Beer Review 0177: Founders Curmudgeon Old Ale

Founders Brewing Company, located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has several stellar ratings on this website: Breakfast Stout scored a perfect 100 points; Imperial Stout got a 98; and Red’s Rye PA earned 94 points. To say Founders makes awesome beer (in my opinion) is an understatement.

It’s easy to identify why Founders is so successful — they make the kind of beer they enjoy, and don’t give a damn if you like it or not. So by making high quality beverages the seasoned drinkers at Founders enjoy sipping, they satisfy hardcore beer fans in the best of ways, not compromising quality for numbers.

That’s not to say Founders didn’t start out that way. The first bottles were brewed in 1997, and they were merely average. Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers, the brains behind Founders, knew a drastic change had to happen away from simple Pale Ales and Browns, because they were quickly going bankrupt. And so they followed their heart and cut the mediocre, trading it for the outstanding.

Curmudgeon, which is an Old Ale, is brewed with molasses and then oak-aged, making for a massively malted beer that is high in alcohol (9.8% ABV, or alcohol by volume). This brew took home a silver metal at the 2010 Great American Beer Festival.

Curmudgeon pours an average size head, creamy but it does quickly diminish to a thin cover atop a deep orange, almost red colored beer. When held to the light, this one presents lighter orange highlights. Gorgeous. The liquid is cloudy and filled with a light dusting of particles and sediment. The lacing was excellent, clinging to the glass in creamy sheets.

The aromatics were an absolute WOW. This is the definition of a pure malt bomb, and there’s some complex stuff going on here — up front there’s a huge blast of maple syrup and chocolate, supported by caramel. You guessed it, this one smells very sweet. Then there’s the negative aspect — hints of hairspray and an alcohol that isn’t very well hidden. But that doesn’t drag this down too much; also in play here are mild suggestions of cinnamon and vanilla, and even a little oak. The aroma on this beer is incredible, even with the alcohol and medicinal hairspray.

On the palate, this beer doesn’t knock at the door, it kicks a hole in it and pushes through, with caramel and maple syrup up front. The syrup taste matches the mouthfeel, which is thick and creamy, coating the tongue in beery goodness. In the middle of the taste, the drink opens up to some dark fruits, like dates and raisins, then the long bittersweet finish starts, presenting some chocolate, caramel, and a very subtle hint of cookie dough. The alcohol rears its head here, warming the chest and making the body temperature feel as if it is rising.

Folks, Founders have made yet another highly impressive beer. According to the company, none of their beers need aging, as they do that for you and only release beer when they feel it is ready — but this beer could stand a little down time. I’m thinking if you return to this beer in a year, you’re going to have a heavenly drink that will be almost perfect. Hell, it’s almost perfect now. If you see this one, pick it up. It’s that simple.

Founders Curmudgeon Old Ale, 96 points. Price: $12.99 US for a four pack.


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