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Founders Curmudgeon’s Better Half

Originally named Kaiser Curmudgeon, Founders Brewing Company’s Curmudgeon’s Better Half receives the ‘CBS’ barrel treatment. That is, Founders takes the base beer (Curmudgeon’s Old Ale), throws it into some barrels that once held bourbon and maple syrup, and lets it rest until is resembles something to be enjoyed as a dessert – or breakfast, if you are like the Curmudgeon on the label and enjoy this with your pancakes. A true breakfast of champions.

This is the 3rd entry into Founders’ Backstage Series, a lineup that sees normally tap-only brews bottled and distributed so that those far from the brewery are able to enjoy their more creative beers. While this release wasn’t as hyped as CBS, I don’t believe it had near the amount of inventory to help counteract that.

Founders Curmudgeon’s Better Half
Pours a copper color which is somewhat clear, but the wider parts of the glass obscure much of anything from getting through - be it light or shape. Only about 1.5-fingers of eggshell white head forms with decent retention which eventually settles into a bubbly cap. The lacing is unique, as rather than having a consistent coat of foam, it is differentiated into numerous individual minuscule bubbles which sweep across the glass.
The nose is sweet yet balanced with a strong amount of vanilla and oak. Molasses and maple syrup make up the bulk of the aroma at first, but it gradually transforms into a vanilla and bourbon bomb. This is good though, as the initial sweetness needs that compensation to even this out.
I had this on tap a few weeks ago and honestly I wasn't incredibly impressed with it, but I am enjoying this much more from the bottle. The sweetness isn't so overbearing now; that isn't to say that the molasses and maple aren't strong, because it certainly is present, but the balance between it and the rest of the flavors make the entire thing that much easier to drink. The most noticeable flavor, however, is the vanilla, as it pretty much takes over from the mid-palate on, and with the oak and bourbon it delivers in amazingly complex taste. The bourbon is noticeable without becoming the driving factor, but serves to add an even deeper layer of complexity.
Mouthfeel is moderately heavy-bodied with good carbonation. Despite being a barrel-aged beer, there is a nice amount of carbonation that helps moves the flavors about and lighten the burden on the palate. This is a little bit syrupy, but not as heavy as I would expect.
Drinkability is high. Or, as drinkable as a 12% maple bourbon-aged beer brewed with molasses can be. The sweetness isn't as detrimental as I would've thought and as it was on-tap. The flavors are amazingly robust and complex and just the tiniest sip can sustain you for minutes at a time.
This was around $6 for a small, 5oz pour on tap and comes in at almost $18 a bottle for 750ml, so this definitely isn't an everyday beer. But that's okay, since this is the first time that this has ever been bottled and distributed, so I was fine with splurging a bit.
Overall, Better Half takes the normal Curmudgeon Old Ale and gives it the full barrel treatment to transform it into a sweet, decadent dessert beer. Potent and bursting with flavor, this is a treat to drink.

Beer Stats
Style: Old Ale
Serving: Bottle
Size: 750ml
ABV: 11.90%
BA Score: 95
RB Score: 99

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Written by Greg Bruce

While studying at Penn State, Greg learned that beer could serve a much better purpose than a means to an end for a good party. Delicately brewed Belgians acted as a stark contrast to the almost watery beer that had been so popular and began the journey towards craft beer. From that launch point he always seems to land on something new. Greg approaches each beer, whether it is an aggressively-hopped West Coast IPA or an English bitter (and everything between), with a clear mind and open opinion, ready to analyze, compare, and ultimately, enjoy. While always fond of stouts (especially barrel-aged) and IPAs, Greg is slowly but surely drifting towards various soured beers. Find Greg Bruce on Google Plus

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