Backwoods Bastard (Founders Brewing Company)

Style: Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotch Ale/ Wee Heavy

10.2 % ABV

50 IBU’s

Brewer’s Notes: “Expect lovely, warm smells of single malt scotch, oaky bourbon barrels, smoke, sweet caramel and roasted malts, a bit of earthy spice, and a scintilla of dark fruit. It’s a kick-back sipper made to excite the palate.” The beer is brewed with seven varieties of imported malts as Founders Dirty Bastard Ale, but is then aged in bourbon barrels to further push the flavor to the extremes.

This bottle is very classic in terms of Founders’ bottles.  I’ve had mixed reviews of their bottles so far, and I think that will continue here.  I love the gritty, graphic novel-style drawing that is the backwoods bastard on the label, but I wish the background color were different, and I also wish his hat and coat were different colors.  The washed out white of the bottle deflects the eyes and brings out the boringness of the Founders label and font choices.  The murky white also brings attention to all the confusing stuff on the sides of the bottle, such as the barcode.  Really, what I wish they would do is play up more of the “woods” theme on the bottle and go with dark greens and browns, instead of the misty, murky whites.  This bottle is a meh.  Scrapbook it if you like, but I wouldn’t put it on my shelf.

The beer pours a beautiful dark, syrupy caramel with terrific ruby tints.  A slight ring of creamy head is present and leaves behind a light ring around the glass, but the body of the beer is dark red, bordering on black, and completely opaque.  The smell of this beer is big with malty bourbon, caramel and sweet alcohol.  Slight bread in the malt adds further complexity..  Peat malt is also slightly and gives the beer an ever-so-slight roasty tinge.  On the taste the beer is very complex in flavor, beginning sweet and almost cloying with spicy alcohol and too sweet malts and big bourbon flavoring, but then transitions into very slight middle caramel before the finish pulls big barrel notes onto the tongue which lingers with the cloying bourbon.  Mouthfeel is big and marmalade-like on the tongue, with sharp effervescence and a prickly feeling on the tongue.  The mouth is left sticky but dry with very little saliva to speak of.  Overall, I think I’m going to cellar the rest of this.  The alcohol is a little too much in the flavor right now for my personal taste.  There are some big bourbon notes which very intriguing in a sipping beer, but I’d like to get a little more malt flavor in this and less alcohol.  The complexity of both the taste and the smell are superb, and show to Founder’s superb skill in brewing extreme beers, it just is not really the flavor I’m looking for.  This definitely a must try for Bourbon fans, and barrel aged beers fans alike, and a superb beer, but I plan to cellar this to bring some new complexity to it.  Expect a redux review in a couple months. This beer is a sipper meant to be enjoyed slowly in the evenings in front of a roaring fire, but it is definitely worth a try.

Because I had some lying around, I attempted to pair some gorgonzola cheese and crackers with the beer, but was surprised to find that the alcohol notes in the beer completely cut through the spicy funk of the cheese and simply left an unpleasant alcoholic flavor in the mouth.  I then tried some brie cheese because we also had that in the fridge and Beer Advocate suggests it for the style.  The beer and the brie played a little nicer together than the gorgonzola, but the alcohol was still far too sharp, but the butteriness cheese helped to cut some of the alcoholic flavoring, but the beer was still far too big, hot, and spicy with alcohol for it to be truly pair-able.  I would advise using the Backwoods Bastard to cook with instead of pairing it, or simply sip it after dinner as you would a bourbon.  Personally, I plan to give it a year or so to mellow out before putting food to the test against it again, though I think I will sip on this after Thanksgiving dinner.


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