“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.”
Founders Backwoods Bastard
Scotch Ale, 10.2% ABV
Sayeth the Guys:
Karl: For a baseline Bastard experience, Ryan poured a regular Dirty Bastard, a beer that my brain always recognizes as “Hey, I could be having a Founders Porter right now instead.” While the Dirty Bastard pounded me with memories of Porters that once were, the present tense of the beer was hammering my taste buds with solid and unadulterated fudge. Ever had Kilwins? Ever been to Mackinac Island? Michiganders know from fudge, and it doesn’t surprise me at all that my first fudgy-beer experience comes from one of the state’s best breweries. But: Once you go bourbon-barrel-aged Backwoods, you don’t go…well, back.
The fresh Backwoods Bastard was colored like cola or leather – deep syrupy brown with not much of a head to speak of. The bourbon-burn I expected wasn’t too present, which was surprising, but more surprising was the amount of ass that was kicked by the presence of vanilla in the Bastard. Unexpected and just the right amount of flavor to round out the Wee-Heavy-ness of this brew, it was spot-on perfect.
With a year on it, the Backwoods gets darker and heavier and boozier, which was a further surprise. The lightness of the fresh Bastard has disappeared, replaced with a syrupy goo of a beer, almost a whiskey reduction with silt in it. This beer made me belch pure liquor. I probably could have lit it on fire, had I tried, but I don’t think Ryan would get his security deposit back after that.
Andrew: There are certain things I wouldn’t recommend – spitting into the wind, tugging on Superman’s cape, licking a hand rail in a CTA car and cellaring a Founder’s Backwoods Bastard. Maybe others have had better luck, but color me less than impressed.
The 2010 Backwoods Bastard was, in a word, perfect. I got exactly what was advertised – a beautiful scotch ale with just enough alcohol burn to remind me that it has a 10.2% ABV, but not too much that it made it undrinkable, with great undertones of vanilla, bourbon, oak and dark fruits. I’ll note that it was a bit sweeter than I was expecting, but in a good way. I thought the sweetness, both in the nose and in the taste, really balanced well with the heat from the booze.
With just one year on it, the Backwoods Bastard turns into a thick, syrupy, hot boozy mess. And not in a good way. It really wasn’t very good, at all, like not in the least. Does anyone have any Jeppsons Mallort on hand so I can clear the ol’ taste buds?
While I don’t think aging the Backwoods Bastard was succesful, I still enjoyed the experiment.
Ryan: Glad to see I wasn’t the only one that was a little disappointed in this cellaring experiment. But, hey, this is why we started this site and I threw random beers back for a year two – so we could tell you what is and is not worth cellaring.
A 4 oz pour of the base beer, Founders Dirty Bastard, served as a nice point of comparison. On it’s own Dirty Bastard is a world class scotch ale. For me, it sits right up there with Dark Horse’s Scotty Karate, Oskar Blues Old Chub and Alesmith’s Wee Heavy. It’s sweet caramel notes are balanced out well with a bread-y body and earthy, bitter finish. It’s no wonder it holds up well to some time in the bourbon barrel. Sadly, I’m not so sure if it held up well to time in the cellar.
The 2010 offering of Backwoods was as advertised; a wonderfully smooth, oak-y, vanilla bomb of a scotch ale that had some subtle smokiness and molasses all of which is buried under the 10.2 ABV in the finish. The vanilla really made this beer shine. It was smooth and not the least bit overpowering. Absolutely fantastic. On the other hand, the 2009 bottle that was pulled from the cellar can best be described as messy. The nose gave off loads of bourbon but not nearly as much sweet vanilla as the 2010. As both Karl and Andrew noted this beer was boozy. In fact, everything that I liked about the fresh Bastard had faded into oblivion in the aged bottle. All that remained was a thick, syrupy, slightly acidic, abrasively carbonated, booze bomb.
When I picked up two bottles of Backwoods Bastard back in ’09 and I told the guy that was holding them for me I was going to cellar one, he cautioned me not to. And now I see why. Take our word for it, Founders Backwoods Bastard is not meant for the cellar but is most definitely in a class by itself fresh.