Shipyard Prelude – A Winter Warmer Dressed Up as a Barleywine



On my continued quest to find delicious, seasonally appropriate beer I sampled Shipyard’s Prelude Winter Warmer. This is an ale aged in bourbon barrels, which sounds wonderful.


The beer poured a dark cooper brown with a big head that quickly settled down and left some beautiful lacing. First sip was not at all what I was expecting – instead of complex aged ale I got a sweet, heavy beer, closer to the taste and feel of a barleywine. The predominant taste was dried fruit – raisins and prunes. The beer was overwhelmingly sweet. I could see liking this if the sweet fruitiness was tempered by a stronger malty or nutty flavor. I didn’t love this beer, but if you like barleywine I would check this out. 



Vitals:  Poured from a 22oz bottle into a tulip pint straight out of the fridge. 6.4% ABV

Taste:  B- This was a very raisiny beer, something I’d not experienced before. If you love raisins or barleywine give this a shot. 

Drinkability: C I couldn’t get through more than half a glass. This is a thick, heavy beer. I think I would have liked it a lot as part of a flight, but a whole glass was too much for me. 

Packaging: A- Typical Shipyard. Tons of good info including malt, hops and yeast types.


Adventures in cellaring w/ @FoundersBrewing Backwoods Bastard


When I first tried Backwoods Bastard in December 2010, I wasn’t a huge fan. In fairness, I was still finding my way in craft beer and this style was a bit more adventurous than I was ready for at the time. What I didn’t mention at the time is that I actually had two bottles and decided to set one down for a “nap” to see what a year or two did for it. 

Nearly two years later I decided to take this one out for a spin. It poured a deep, hazy, burnt orange and still smell of bourbon. The bouquet was subtle, with mollases and dark cherries in there. It definitely doesn’t have the carbonation of the ‘young’ version, what head I was able to coax out of it with a high pour, quickly disappeared. 


The first taste still has a heavy bourbon flavor right up front, but it’s mellowed a LOT. The boozy profile is completely gone. There’s still plenty of carbonation to spread the flavors all over your mouth and the finish is very subtle… almost a burnt caramel and taste like fresh leather smells (if that’s possible). 

I’d still say this beer is not for everyone, but it’s more my style these days. I’m not sure if that’s me or the beer maturing, but I enjoyed it very much tonight. As Chad said in a comment after my initial review, “the Backwoods Bastard is like the guy everyone knew in college who was fun to hang out with in small doses. I like having him over to watch a game once or twice a year, but I wouldn’t invite him every weekend.” 

Well said!

Vitals: Served at 45F into my trusty tulip. 10.2% ABV. Bottled 12/2010. 

Taste: B+. It’s an intersesting departure from your standard beers types. Worth trying. 

Drinkability: D+. Put the car keyes away and prepare to sip. 

Packaging: B+. I like Founders bottles. The images tell the story and the vitals are there. 

Value: D. I can’t remember what I paid for this, but I recently picked up a couple recent bottles of BB and I think they were $8-9 for 12oz. No matter how you slice it, that’s expensive. 

Notch Session Ale


I REALLY wanted to like this beer. I’ve been following the Notch “project” for almost a year, wondering what it tasted like, wondering if it could be good. When I saw six packs in my local store I just had to give it a try. 

It pours a very nice copper color with a small head that disappears pretty quickly. There’s not a whole lot I can smell, even if I beat it up a bit. Just not a whole lot on the nose. 

The first taste is… thin. Just not much to it. And not all that pleasant. There’s a metallic flavor in the mid-palate that I just can’t get past. I’m surprised by the lack of body given the beautiful color. Can you sense my disappointment? 

I wanted this to be the gateway beer for all those Bud drinkers out there… the way for them to get into craft beer without even knowing it. At 4.5 ABV it’d be a great alternative to the mass-produced beers most Americans are still drinking. But Sam Adams Boston Lager is only 4.9 ABV and it’s so much better than Notch. Sam Adams Light is 4.07 ABV and side-by-side it’s a better than Notch, IMHO. 

I’m left to wonder if Notch is a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t really exist. Are there plenty of flavorful, relatively low ABV beers that give craft beer drinkers an alternative to high ABV brews, without sacrificing taste? Is there room for Notch in that league? I ask you taste it for yourself and let me know what you think. 

Jim Storer
@jimstorer on Twitter

Taste: C-
Drinkability: C
Vital Stats: Served at 45F from a 12oz bottle in a pint glass. 4.5 ABV. 

Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye


18% Rye
Non-filtered ale

I love this beer. I love their Racer 5 so thought I’d give it a chance when I saw it on the beer menu at Harry’s in Allston I thought I’d try it out.

The initial nose is really grape-y (more like cough medicine than an actual grape.)

Had a really deep caramel taste. I really enjoyed this, but definitely had to switch to something a little lighter. I’d definitely drink it again though!


Founders Backwoods Bastard

Normally, a strong ale aged in bourbon barrels wouldn’t be on my short list, but Schneidermike (or is it BelchingMonkey) speaks so highly of Backwoods Bastard that I had to give it a try.

At 10.2 ABV this beer is not to be taken lightly. As Matt A. pointed out when I mentioned I was drinking it, “that’s all you’re going to need tonight.” Maybe it goes without saying.. this is a sipping beer.

It pours dark and hazy with a thick head that clings to the glass and sticks around for a looooong time. The lacing on the glass is impressive.

It smells like someone washed the glass in bourbon before they poured in the beer. If you’re drinking this, you’d better like bourbon (I do).

The first taste is wild… very heavy bourbon and boozy. There’s just no hiding the alcohol in this one. The malt is hiding back there; it’s actually hard to distinguish through the bourbon. On my palate the hops couldn’t find their way through, but I know they’re in there.

So, what did I think of it? I love bourbon and I love beer, but I couldn’t embrace the Backwoods Bastard. I couldn’t get past the bourbon. This is a beer that challenges and questions your notions ofwhat beer is or should be. Maybe I’m not up for the challenge or perhaps they took it a little too far?

What do you think? What are your notes on this beer?