Founders Brewing Company, based in Grand Rapids, MI is known quite well for their regular, year-round lineup which includes a variety of styles all with that quintessential Michigan touch to them. Among beer enthusiasts, however, their Barrel Aged Series is really where they shine. Just as bourbon lovers gear up for Pappy chasing each fall, craft beer lovers can be found lined up at 7:00 am waiting for a rumored shipment of KBS to arrive at their local beer spot each Spring.
Founders puts out six limited released beers in the Barrel Aged Series every year, each typically being a unique style. The 2017 series included Frootwood, KBS, Doom, DKML, Backwoods Bastard, and CBS. While the regular springtime KBS and the highly anticipated December return of CBS made the biggest splashes of 2017, my favorite release of the year arrived in November.
Backwoods Bastard is a Bourbon Barrel Aged Scotch Ale, clocking in at 11.2% ABV. While it does have that same basic scotch ale profile of Founders Dirty Bastard, Backwoods Bastard is much more refined, with added depth and complexity, as well as a softer, richer mouthfeel. (Think Evan Williams BIB vs Elijah Craig Barrel Proof). While the 2017 iteration was a limited release, Founders has announced that Backwoods Bastard will be available year-round beginning in April 2018. On the list of beers I would love to have year-round access to, this one was pretty high on the list.
- ABV: 11.2%
- Brewery: Founders Brewing Company
- Availability: Limited (2017), Year-round (beginning April 2018)
- Price: $16 for 4-pack of bottles
Appearance: Pours a very dark brown, with just a hint of red when held up to light. Fairly small, but dense head which dissipates rather quickly leaving a thin ring around the edge of the glass.
Nose: Lots of dark fruit, particularly raisin. Plenty of sweet bourbon.
Taste: Definitely has a scotch ale profile, but with a smooth, silky mouthfeel that you would typically see in a heavy stout. Lots of dark fruit and vanilla with some earthy spiciness and a touch of smoke.
Finish: Single malt scotch comes to mind at first, along with a subtle reminder of the 11.2% ABV, but the bourbon sweetness really takes over and carries it all the way out.
This is really just a fantastic beer. I’ve had many bourbon barrel aged beers that are a little too in-your-face with the whiskey. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether you’re drinking a BBA beer or just a 12 oz bottle of cheap whiskey with a splash of beer for color and flavoring. This one is quite the exception, maintaining the best characteristics of a perfectly balanced Scotch Ale, with smooth, caramel-sweet bourbon finish. This is definitely a beer that will be making a regular appearance in my fridge throughout the entire year come April. And certainly one that I think will get better with age – I’ve got a few stored away for cellaring, and I can only hope time treats it well. Kentucky Breakfast Stout may be the perennial favorite in the barrel aged series, but this one is certainly worth seeking out.