Old ales come across as a risky style, but I have yet to try one that I do not love. Without delving into the detailed science behind the attenuation and the fermentation of sugars from the wort during the mashing process I’ll keep it simple and say they seem risky to brew because they are made to be sweeter, and sweetness and beer really don’t mix well. But in the case of a well-made “old ale” (also known as “stock ale”), it tends to reach the right balance. And Founders puts their own touch on this old ale brilliantly. They added molasses and aged this in oak barrels. This is a blowjob in a bottle.
This ale pours in a rich brown color with a soft red glow. It illustrates one of its only two weaknesses in the pour with a thin head. Once in my goblet it looks like a slightly carbonated whiskey (or “whisky” for your Scotch drinkers who I think will enjoy this beer because I’m a Scotch drinker and this is one of my favorite beers).
The aroma is not a very strong one and requires a bit of effort to take in; it contains a sweet, oak bourbon odor with the unmistakable scent of molasses, malt, and a slight sting of booze. The minimal aroma does slightly detract from the overall experience but to complain about it is akin to complaining about Angelina Jolie’s decision not to lick her lips before dropping to her knees when she… forgive me… I need to focus on this beer.
The flavor! Here is where this beer shines. I don’t care if you are religious or not, when I drink this beer I hear harpsichords from heaven. And if you don’t I recommend you clean your eardrums out ASAP. It is syrupy, malty, with a touch of dark berries, caramel, and a little dab of smoked oak, with an overall sweet whisky flavor. The taste is very strong and some may not be able to palate more than one or two. But that is not a flaw in the least. All that does for some is extend the experience of consuming a 4-pack. It is feels thick, sticky and contains near perfect carbonation despite the limited amount of head that may trick you into thinking you’re about to drink a flat beer. It warms the throat and belly. Your taste buds may be intimidated by the boozy, barrel aftertaste but it departs and comforts you with the flavor of wheat bread, white grapes and a trace of fresh hops.
In case you haven’t realized by now (if you haven’t you’re a dumbass and need a smack) this is definitely not a beer for a tailgate party, by the pool, or by the beach or on the lake. This is an evening beer. This beer has class written all over it. It gives me a shit-eating grin that I cannot wipe off my fucking face. I want to take the hounds into the foggy woods of England and kill animals with muskets, and then relax in the lodge by the fireplace with my fellow chaps and drink this ale while we discuss performing risqué sexual acts on the Queen of England. I’ll bet if I handed Helen Mirren a goblet of this beer at a pub she’d go home with me. Yes, she is still sexy and always will be until her cadaver is cold.
My three favorite old ales are Northcoast’s “Old Stock Ale”, Great Divide’s “Hibernation Ale” and, for the purist, I would probably recommend the Northcoast selection, but this one simply cannot be topped in my opinion due to the molasses and oak barrel aging enhancements. What was Founders thinking when they decided to add molasses? I’ll tell you. They were thinking, “We’re fucking awesome.”
Style: 9.5/10 (if the head and aroma were stronger this would be a 10 fo’ sho’)