27 January 2014

Breakfast for bastards

Maybe it's just me, but 8.3% ABV seems a bit strong for a breakfast beer. So it is with Founders Breakfast Stout, however, a viscous affair of the deepest densest black hue. It gloops out of the bottle, gradually forming a chocolate coloured head which fades away leaving just a thin loose layer of bubbles. The coffee used in the brewing process makes its presence felt in the aroma, with a distinct element of brown sugar in among the bitterness and roast. I was surprised by the texture: not as thick as it appears on pouring; surprisingly light and drinkable, in fact; smooth and clean, creamy without being palate-coating. More coffee and dark chocolate in the taste, as well as a mildly metallic hop twang as well. Almost as enjoyable is the lack of any putty flavour which often ruins oatmeal stouts for me. This is an elegant and balanced beer, but I think better suited to after-dinner drinking than pre-lunch.

Keeping the viscosity theme going, Founders also makes Dirty Bastard: an 8.5% ABV Scotch ale utilising smoked malts. Sounds just the sort of thing I like, but the execution is poor: the amount of residual sugar is off the scale, making it cloyingly sweet and sticky. The lovely phenols from the smoke come through as a sort of burnt plastic flavour. Bleurgh.

It's not clear whether Backwoods Bastard is simply a barrel aged version of it, only that I bought it for some reason. 10.2% ABV and a lurid limpid red it emits a powerful waft of boozy wood. The sweet-sour bourbon really dominates the flavour, being resinous and a little bit spicy. My perceptive other half says it tastes of coconut -- dark chocolate Bounty bars in particular -- and it would be remiss and neglectful of me not to pass that on. Either way, there's very little sign of the beer underneath, and merciful as that may be, overall I don't think it really works. I'd place it in the same bracket as the likes of Innis & Gunn and Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale: beers where the concept was given priority over the taste and the finished product suffers as a result. That said, it's far from undrinkable the way some of these beers can be, and there's a pleasant vinous, perhaps even port-like smoothness to the texture. Pair it with a sufficiently powerful cigar and this bastard might just prove enjoyable.

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