I’ve been a long-time fan of Founders Brewing. Especially their Backwoods Bastard – a lovely, bourbon-barrel-aged thing if beauty that makes a rare appearance on the east coast.
So when my local Founders rep searched me out to try their newest barrel-aged offering, Underground Mountain Brown Ale, I jumped at the chance.
(Full disclosure: I was given an advance bottle to try from the Founders rep.)
Brown ales are traditionally English-style ales with lots of malt. They’re typically a little sweeter with a nutty finish due to the roasted malt, and some have a drier finish (American ones are less dry). They’re really an underrepresented style, but are starting to make a comeback. I’ve never had a barrel-aged one, but I love bourbon, so I was intrigued.
Not only is it aged for a year in used bourbon barrels, but this one is also made with Sumatra coffee, so I expected it to have some bold flavors. I also was aware of the big, 11.9% ABV, so I knew I was in for something powerful.
It pours a dark brown color, mostly opaque, with good carbonation. The aroma is a mild coffee with some dark chocolate. The taste is a wonderfully complex affair that changes quickly. You definitely get a lot of oak and bourbon flavor up front, which then moves to sweet milk chocolate and vanilla on the back end with a bit of alcohol burn. If that’s your thing (which I am), it’s delicious.
However, I do have two tasting notes to pass along. The first is to drink this one cold, or at least quite a bit cooler than room temperature. Unlike stouts (which are enhanced by temps above 50 degrees), this one’s flavor changed noticeably as it it warmed up and, to be honest, it was much better when it was cooler.
The second is to skip cigars with it. I typically enjoy barrel-aged beers (and bourbon, served neat) with a cigar, so I fired up one about halfway through tasting this beer. The resulting flavor combination was quite unpleasant, which I’m thinking is due to the excess sugar and malt profile.
Simply keep those two tips in mind, and you’ll be in for a real treat.
Underground Mountain Brown Ale should be available in your area as you’re reading this, and comes in 4-pack bottles. I’m told it’s in VERY limited supply, so don’t wait on this one. I myself will be running out tomorrow for some, and plan to age a bottle for a few months.