When I was in western Michigan a couple of weeks ago, I was able to visit five breweries in total, including the swanky digs of Founders Brewing. Now, I had tried Founders beer before, unwittingly introduced it to Pennsylvania through a beer dinner I hosted at Monk’s Cafe, in fact, but I had only a passing familiarity with their full portfolio of brands. Now that I’ve rectified that by sampling a healthy portion, indeed the majority of their wares, I only want more. Especially the stuff from the maple bourbon barrels.
Let me explain.
Through a contact, the founders of Founders, Mike Stevens and Dave Engbers, have managed to secure a small but steady supply of used bourbon barrels that have been reused by a company called BLiS to age their maple syrup. Yes, that’s right, barrels infused with both bourbon AND maple syrup. Sounds like the beginning of something wonderful, doesn’t it? It is.
For their Canadian Breakfast, Founders takes a 9.5% Imperial stout and ages it in said maple-bourbon barrels to create what has to be the finest maple beer I’ve yet to come across. The syrup doesn’t quite fully integrate into the beer – some maple sweetness seems a bit at odds with the malt – but the effect is nonetheless pretty damn impressive. Think “dark chocolate-mocha cake with the best quality maple syrup drizzled over top” and you might begin to get the idea of where this beer goes.
Sadly, because of the small number of such barrels the brewery has to work with, this is a beer in seriously short supply. So the next time you find yourself in the Grand Rapids, MI, area, get some down your neck!