Beer Review 0270: Founders Backwoods Bastard

Here we are with another rarity from Founders Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, Michigan): Backwoods Bastard, which is a bourbon barrel aged version of their company savior, Dirty Bastard.

Dirty Bastard is a Scotch Ale, and was the beer that pulled Founders out of the hole when things were dark. You see, Founders didn’t always make amazing beers — they started life cranking out status quo brew; a mild Pale Ale here, or a nondescript Brown Ale there. It was Dirty Bastard that ushered in a new approach to beer for Founders; they began making beer THEY wanted to drink, not what was deemed generally acceptable by the masses.

In my review for Dirty Bastard, I noted how the beer almost tasted like it was barrel aged to start with, with notes of oak and vanilla. I gave it 90 points.

Backwoods Bastard is extremely limited, and sees daylight each November. While Dirty Bastard is 8.5% ABV (alcohol by volume), the barrel aging bumps Backwoods up to 10.2% ABV. Both beers retain the same IBU (International Bitterness Units) rating: 50.

Release from the bottle produced a beer that had a sparse head; what little that was there was soapy and quickly diminished into not even a thin cover. The beer itself was murky and muddy in body, although when held to the light, it was still translucent. The color was a deep ruby-brown, not something your average beer drinker would find attractive, and when held directly to light, it became nearly blood red. As I drank, very little lacing was left behind, only a couple of thin clusters.

The aromatics produce an immediate WOW — hell, just cracking the bottle produces a WOW. Intense bourbon, with ample vanilla and coconut come screaming into the nose. It’s very sweet and has tons of caramel, and the high alcohol content is absent. There was a nice woodsy (oak) component, a touch of spice, and some toffee. Without a doubt, one of the best smelling beers I’ve ever laid nose to. You could splash this on as cologne, I swear!

But the most important part, the taste: Big, huge notes of bourbon up front, loads of creamy caramel, and…alcohol. But not in taste, just feel. On my first couple of sips, my sinus was overwhelmed with the alcohol, but I warmed up to it fast. Let me say again: it’s not in the taste, just the feel of the beer. Middle of the mouth brings on blasts of coconut and vanilla, leading to an extra long finish that unwinds with not only vanilla, but chocolate, too. All throughout, the beer is quite sweet, except on the very tail end of the finish, when it presents a nice mild slam of bitterness. The mouthfeel was medium, with a creamy and silky texture when swirled. This is full-bodied, for sure.

I know I say it often, but Founders have done it again. Folks, this is another incredible beer from Grand Rapids — Founders have some of the best barrel aged brews on the market today. Period. If you’re into those big bourbon barrel aged drinks, I promise you, you will love this. Stay far away if you dislike bourbon or extremely full-flavored beer. I see Backwoods Bastard getting even better with a year or two of age on it. And I have some bottles that I’ll be waiting on. I’ll report back. Until then, find this and drink it down!

Founders Backwoods Bastard, 96 points. Price: $15.99 US for a four pack.

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