Review: Founders Bolt Cutter

In Beer Reviews by The Guys

Founders says:

“Bolt Cutter is a cellarable barley wine with an ABV of 15%. Dry-hopped with a mountain of Cascade hops, it’s balanced by a malty sweetness and spicy complexity, resulting from barrel aging some of it in bourbon barrels, some in maple syrup-bourbon barrels and some not at all (standard fermentation only). We’ve allowed the beer to mature in bottles and kegs since July so that it would be perfect for its release next month. Bolt Cutter pours a deep copper color and is best sampled at different temperatures to allow the flavors to unfold.”

IMG_0664Founders Bolt Cutter
American Barleywine, 15% ABV

Ryan: While the brewing process for this beer is pretty amazing, which includes multiple barrel aging’s and dry hopping, the story behind the name is even more impressive.

According to Founders’ website Bolt Cutter is named for the actual bolt cutters the brewery’s president went out and got after a bank threatened to shut them down.


 Years ago,” says Co-Founder, President & CEO Mike Stevens, “when our brewery was located on Monroe, we were defaulting on our loan. Eventually, the bank called and threatened to chain our doors shut if we didn’t come up with the money that we owed them. We had seven days to come up with half a million dollars.

So I bought a pair of bolt cutters,” says Co-Founder, Vice President of Brand & Education Dave Engbers. “We were determined to keep our doors open and to keep brewing beer, no matter what it took. Luckily, we never had to use them.

Engbers keeps the bolt cutters in his office as a reminder of how far we’ve come and the journey we’ve taken since brewing our first beer in November 1997.


Does the beer live up to its billing, $24 price tag and the story behind it? Abso-frickin-lutely.

Pouring a vibrant orange in color, the Bolt Cutter has a big nose of pine needles, orange peel, caramel and juniper berries.

The citrus and pine needle aroma carryover to the palate, combining with a distinct tangerine flavor to create an almost aggressive hoppiness. A good dose of sweet caramel mid-sip and a slightly chalky bakers chocolate finish does wonders in calming down this hop-forward beer.

The finish is a tad boozy, but nowhere close to what I expected in a 15% ABV beer. In fact, the alcohol is fairly tame, all things considered.

As for the mouthfeel – it’s thick, slick and coating – but not too over the top. Almost creamy as it warms.

The dry-hopping gives Bolt Cutter a phenomenal aroma while the different barrel aging’s give it a subtle, yet complex, sweet flavors.

While Founders says it’s cellarable – which we don’t doubt – it is highly drinkable fresh, which can’t always be said for barleywines topping out at 15% ABV.

IMG_0653Karl: First, a small snapshot of how random the Great Craft Beer Hunt can be in these times.

When Bolt Cutter was released, it was near impossible to find. I kept an eye out for weeks, knowing full well that as soon as it hit the shelves, it was likely snatched up in minutes. After a month or so, I gave up hope of ever getting to sample any – visions of how good the Frangelic hazelnut coffee special release would have to suffice, I supposed. then, from downstate, Ryan emailed and said there was Bolt Cutter like whoa down in his neck of the woods. Should he get some? Of course he should! Strike that, store wasn’t open – closed for a week for renovations. Damn. So that afternoon I wander into my nondescript little corner store for a 6-pack and what do I see in front of me? An everdamned bomber of Bolt Cutter. I text Ryan to inform him of my discovery; lo and behold he’s stumbled across some more himself, and is returning to Chicago with barleywine in hand.

Silly, huh?

This is a long way of introing the fact that if I’m honest, I don’t really like barleywines all that much. They’re often just too big, too bitter, too overwhelming to appreciate a sip at a time, sometimes requiring hours, hours that could be better spent with porters, stouts, bitters, scotch ales, and so on. It was only because Founders holds such high regard for me that I wanted to try this offering so much. While it didn’t completely redefine my opinion of the style, it was quite mature and relatively easygoing, which I appreciated.

Starting with a mild aroma of lightly scorched caramel, Bolt Cutter cut a profile of gingerbread, pine, sweet sugary toffee with a bright, soapy finish. The body was surprisingly creamy while the tail on this beer was extensive and quite complex, with flavors changing at least thrice while they died away on the palate. Quite tasty, surprisingly relaxed and not hammer-over-the-head ohmygod HUGE like so many other barleywines tend to be.

Probably best that we shared it out between 5 guys – I don’t know that I’d have the patience for a full ration myself. But still, I don’t regret the weeks of open eyes and hoping – the trek was worth the reward.

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Written by many, compiled by one, this is a collaborative post with contributions from at least two writers at Guys Drinking Beer.

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