Founders Brewing Co. is becoming the place to go for experimental, limited and rare release beers. So there was no doubt in my mind that Curmudgeon’s Better Half, the third release in Founders’ Backstage Series lineup, would be anything but successful.
A re-branding of the beer formerly known as Kaiser’s Curmudgeon, the beer was previously only served at Founders’ taproom and in extremely limited draft distribution. Curmudgeon is brewed with molasses and aged in oak and becomes “Better Half” after aging for 254 days in bourbon barrels that have more recently been aging in Michigan maple syrup.
Curmudgeon’s Better Half was released in 750-milliliter bottles on Feb. 13 — just in time for Valentine’s Day — and was sold out by 3 p.m. that same day.
First trying it on tap, and then in bottle form, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that this brew wasn’t as thick or heavy as Founders’ previous release, Canadian Breakfast Stout. While it held some similar flavor profiles, Curmudgeon’s Better Half had a unique, lighter flair to it, not often found in limited release brews.
Pouring a cloudy copper color with a low head, Curmudgeon’s Better Half is a reminder of all things sweet — you can immediately smell brown sugar, raisins, caramel and molasses.
Maple syrup dominates the palate, along with vanilla, nut, bourbon and caramel. It’s best described as a “good sipping beer,” as a slight burn flavor comes through, but otherwise it is very sweet. There’s a mild carbonation, yet this is a creamy and silky brew. And despite it holding 11.9% ABV, Curmudgeon’s Better Half is surprisingly easy to drink, with only a minor bitterness at the end.
Curmudgeon’s Better Half can be compared to a sweet breakfast of doughnuts, waffles or pancakes. The sweetness blew me away, though it was surprisingly well balanced. This is a memorable beer without a doubt, and it forces you to savor each saccharine sip.