What happens when you age a bourbon barrel-aged Imperial IPA in the best way possible? Today, we’re here to find out.
Without question, Founders (Grand Rapids, Michigan) Backstage Series brews are the hardest beers for me to obtain. Demand and hype are through the roof. Most shops only get one case, which in terms of the 750 ml servings these beers are doled out it, equals just twelve bottles per store. To make matters worse, these beers typically see release on a Monday, during what would traditionally be considered normal working hours. Last April, when Doom was released, I managed to snag two bottles. I immediately reviewed one while it was fresh, and scored it 94 points, one of the better Backstage Series beers that I’ve had.
I decided to squirrel one away, just to see what happens — and I aged it the best way possible; for one solid year, this bottle has remained in my fridge at a constant 38°F. With one year (and probably a few days), we’re going to crack the crown and see what we’ve got.
For those new to this beer, Doom is a bourbon-barrel aged version of Founders Double Trouble (rating: 93 points). It was previously known as “Hand of Doom” when served exclusively in their taproom; it was selected in 2013 to see a wide release in the Backstage Series.
My initial review went like this:
Appearance: 14 of 15 points
Aroma: 14 of 15 points
Flavor and Palate: 33 of 35 points
Drinkability and Overall Experience: 33 of 35 points
Final Score: 94 points, or outstanding on my rating scale.
So, what’s happened to this beer over the span of a year while stored in optimal conditions? Let’s see…
The pour produced an average size, soapy head that diminished fairly quickly. There were lots of carbonation bubbles zooming to the top of the drink; the beer was golden in color and was brilliantly clear, with not even a hint of particles or sediment. Lacing was good, leaving weepy sheets of thin foam.
On the nose, not too much has changed since our initial visit — bourbon barrel collides with tropical fruit hops. We’ve got coconut, vanilla, and pineapple up front, with touches of grapefruit and orange peel. It’s almost like the barrel contributes some sweetness; there is a definite caramel malt backing, but the vanilla and somewhat woodsy/spicy barrel amplify the sweet level. As it warms, the vanilla and coconut notes show more, along with a dry twist of lemon peel.
The age of this beer shows up on the taste; it’s not wholesale radically different but Doom is now drinking more like an American Barleywine instead of an Imperial IPA — up front, grapefruit, coconut, and pineapple. It’s initially sweet but turns moderately bitter after the first couple of swishes in the mouth; the bitterness is balanced by a solid note of caramel. The once-juicy fruits have turned dry, leaving only hints of faded pineapple, grapefruit, and spicy vanilla. The finish is warm, with a hit of the 10% alcohol, a nice layer of bitterness thanks to grapefruit rind and pine, and a layer of hot bourbon. This beer is medium-bodied, with a medium, creamy mouthfeel.
This is still a very nice beer, and easily one of the better barrel-aged IPAs around… (barrels and IPA tend to rarely go together, in my opinion…) but as you might have expected, Doom was better fresh. I do think if you have a bottle of this and it hasn’t aged in a fridge, you will probably be in for worse results. While quite drinkable (and enjoyable!) you’ll find this is now more like a Barleywine than an IPA.
Founders Doom Imperial IPA, 89 points. Price: $12.99 US for one 750 ml bottle.
Here we are with another one of those hard to find beers from Founders Brewing Company (Grand Rapids, Michigan). Part of the “Backstage Series,” the latest release is Doom, an Imperial IPA aged in bourbon barrels.
The beers in the Backstage Series are generally top notch, as my previous reviews will indicate:
Without question, Founders Backstage Series are the hardest beers for me to obtain. Demand and hype are through the roof. Most shops only get one case, which in terms of the 750 ml servings these beers are doled out it, equals just twelve bottles per store. To make matters worse, these beers typically see release on a Monday, during what would traditionally be considered normal working hours. I struggled to get just one bottle of Doom, and it was looking iffy about even getting that. One of those “right place at the right time” sort of things…
Along with the difficulty of finding the beer, cost comes into play. Typically, Backstage Series beers sell for a whopping $14.99 per bottle, and you’re left wrestling with the lingering question “is this really worth it?” With Doom, there’s a small price break; this bottle comes in at $12.99.
Previously known as “Hand of Doom” when brewed exclusively for the Founders taproom, the beer is a bourbon barrel aged version of Double Trouble (rating: 93 points). Time spent in the barrel is four months; as far as I know, this is the first wide release of a barrel aged beer from Founders that hasn’t been an Imperial Stout or Scotch Ale. ABV (alcohol by volume) comes in at 10%.
The pour issued an average size, soapy head, bright white in color, which hung around for a while. The beer was a hazy golden-orange color and was free of particles and sediment. I could easily see through it, even though it was hazy. Lacing was fair, only leaving behind a couple patches of stringy sudsy foam, which was to be expected for a high alcohol brew.
The nose jumps out right away with plenty of pineapple and coconut; Doom smells very sweet, especially with the juicy tropical fruit, which plays off the coconut from the barrel like a champion. At first, this reminded me of butterscotch pudding…and we know butterscotch is often an off-flavor in beer, but trust me, this isn’t off. The butterscotch went away as it warmed and more of the hoppy pineapple came out, mingling with a hint of dry pine, some caramel, subtle vanilla, bourbon, lemons, and lime. Yep, lots going on here. This is candy-like, inviting and very pleasant… and unexpected.
On the palate, Doom brings forth sweet pineapple and mango, which team up with coconut and vanilla. Ever had a Dum Dum pineapple-coconut lollipop? That flavor comes in an out of retirement from the candy company; if you can find it, that’s the exact opening flavor of this beer. Add in some pine hops — the middle opens up with a malty hit, some caramel and lots of bourbon. The vanilla amps up some, leading to a finish of drying grapefruit, pine, pineapple, and a dash of hot bourbon. The alcohol is here, but you don’t taste it; instead, you feel it, which shows me the quality of this brew. Doom is medium-bodied, with a medium, creamy texture, leaving the palate dry.
Speaking as someone who hasn’t had many barrel aged IPAs that were enjoyable …this absolutely was. Would I want to drink this all the time? Certainly not — but Doom is insanely drinkable and has a ton going on that will hold your attention all the way through the bottle. Founders have done it again — Doom is worth the hype and the price tag. Find it if you can, it’s a great drink.
Founders Doom Imperial IPA, 94 points. Price: $12.99 US for one 750 ml bottle.