Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews


Founders Brewing Co.
Grand Rapids, MI

Style: Old Ale
ABV: 9.3%

Eddie’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Outstanding within its style.)

I love winter. And, no, I’m not being facetious. I truly love winter. The colder, the better. Nothing lets you know that you’re alive like that kind of true cold, where if the wind so much as moves it cuts like a razor blade right through your four layers of thermals. It’s those two-foot-deep-snow, sub-zero-degree winters that separate us Midwesterners from the lazy slobs living in the warm climes, the fog monkeys out in the Pacific Northwest or the East Coast pretenders who think they know what winter is. And the only thing I like better than gelid winters is listening to people piss and moan about how cold it is. Candy asses. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the fire, and if you can’t stand the cold move out of the Midwest. At least just move the hell away from me, so I don’t have to listen to your belly-achin’ anymore. Plus, more Midwest craft brews for me.

But the absolute best thing about winter is coming in from the cold and cracking a great big warming beer. The stout is the classic winter warming beer, followed by your barley wines and your doppels. And one of the lesser-known styles that’ll still warm your cockles (among other things) on the coldest nights of the dark season is old ale. It’s an English beer style that’s kind of hard to pin down: Typically they’ll be dark, rich, sweet and usually—but not always—strong. Just what you’d want in a winter warmer.

And a dead-on entry into this style is Founders Curmudgeon Old Ale. And in typical Founders fashion, this thing ain’t just strong, it’s balls-on strong, weighing in at 9.3 percent—enough of a kick to thaw you out if you were frozen solid underneath a UP snow drift. It pours a rust-colored, deep copper with tons of sediment suspended in the beer. Even with my arcane pouring style it generated next to no head, and finished the pour with a nice, thick stream of yeast. Yep, there’s no doubt that this baby was bottle conditioned. Man, do I love those Founders people!

Immediately you’ll be struck with an intense malt aroma, almost like ultra dark chocolate mixed with a heady gush of alcohol and a hint of dates. A sip brings a giant slam of suffocatingly dark sweetness in the front and behind, with a surprisingly mild, almost dry middle. That, coupled with a strong note of alcohol throughout, lends it an almost brandy-like taste and aroma. In fact, the almost overpowering presence of the alcohol was my only complaint with this otherwise extremely complex, warming beer. This particular bottle had been cellared for around six months, but I’d suggest aging it for a year to see if the stronger alcohol notes mellow out. Either that, or drink it with dessert, paired with the deepest, darkest chocolate you can lay your hands on. Whatever you do, make sure you let it warm a bit toward room temperature before partaking to better bring out those super-rich, malty flavors, that’ll keep you toasty on the coldest of Midwestern winter nights.

Reviewed by Eddie Glick on February 4, 2007.
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