Thursday, April 4, 2013

Digging in the Cellar: Curmudgeon's Better Half

As with last month's blog, I'm attempting to branch out from my typical posts of beer, buzz, and hangover. Being that beer has taken over my life in a way I never expected, I no longer feel that I'm drinking just to accurately pinpoint what elements in beer cause me to feel closer to death than others. Instead, I'm going to try a series of posts of the next few weeks and months that look at other aspects of distinct beers. This month, I dig into my beer cellar (aka, a converted wine fridge) and pull out a gem from way back in 2012 --- Founders Brewing Backstage Series #3: Curmudgeon's Better Half.

The Past:
Curmudgeon's Better Half was released as a part of Founders Brewing specialty "Backstage" series. This is their creme of the crop, the top of the heap, the...uhh...light of my life? Its some truly special shit, alright! Released sporadically over the past 2 1/2 years, Founders creates unique one-off beers that are meant to be shared and celebrated. Of course, with a collection culture such as craft brewing, they're more often hoarded and stashed away. After the 2nd such release from Founders (the insanely desired CBS, or Canadian Breakfast Stout), the bar was set high for their 3rd release. What was delivered was a re-branding of a beer known as Kaiser's Curmudgeon, which had only ever been released in their taproom. Upon aging it in re-purposed bourbon barrels that more recently held maple syrup, the "Better Half" of the beer was formed.

The Present:
I opted to open this bottle recently as I had heard through some online chatter that the beer may be at or slightly past its peak. How, exactly, this is determined is really beyond me. I'm sure there are some people out there who have multiple bottles of this and are drinking it semi-regularly while taking detailed notes and pictures to document its development. Why am I sure of this? Because there are nerds everywhere! And they know all! As for my thoughts on Curmudgeon's Better Half, I found it to be rather remarkable. Even being somewhat hyped up, I felt it lived up to it's billing. Pouring the first glass into my snifter, it appeared to be one of the more beautiful looking beers I've come across. And the initial aroma was strong with bourbon and vanilla even despite its age. My first sip immediately hit me with heat. The booze in this 11.9% abv beer was present and up front and clearly didn't fade into the background of flavors. But once my palate got accustomed to the heat, tastes of maple and wood came through. While vanilla was in the smell, it wasn't really in the taste. Rather, brown sugar and syrup dominated. This was basically breakfast in a bottle. If I only had a side of bacon to eat with it, my evening would have been complete.

The Future:
The future sadly doesn't look bright for Curmudgeon's Better Half. Not because it wasn't great, nor because I wouldn't drink it again. But rather, the chances of me coming across another bottle are pretty slim. The Backstage series is hard to come by today, let alone ones that were released over a year ago. I was fortunate enough to score this bottle from a guy in the Midwest who sent me a ton of great barrel-aged beers, including another in Founders' Backstage series: Bolt Cutter. As for how much longer Curmudgeon will retain its flavors and aromas...well, I'll leave that answer up to the uber-beer nerds who bought a case of it and continue to scientifically test it every 3-6 months. Me? I'll just jump at the chance to taste and/or share it immediately should I come across it again.

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