Redux Review 0013: Founders Backwoods Bastard (2012)

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A few weeks ago, I asked you to pick the next beer for a redux review, where I take a second look at a beer I’ve already reviewed. It was a close vote, but the 2012 batch of Founders Backwoods Bastard was the most popular choice — so with a little over a year of age, we’re going to take a bottle of this beer from the basement and see how it has developed.

Backwoods Bastard is the barrel-aged version of Founders Dirty Bastard — Dirty Bastard, by all accounts, is what saved Founders from going bankrupt in the late ’90’s. You see, Founders (Grand Rapids, Michigan) 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.

Dirty Bastard was Review #145 back in May 2012, and I rated it 90 points. Backwoods Bastard, which is aged in oak bourbon barrels for one year, sees the light of day each November. My initial review, conducted as #270 on November 22, 2012, went as follows:

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Appearance: 14 of 15 points
Aroma: 15 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 34 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 33 of 35 points

Final Score: 96 points, or classic on my rating scale.

In my review, I noted that I thought Backwoods Bastard would be a prime candidate for aging, and recommended drinking it at one or two years. Today’s bottle was put into the container on September 28, 2012, making the beer almost 14 months old. Backwoods Bastard is 10.2% ABV (alcohol by volume) and 50 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).

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Pouring made for a sparse, almost absent head. The little that was here was soapy in texture, and faded away quickly. Backwoods Bastard pours like muddy river water; it’s deeply cloudy, brown in color with some lighter brown, ruby red edges. There are some light, small bits of particles and sediment suspended in the beer, and there’s a significant yeast cake on the bottom of the bottle. Lacing is fair, leaving behind patchy thin sheets of suds.

On the nose, this beer continues to have one of the best aromas that I have ever laid nose to — intense, sweet, and thick caramel collide with a growing presence of dark fruits. The bourbon is here but it has tamed a lot, leaving behind bits of oak barrel and vanilla. The drink is no longer boozy; instead, it shows depth with a nice note of milk chocolate and cinnamon spice. There’s toffee and molasses; just as before, this is perfect.

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With 14 months of age, Backwoods Bastard sees the bourbon dialed way down, issuing up a sort of slow, mild start of syrupy caramel, but it quickly ramps up with burnt sugar and prunes. The bourbon is still here, alive with mostly barrel characteristics like vanilla, wood, and a subtle spice. The flavors swirl around in build in complexity, introducing some cinnamon and milk chocolate to the mix. The finish is solid and warming, giving all of the 10.2% ABV — milk chocolate, cinnamon, oak, and oxidized yet still sweet caramel. The beer is full-bodied, with a medium, creamy mouthfeel, and soft carbonation.

In my opinion, this beer has improved, and that’s coming from someone who loves the red-hot notes of fresh bourbon barrel aged beers. I think Backwoods Bastard has become more complex; while the bourbon volume has been turned down, there’s been an introduction of milk chocolate and cinnamon. However, I don’t think this beer has reached peak performance yet, so we’ll continue to let a few bottles get older and revisit next year. The 2013 version of Backwoods Bastard recently became available, and I highly encourage you to pick up a four-pack and drink one today; then, save the other three for a later date and admire the story as it unfolds.

In redux:

Appearance: 14 of 15 points
Aroma: 15 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 34 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 34 of 35 points

Founders Backwoods Bastard (2012), 97 points. Price: $12.99 US for a four pack.

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  1. Pick My Next Redux Review Beer, Part Three | All The Same Beer - November 26, 2013

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