When a Favorite Beer Disappoints

I guess I’m a fickle little bitch when it comes to beer.

Last night I was so excited to come across some four packs of Founder’s Backwoods Bastard sitting in the cooler of my local beer shop.  Backwoods Bastard got me into whiskey-barrel-aged brews, and once upon a time it topped my list of favorite beers.  It’s been a couple of years since I’ve had one, and I quickly grabbed up two quads of the stuff.  My wife poured one right after I got home.  I eagerly stole a sip, and, boy, how times have changed. 

Instead of the boozy treat I remember, I tasted an okay beer that was a little out of balance, with the whiskey notes from barrel overwhelming the malt backbone and producing a peppery finish that was a little punishing.  It wasn’t awful, mind you, but it wasn’t as awesome as I remember it.

I think there might be two factors at work here.  One is that beers change from year to year, and perhaps this year’s batch of Bastards isn’t as balanced as bottles of yore.  The other (more likely) factor is that I’ve been spoiled in the intervening years by New Holland Dragon’s Milk and Schlafly Imperial Stout, both which manage to provide huge whiskey flavor, but deliver it in a more refined way than Backwoods Bastard.

I had a glass of the stuff last night and enjoyed it, but it used to magical, and now it’s just serviceable.  I still have some bottles left, so we’ll see if I can catch a spark of the old feelings I had for this beer, enjoying it for the wild backwoods ruffian it is.  I’m hoping that’ll be the case now that my expectations have been moderated a bit.

Anyway, I hate it when I beer I love fails to thrill me.  It’s like kissing you sister.  😦




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Categories: Beer, review


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70 Comments on “When a Favorite Beer Disappoints”

  1. October 14, 2011 at 11:02 am #

    I don’t anything at all refined about Dragon’s Milk. I love it, so don’t get me wrong, but it for my palate it is very wood heavy and hot and is out of balance for at least the first 12 months of it’s existence. I haven’t had a fresh Dragon’s Milk that didn’t make me grimace a bit like I do when I drink bourbon.

    • October 14, 2011 at 11:17 am #

      I agree that Dragon’s Milk isn’t the smoothest thing out there, but I find it to be far richer and more pleasurable than Backwoods Bastard.

  2. October 14, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    I think there are a couple of other things to consider:

    1) One’s tastes change as one grows older both as a result of experience and as a physical reality, i.e., one loses taste buds with age.

    2) What tastes great one day, doesn’t taste nearly as good the next, this may be due to a difference in your emotional state, or perhaps you ate something with a strong, countervailing flavor; or that you’re coming down w/ a cold;, etc., etc.

    So give the Bastard a break fer now and try it again another day.

    • October 14, 2011 at 11:17 am #

      I plan on doing just that – giving it a breather and trying it again. I’m hoping it’ll be a different experience next time.

  3. October 14, 2011 at 11:05 am #

    I think it’s both of the factors you mention. Most of the seasonal/small-batch stuff from Founders this year has tasted differently. Some of it good, some bad. I don’t know whether it’s their processing or the ingredients and materials they’r using. For example, Devil Dancer (their triple-IPA) tasted really bizarre this year. I liked it, but a cicerone friend of mine claimed all he could taste was onions. Brewing big beers depends on huge amounts of ingredients. If those ingredients have changed or are a little bit off their normal character, the results are magnified.

    That said, I think our tastes change a lot. I remember when Bells Two-Hearted Ale use to be too much for me. Now, it’s like a session beer.

    • October 14, 2011 at 11:19 am #

      I wonder if there have been changes to the brewing process as well. I’m not sure about Founders, but many breweries have been experiencing growing pains as demand for their products rapidly rises. Lagunitas comes to mind here…

      • October 14, 2011 at 11:42 am #

        Yeah, their growth has been pretty ridiculous. I’m sure it’s possible.

        • October 14, 2011 at 11:45 am #

          Quality issues caused by growth are the best kind, as they tend to get ironed out pretty quickly. It’s a good reason to suck. 🙂

    • Barleywhiner
      October 14, 2011 at 11:55 am #

      I felt the same way about the Devil Dancer. Onions. I think that I have some propensity to pick out that flavor.

      • October 14, 2011 at 12:00 pm #

        That’s like me and olives. For some reason that flavor leaps out at me in stouts that have been aged carelessly. Fortunately, I never age anything, as I can’t stand NOT to drink any stout I come across! 🙂

        • October 14, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

          Why do you have to say that, Jim? I HATE olives – all kinds. I’ve tried to like them. I just can’t. Now, all those imperial stouts aging in my cellar don’t seem as appetizing as they used to. Thanks a lot.

        • October 14, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

          You’re welcome. 😉

    • October 14, 2011 at 2:49 pm #

      Zac, you said “…If those ingredients have changed or are a little bit off their normal character…” Are you talking about terroir here?

      • October 14, 2011 at 3:09 pm #

        No. I’m just saying that if a certain year’s hop or barley harvest is off, the imperfections are magnified due to the large amount of each ingredient needed for these big beers. Also, the barrels they’re using might be different. My real suspicion is that Founders is going through growing pains and will rectify the situation soon enough.

  4. October 14, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    Maybe it’s because you know so much more about beer now & probably have tasted many more, you just thought it was better back then?

    • October 14, 2011 at 11:54 am #

      That’s probably true. Backwoods Bastard was my first in-yer-face whiskey beer, and made quite an impression the first time I had it. You never forget your first!

  5. October 14, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    Your scaring me, I have the same batch at home right now, and I’m really excited to pop one open.

    • October 14, 2011 at 11:56 am #

      Now you’ll enjoy it even more because I’ve tempered your expectations. 🙂

  6. johnking82
    October 14, 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Backwoods Bastard is one of my favorite beers. Maybe sit one a few bottles (figuratively, not literally) and see how you feel.

    Compare it to something like, umm, the first time you and your now wife hooked up. I bet it was pretty awesome back then, but after a few years of marriage, it just isn’t the same anymore once things are different (i.e. you’ve had other whiskey beers or had kids).

    • October 14, 2011 at 12:16 pm #

      Things are still awesome with my wife, as we’ve grown and changed with each other.

      Backwoods is more like my first-ever hookup, which was awesome at the time but I’m sure deeply embarrassing to relive now.

      • October 14, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

        For her as well, I’m sure.

        • October 14, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

          Embarrassing for me, soul-crushing for her!

        • johnking82
          October 14, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

          I was gonna write hook-up or one-night-stand, but I thought your wife might be one of the 12 people who read this blog, so I refrained.

        • October 14, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

          12? More like 15, buddy! 🙂

        • October 14, 2011 at 12:52 pm #

          Jim, I believe you’ve been PWNED!

        • October 14, 2011 at 12:57 pm #

          Shall we pull out our stat sheets gentlemen and see whose is longer? 😉

        • October 14, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

          So, that’s why you do this blog thing: because YOU HAVE A SMALL PENIS?

        • October 14, 2011 at 1:16 pm #

          No I do it because DON has a small penis!

          I’m just a good brother!

        • October 14, 2011 at 1:21 pm #

          I knew you’d figure out a way to tell everyone that DON HAS A SMALL PENIS. (I wonder how many times we have to type that to get more hits for “DON HAS A SMALL PENIS?”)

        • October 14, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

          Well, I’m not gonna sit here all day typing DON HAS A SMALL PENIS. I mean what benefit could we see from typing DON HAS A SMALL PENIS again and again?

          I bet if you google DON HAS A SMALL PENIS this thread won’t show up. As a matter of fact, I just googled DON HAS A SMALL PENIS and we didn’t Rank on the first page!

          Maybe I’ll google DON HAS A SMALL PENIS later and see what pops up…

        • October 14, 2011 at 1:34 pm #

          You do realize that no matter how many times you type DON HAS A SMALL PENIS that your Google search results for DON HAS A SMALL PENIS will only show up when you click on sites that are similar to the ones you normally click. So, typing DON HAS A SMALL PENIS might be just as useful as screaming DON HAS A SMALL PENIS or writing DON HAS A SMALL PENIS on a small piece of paper and mailing it to Don just to get him to say DON HAS A SMALL PENIS. Not really sure where all this DON HAS A SMALL PENIS stuff is going, but it certainly is fun to type DON HAS A SMALL PENIS over and over.


        • October 14, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

          Here, let me Google DON HAS A SMALL PENIS for you.

        • johnking82
          October 14, 2011 at 1:36 pm #

          Yoda: “A small penis, Don has.”

        • October 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

          I see what you did there. You took DON HAS A SMALL PENIS and inverted it Yoda style to say A SMALL PENIS, DON HAS. Brilliant. Either way, DON HAS A SMALL PENIS should come up in a Google search. We may have to create a meme for DON HAS A SMALL PENIS.

          BTW, where is Don?

        • October 14, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

          He’s probably off crying about his penis. Because DON HAS A SMALL PENIS.

        • October 14, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

          Dude, that’s taking it too far. Remember that he is your brother. Who cares if DON HAS A SMALL PENIS. He’s still your flesh and blood. Blood that you share. Blood that contains genes that make up your body composition…things like hair and eye color, mouth shape, height, personality, sense of humor, intelligence, and…well…penis size. So, maybe you really are calling out page view numbers just because your family’s curse is penis size, SMALL PENIS SIZE. Just sayin’.

        • October 14, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

          Or maybe it’s all just cuz DON HAS A SMALL PENIS.

          BTW, this isn’t as fun as it’d be if he’d defend himself.. 😦

        • October 14, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

          True. I guess Don wins despite his small penis.

        • johnking82
          October 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm #

          Don tiene un pene pequeño

        • October 14, 2011 at 3:10 pm #

          Even in Spanish, it makes me giggle.

  7. Mark S.
    October 14, 2011 at 12:20 pm #

    We’ve been having the same conversation hereabouts recently. One beer company that keeps coming up is Sam Adams (the regular release 6-packs, not the better Imperial-series 4-packs). Still good, but not as stellar anymore as Schafly’s, Founders, Oskar Blues, Stone, etc. Maybe because most of us cut our teeth on them, and have moved on. Same for Harpoon, Saranac, Long Trail, etc.

    • October 14, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

      Yeah, the gateway beers aren’t as stellar afterwhile. I used to love Bass, but I’m sure it’d be a letdown to have one now.

  8. John
    October 14, 2011 at 12:56 pm #

    the first backwoods I had were AMAZING. Then the next time I had it I thought the style of beer and the barrel aging didn’t mesh upon further review. I think I even posted that thought on one of these blogs here.

    • October 14, 2011 at 1:01 pm #

      I think the style of beer is great for barrel aging (it’s malty enough) but the execution of the beer disappointed me this time around…

  9. October 14, 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    You execute your beer? I may have to start a petition about your heartless cruelty (not to mention your family’s widely-publicized genetic shortfalls (i.e., short penises, or should that be peni, or perhaps penae?)

    • October 14, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

      Off with their caps!!

  10. Don
    October 14, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

    I have an enormous PENIS! (actually I wasn’t here, because I tried to “LOG ON” and it is hard to do with a small penis. 😉

    • October 14, 2011 at 3:50 pm #

      So we should be typing DON HAS AN ENORMOUS PENIS here?

      • October 14, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

        Yeah, Don’s comment sort of suggests that he thinks he has a large penis when it’s actually quite small.

        • October 14, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

          Maybe he needs no glasses – that prescription might be too strong!

        • Don
          October 14, 2011 at 4:02 pm #

          Jim’s PENIS is only bigger because he views it through Beer Goggles!

        • October 14, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

          Nice. Funny. My brother and I NEVER talk about each other’s penis. You two have a special relationship.

        • Don
          October 14, 2011 at 4:07 pm #

          It is a THICK, HARD, STRONG bond! 😉

        • October 14, 2011 at 4:20 pm #

          Okay there tiger…

      • Don
        October 14, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

        Yes 🙂

    • October 14, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

      Try using your fingers instead.

  11. John
    October 14, 2011 at 4:40 pm #

    Ummm guys yer Irish.

    • October 14, 2011 at 4:42 pm #

      Ha ha! Was waiting for someone to chime in with the Irish Curse!

      • Don
        October 14, 2011 at 4:43 pm #

        I thought that curse was Asian, no?

  12. John
    October 14, 2011 at 4:56 pm #

    It’s Irish

    • Don
      October 14, 2011 at 5:05 pm #

      No wonder we drink so much!!!

  13. John King
    October 14, 2011 at 6:37 pm #

    I think I am going to delete this blog as a Favorite.

    • October 14, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

      Me too. Screw these dudes.

      Too much PENIS talk!!

  14. John
    October 14, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

    Sound like a couple of backward bastards to me

    • October 18, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

      You mean like the guys who run this site? 😉

  15. October 15, 2011 at 10:43 am #

    The beer that tends to do this to me is Ommegang’s Three Philosophers. When it’s on (or I suppose *I’m* on), it’s among my favorites. However, there have been times when a bottle has been a drain pour for me, which I’ve always felt odd about, because I can tell that when it happens, it’s not because of the quality of the beer itself.

    I’m going to assume that a significant degree of our enjoyment of particular foods and beverages is dependent on our physiological and psychological state at the time we consume. Brain chemistry can do funky things with our senses, and GI, respiratory, and other systems can radically affect how we enjoy what we’re imbibing.

    • October 18, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

      That’s a pretty intense love/hate relationship you have going on with that beer, Gordon. From love it to pour it is a pretty extreme range, but it goes to show how much expectation and mood can affect taste.

  16. Matthew
    October 18, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    This happens to me fairly regularly, sadly. My favourite beer is a local IPA and occasionally I go to a bar that has had the keg tapped a little too long or grab a sixer that has been on the shelf a while and the beer has lost some of its amazing aromatics and hop profile.

    It’s much more depressing when I notice on the first can of a six pack as then I have 5 more still to go!

  17. October 24, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    I just grabbed several (of the last) bottles at a local store and I wanted to share it with all of my friends it was so good. I love Backwoods Bastard. It scares me.
    On the plus side, I live about a twenty minute drive from Founders, New Holland Brewery, and several other amazing West Michigan breweries, so location is definitely in my favor.

    • October 24, 2011 at 11:44 am #

      That a pretty good part of the world for a beer geek to live!

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