Founders Brewing Co.
Grand Rapids, MI

Style: Barley Wine
ABV: 15%
Another “limited release” brew from Founders has resulted in long lines and
limited sales to individuals as their Bolt Cutter Barley Wine hit the market a couple weeks ago to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of Grand Rapids’ now legendary craft brewer.

Tremendous credit must be given Founders as a visionary small business that
fought off early competition from Robert Thomas Brewing Company and
near-bankruptcy to become one of the Midwest’s most fabled purveyors of wet goods. Because of them, West Michigan is home to over 25 brewing entities alone
and Grand Rapids claimed the honorary title of “Beer City, USA” for 2012 (along with Ashville, NC).

I’ve covered a few of their beers in the past (LINK, LINK) and was eager to get into this one. I procured several bottles, all but one of which are to be cellared. So let’s get to tasting the first one…

I took my time, with a clean palate, and savored the full 22 ounces over the course of two hours. It pours a deep copper color with a thin, lacy head that
dissipates quickly. The nose smells of alcohol, caramel, cotton candy and wood. The initial sip continues to feel of malty wood which leaps immediately to a
meaty, hoppy bite which trails off into a long, lingering earthy dryness. There are notes of vanilla, maple and caramel which grows more intense as it warms.
It is consistent, balanced and relatively free of expected burn as it checks in at 15% ABV. It is, however, relatively simple for a barley wine as I was hoping
for more complexity from a beer that has been aged in bourbon and maple syrup barrels. I’ll look forward to another sample in the next year or so to see how
things have cellared.

Be sure to sample this one if you have the chance, but I wouldn’t advise going crazy to get your hands on it or pay top dollar to do so. It retails around +/- $25 and I’m sure some people will attempt to sell it for more than that. In my view, their KBS is worth some extra effort, but while this one is very good, it isn’t “spectacular.” In fact, if you’re in to really high gravity beers, I’d get ahold of some Heini’s Hooch among 2012 releases if you can.