennial for bittering and Cascade and Centennial for finishing)
Sierra Nevada Celebration (Centennial bittering and Cascade and Centennial for finishing and dry-hopping)
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine (includes Cascade and Chinook as well)

Specs from USA Hops variety manual
Centennial is an aroma variety that was released in 1990. It was derived from three-quarters Brewer’s Gold with minor contributions from Fuggle, East Kent Golding and others. It is among the most popular varieties for U.S. craft brewers and is sometimes referred to as a super Cascade.

Alpha Acids 9.5 – 11.5%
Beta Acids 3.5 – 4.5%
Cohumulone (% of alpha acids) 29 – 30%
Total Oils (Mls. per 100 grams dried hops) 1.5 – 2.5
Myrcene (as % of total oils) 45 – 55%
Caryophyllene (as % of total oils) 5.0 – 8.0%
Humulene (as % of total oils) 10 – 18%
Farnesene (as % of total oils) < 1.0%
Storage (% alpha acids remaining after 6 months storage at 20° C) 60 – 65%
Possible Substitutions Cascade, Amarillo

Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout: Exposing the Ohio River Valley’s Jungian Thing

Next up, Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout:

Both vying for my attention.

This elusive beer is named for the Jungian shadow of the Ohio River Valley: Kentucky. No, not because it has meth in it. It has something sublimely beautiful that the finger-pointing projectors from immediately north of the Ohio River don’t have: Bourbon.

Is it Northern Kentucky or Southern Cincinnati? Your airport is there. Own it, Cincy!

KBS, as the kids call it, is an imperial stout brewed with a massive amount of coffee and chocolates, then cave-aged in oak bourbon barrels for a year. And there aren’t many beers with more hype and that are harder to find…strike that…There aren’t many non-Founders beers with more hype and that are harder to find than KBS. But is it worth the hype and effort? After failing to get it at a local beer store (it sold out over the phone in about 6 minutes), we got it on draft at Rustico’s Hump Day Hat Trick (3 new highfalutin’ beers tapped every Wednesday at 6pm). 

It is the darkest brown you can conceive, nearly impenetrable, thick, and oily like puberty in the jungle. My first smell is chocolatey chocolate. After I pick myself back up off the floor, my second whiff brings some supporting coffee, not-at-all-overpowering bourbon, and a hint of oak. My first sip, I am struck how harmoniously smooth it is. Everything from the smell is there. And even though the bourbon, vanilla, and oak come out to play a little more rambunctiously in the taste, they never get so rowdy so as to upset the unflappably smooth chocolate, coffee, and roasted malts. The mouthfeel is big and divine.

At 11.2 percent ABV, this thing should be hotter than a four-balled tomcat, but the bourbon never overwhelmed. The only thing that might make Bell’s Black Note Stout a hair better is that Black Note’s slight, flirty hop character added a layer of complexity…but even that is a trivial nit. So, was it worth the hype and effort? Yes. I would say if you ever have an opportunity to get it, do so.

The Haybag: I concede that this beer is excellent. It does not, however, change my general opposition to the miscegenation of bourbon and beer.

Founders Brewing – Curmudgeon’s Better Half (a/k/a the Curmudgeon’s Haybag)

Next up, Curmudgeon’s Better Half from Founders Brewing Co.:

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.

Maple syrup: Canada's second sweetest export.

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.