Beer Review 0207: Founders Curmudgeon’s Better Half (Birthday Beer Week 7 of 7)
While the beer I was most looking forward to in this special birthday week of reviews was Founders KBS (100 points), this is a mighty close second.
Each spring, Founders Brewing Company out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, puts out a beer called Curmudgeon Old Ale. The release is fairly limited, and the beer comes in four-packs. I reviewed it a couple of months ago and scored it 96 points, classic on my rating scale, loving the sweet caramel, maple syrup, and other complex flavors found within this often overlooked style of craft beer.
The regular Curmudgeon is brewed with molasses and aged on oak. So, how does Founders take this one step further?
They take a look at Curmudgeon’s loyal wife, that’s how. Enter Curmudgeon’s Better Half, released as part of Founders extremely limited Backstage Series, which are high octane beers served up in the 750 ml bottle format. Curmudgeon’s Better Half offers an Old Ale brewed with molasses, with 254 days of aging taking place in maple syrup bourbon barrels. Can we repeat that one more time? 254 days of age in Michigan maple syrup bourbon barrels.
Oh hell yes! This is a big beer, coming in at 11.9% ABV (alcohol by volume) and geared to be sweeter than the regular Curmudgeon. Now, Curmudgeon — the man — is a fairly sweet beer, so it will be interesting to see exactly how sweet the Better Half (who is holding a pitcher of syrup for the old man’s breakfast on the label) turns out to be.
One more topic before I review the beer: On the subject of aging — Founders released this beer on February 13, and when asked if this needed any downtime, the response the company gave was “No, we have already aged this for you.” I hope I haven’t waited six months too long here…but something tells me everything will be fine.
Pouring produced an average size head, creamy but quickly diminishing. The color of this beer was deep amber with highlights of both red and orange, very beautiful. With a gentle swirl of the glass, the head fully regenerates and does amazing things to the beer from the bottom-up. The body was clear and free of particles and sediment, and the lacing was between sparse and fair, leaving a few wispy bits on the glass.
The aromatics showed an extremely sweet beer; “of course,” you might say, with the molasses and maple syrup barrels. This is MUCH sweeter than the regular version of Curmudgeon; there’s a deep caramel supported by stiff whiffs of molasses, and there’s lingering notes of oak and a big presence of toasted coconut. This beer literally smells like a piece of coconut candy at times, and on some sniffs, took on a cotton candy scent. There was a small note of cinnamon. Overall, very complex, just not very pungent.
On the taste, Curmudgeon’s Better Half goes off like the most beautiful firework — a TON of toasted coconut up front, followed by sweet molasses and caramel, and a backbone of oak, which is woodsy oak, not so much bourbon barrel oak. Yes, there is a slight bourbon presence here, but to my taste buds, the oak is more woodsy. On the finish, this one unfolds thick and creamy, with molasses, coconut, gentle bourbon, and a slight heat from the 11.9% ABV. The alcohol heat warms you from deep within, and takes awhile to catch up with you. This beer is DANGEROUSLY drinkable, so be advised.
Curmudgeon’s Better Half in a short description: Wood aged candy in a bottle. This is so easy to drink and so delicious, it is easily one of the best beers I have ever had, and I urge you to try and find a bottle of this is if you can, especially if you’re a fan of regular Old Curmudgeon.
Founders Curmudgeon’s Better Half, 99 points. Price: $14.99 US for one 750 ml bottle.