Michael: This go ‘round, I know what I’m getting into. Last time I was in the ring with the Bastard, he kicked my unsuspecting ass. I didn’t know what a Scotch Ale/Wee Heavy was, I didn’t know that when Founders said ‘It’s a kick-back sipper,’ they absolutely meant it. I just plain didn’t know. About halfway through, I realized that to enjoy this brew I needed to take a breath and know that I may still have a few sips at the bottom of my glass in an hour or more.
So this time, I know better. And I’m enjoying every minute of it. I’m enjoying the color, a fruity, meaty, chewy character, it seems a chameleon, changing in the light from a deeper brown to a copper to an orange. The head, visiting but briefly upon my initial pour, was sandy then gone. Effervescent bubbles rush up the sides of the glass, stacking on one another just enough to help maintain a thin rim of a head around the top my tulip. Now, I’ve never been a fan of hard liquor. One rough New Year’s Eve not long enough ago has, I believe, forever damaged me. So, I’m not one to know what Scotch tastes like, but with my experience with beer. Founders site tells me it smells like Scotch, so that must be what that delightful, warm, caramely goodness is. There is maybe even a hint of overripe plums. On my first sip, I know it is still too cold. Allowing to warm, however, brings out the real flavors. The Scotch is smooth and not overpowering. There is a vanilla flavor that melts into an almost-coconut middle and into a oaky, bittering finish. The alcohol slides down my tonsils, taking its time and lingering long.
Know this, be prepared. Be prepared for big flavors and a long sipping process. But do it right, and this brew will have you coming back again. Grade: A-
Tom: I will say one thing…Michael is spot on with his assessment. This beer does display some great plum, caramel, and coconut notes. For those of you who have not sampled Backwoods before allow me to expand on some similarities and differences between it and Dirty Bastard. After all, Dirty B is the base for this Bourbon barrel aged beauty. Two side notes: 1) I plan on dressing up as the Backwoods Bastard next Halloween. The label on this beer is awesome and I happen to own a double bladed axe. 2) The first bottle of BB that I drank happens to be a keepsake as the label was printed upside down. I thought it was on purpose because I thought the beer was called “backwards” bastard.
Both Bastard beers come close to the same appearance. Dark ruby red hues danced around as the head seemed to be the difference. While this beer did have a dense beige head it was smaller than its plain cousin. It did not rise as high which was most likely due to the abv content.
Smelling this beer is a real seasonal treat. You will get aromas from three different types of alcoholic beverages. Beer, the rich malty Scotch ale notes which lend great caramel depth and earthy notes. Bourbon, which provides vanilla, caramel, smokey and woody qualities. And lastly Scotch, where a peat-like earthiness and smooth dark fruit flavors. Makers of Scotch often times reuse Bourbon barrels so basically this beer embodies a lot of Scotch aromas and flavors being “just” a beer. I tip my hat to Founders for making such a quality brew.
You will not notice the 10+ abv as the rich flavors and aromas fill your sense. The only time it comes into play is towards the finish where it give a warming sensation. Aside from that this beer highlights what a great Bourbon barrel can do to a beer. The Dirty Bastard notes are strong enough to shine through so don’t worry…this beer is not all Bourbon. Caramel and toffee notes are present along with the vanilla, plum, raisin, minor fig, smokey wood components added by the barrel aging. This beer demands respect that is for sure.
Bold malt flavors permeate the palate. The mouthfeel is thick and sticky. One of the highlighting features of this beer is the drying effect it has. The oaky woodsy, earthy notes reek havoc on your taste buds as you are left with a massive tannin aftertaste which causes your palate to go dry and almost numb. This is not a bad thing as you are brought back to the beer for a new sip. A little boozy towards the end you are still left with a toasty, vailla, caramel aftertaste that is just down right enjoyable. Grade: A
I lived in Grand Rapids for a while and this is probably my favorite of the Founders selection. A mighty fine brew.