11/7/18: Founders Brewing Company's Curmudgeon's Better Half

5:26 PM

This post has been a long time coming. I mean that in two ways. The first is that I nabbed this exact bottle I'm about to consume back in early September. It's the last remnant the first four-pack I bought of the stuff (I've since acquired a few more). I'm especially happy to share it with you tonight because, for a hot minute there, I didn't think I'd find the time to post about it here.

The second way is that John Likes Beer Blog has been around since January 2015 and, in the nearly three years between then and now, I have not made a single post about Founders Brewing Company (the fine crafters of tonight's beer). That's a damn travesty and one that I'm amending now with this, the fifth entry into their 2018 Barrel Aged Series: Curmudgeon's Better Half.

Before getting into the meat of things, let's talk about Founders for a bit (the info I'm giving here is all pulled directly from their website, specifically the "Founders History" page, so be sure to check all that good stuff out if you feel compelled to do so). Founders came into being over 20 years ago when founders (heh) Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers quit their day jobs to pursue the brewing life. The Grand Rapids, MI-based company soon hit some financial woes when their beers weren't making the impact they'd anticipated. Mike and Dave decided stop trying to please generic palates with generic beers and took to brewing what they wanted to drink. The idea worked and Founders took off. Now the place makes some of the most highly-acclaimed and sought-after beers in the midwest.

And, wouldn't you know, Curmudgeon's Better Half is (from what I've encountered, at least) both highly-acclaimed and sought-after. It's official page touts that it has a 99 rating on RateBeer (a company that's partially owned by AB InBev. Hey, it's important to know who owns what--be an informed consumer!). This 12.7% ABV molasses-brewed old ale has been aged in maple syrup bourbon barrels barrels for, I'm assume, quite some time. It's described as sweet, smooth, and rich.

My bottle has a brown sugar nose. Can you guess what lying beneath the brown sugar? If you said "booze," congratulations; you're correct! That booziness, though, isn't overpowering. If anything, considering the ale's hefty alcohol content, it's actually underplayed. While I'm not getting much maple from the bouquet, it's still an intoxicatingly sweet, inviting aroma. Unless you're unlucky enough to be Purrl. If you are, then you'd know that after two whiffs, you'd immediately realize that the brew isn't for you.

The molasses is strong in the Curmudgeon's Better Halfs flavor, as is the oakiness from the bourbon barrel aging. The ale's finish is a rush of maple (yes, this is where it's found and it's expertly incorporated into the beer) and booziness. Long after finishing my swig, there's brown sugar sweetness playing around on my tongue.

The ale is full-bodied and smooth. Almost velvet-like in its mouthfeel, which is a perfect fit for a brew of this caliber.

I wish it would snow. Now I know, I know, we're in the middle of fall, and I love the fall. But I also love the snow. When Michelle and I lived in the city (which we moved out of in March, mind you, so our living there wasn't ancient history or anything) I'd routinely venture out onto our balcony during snowstorms, usually after dark when I'd finished work for the day. I'd post up in a chair with a beer in hand, marveling at the falling flakes illuminated by the streetlamps lining the block and the headlights of passing cars.

Those evenings were serene, offering a quiet, introspective break from my hectic life. Sure, it was cold but the cold never once bothered me. On those nights, it was just me, the snow, a beer, and the calmness of the wintry outside world. And wouldn't you know, Curmudgeon's Better Half would be a perfect beer to enjoy on a winter's evening, sitting in a snowstorm.

If I haven't made it painfully obvious by this point in the review, I adore this release. Founders has created a masterwork with Curmudgeon's Better Half and I'm happy to announce that it's enjoyed a very health distribution--the grocery store by my work got a shipment sometime within the last week and their shelves are fully stocked with it. I'm giving this old ale a 10/10 and my highest recommendation. It's a little pricey (around $15/four-pack) but trust me here, it's worth the price for entry.

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