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Review: Founders Backwoods Bastard

Posted by Gary Dzen, Staff  December 4, 2012 10:42 PM

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At one point or another most of us have fantasized about living off the land. The most basic iterations involve a log cabin and a clean water supply. Essential to the pipe dream are a shotgun, a good knife, and a healthy amount of whiskey. Hunting dogs with a less-than-keen sense of smell need not apply.

Maybe not all of you are this antisocial, but a solitary life can sound romantic at times. Backwoods Bastard, a beer from Founders Brewing, is marketed toward the beer-drinker with loner tendencies. On the label is a picture of, well, a backwoods bastard. This axe-toting, poorly-groomed fella looks like he's seen better days. Or maybe he's just where he wants to be.

backwoodsbastard.jpg Inventing this kind of back story for a mediocre beer would be extraneous, but by now you know that Founders does not make mediocre beer. The Michigan brewery consistently produces some of the best brews in the country, and their limited releases, including Kentucky Breakfast Stout and the "triple" IPA Devil Dancer, are highly sought after.

Backwoods Bastard is another limited release; it came and went from store shelves in November. I thought I'd missed it, but a trip to visit family in Connecticut for Thanksgiving turned up some unexpected four-packs. It was like finding a trunk full of hooch washed up in a river bed.

Backwoods Bastard is a scotch ale, or "wee heavy", aged in bourbon barrels. This one is 10.2 percent alcohol by volume. It also packs 50 IBUs, though it would be challenging to find the bitter aspects of this beer nestled among the smooth notes.

The brew pours a dark chestnut with a frothy head. It looks viscous but translucent. Held up to the light, the color changes to the point where you can see through to the other side.

The smell. Oh, the smell. Bourbon, butterscotch, vanilla, and some smoke form an extremely pungent nose. A scent this powerful is unique, even among other wee heavy's. It smells like every good piece of candy you've ever had.

Velvety bourbon and notes of vanilla are at the forefront of the first sip. The beer is as sweet as candy, but it's also complex, and the flavors change as it warms up. In addition to the whiskey notes there is dark fruit: figs, cherries, and raisins wash over your tongue. Backwoods Bastard has an incredibly smooth mouthfeel. It finishes with chocolate notes. It is, in no uncertain terms, delicious.

This is the beer you would drink alone if you wanted to be alone for awhile. It's the perfect sipper, and provided you could secure a cold supply of it, it would perfectly replace the whiskey you'd otherwise covet on those solitary nights. I got a four-pack for $14.99.

Anyone else try this brew? Are there other scotch ales you think are particularly good (I recently had Smuttynose's and it was very good). Finally, check out my list of the 10 best beer bars in Boston in today's Globe. Thanks for reading. Cheers.

Gary Dzen

About 99 Bottles

Gary Dzen writes about craft beer here and in the Globe when he's not covering the Celtics for He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GaryDzen.

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