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. 

Diving into Hill Farmstead Earl #StoutDay


I’ve been holding onto this one since March, when I made the voyage up to Hill Farmstead in Greensboro Bend, VT. I cracked one back then and it was young and angry. Let’s see what eight months in the bottle has done for it. 

First of all, I’m a fan of the package, although it’s on the understated side. There’s all the info you need and it’s a clean logo and overall design. I give it an A. 

Earl is an coffee oatmeal stout that’s been aged in bourbon barrels. It pours a deep brown/black color with plenty of carbonation. Even with an easy/gentle pour I ended up with a three finger head. The smell is heavy on the bourbon, with both brown sugar and vanilla sneaking in there. If there’s such a thing as a “sweet” smell, this has it. 

The taste is bitter coffee and bourbon right up front. Roasted malt and burnt sugar are there too. There’s also a fair amount of alcohol, but I’m not sure if that’s the heavy bourbon barrel tricking my palate. The body is a lot lighter than other stouts I’ve had recently, but the flavor is big (bigger?). There’s just layer after layer in there. While I’m still developing a taste for bourbon barrel beers, this is a good one. While the bourbon flavor is present, it’s not the only player on the stage. As the beer warmed it mellowed considerably. It took on the taste of a great coffee ice cream shake made with a shot of bourbon. Rich and delicious. 

At the outset of this post I mentioned that Earl was young and angry in March. What is he now? He’s middle aged, but still brash. I’d love to taste this beer again next Fall and as luck would have it I’ll have that chance. I have one more bottle of Earl sitting in the cellar. I’ll put a note on it to enjoy next November. 

Note: I enjoyed this beer in two sessions. The first alone, after a pasta dinner. The second I tasted with a block of stilton. I didn’t notice a dramatic difference between the two sessions, but the cheese definitely helped draw out some of the more complex flavors. 

Taste: A-. This is my current favorite bourbon barrel aged beer, but it’s still not my favorite style. A great beer all the same. 

Drinkability: C. This isn’t a knock, just I can’t imagine wanting to drink more than one of these in one sitting. It’s meant to be savored. 

Vitals: Served from a 500ml bottle at 45F. 8% ABV. 


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?


Smuttynose Ry(e)an Ale


Loved the look of this beer as I poured it. Deep red hue and great two finger head. Definitely smell the bourbon barrel on the nose… very pronounced. First taste is a bourbon bomb, so much so that it got me wondering if I’ve had enough experience with bourbon barrel aged beers to offer enough perspective? I’ve had bourbon barrel aged stout, but not sure about something lighter. 

I enjoyed this beer, but the bourbon barrel taste was a bit stronger than I thought it should have been. It was just so up front that it was hard to taste much else in the beer. I’m going to seek out another bottle to see if it’s just my neophyte palate playing tricks on me. Worth a try to see what you think. Thanks to Chad for sharing this one with me! I love trying new stuff.