Like Ron Burgundy and many other dignified gentlemen, I enjoy sipping Scotch whisky from time to time, preferably while quietly reposing on a large piece of expensive furniture. So when I first laid eyes on a bottle of Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale, it seemed a match made in heaven.
Really, scotch and beer are not all that dissimilar. Specifically, they both start with malted barley grains. The malting process involves germinating the grains (which, after all, are just seeds) to convince them to start growing. This releases important enzymes that will later allow the grain’s starch reserves to be converted into fermentable sugars. But just as the little grains start to sprout, they are thrown in a kiln and the growth process is abruptly halted, effectively “freezing” the state of enzymatic content at a desirable level. It’s a cruel world for a little barley grain.
Sometimes, especially in Scotland, these malted grains are dried over a smoldering peat fire, imparting a unique, smoky character. These grains, when used to produce Scotch whisky, contribute that distinctive, complex peat flavor that lingers on the palate. However, there’s no reason that these perfectly fine malted barley grains can’t be used to make beer as well! When used for beer, the effect is similar, and the result is an abundance of complex, scotch-like flavors in the final product. In addition to using peat-smoked malts, many Scotch ales are boiled for very long periods of time, developing flavor compounds that enhance the perceived complexity of the beer’s malt character. To add another layer of complexity, Founders Brewing Co. uses seven different types of imported malts in its Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale.
Founders was started, like many other craft breweries, by two pals with a passion for beer, namely Mike Stevens and David Engbers. Initially focusing on accessible, ordinary beers and struggling to find a customer base, the guys at Founders shifted gears to begin producing intensely flavored ales aimed at adventurous beer lovers like themselves. This strategy proved successful, and today their Porter and Centennial IPA are widely regarded as great examples of their respective styles. The Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale is one of their six year-round offerings.
I poured the beer from a 12-ounce bottle, part of a Founders variety pack I picked up, into a tulip glass. At the risk of straining the “Anchorman” reference, I must say that this beer actually does have the appearance of rich mahogany, a deep and sort of ominous red-brown color. It’s quite a unique hue for a beer. The aroma is pleasant, if unremarkable, with hints of raisin and faint caramel malt notes. There are little to no hops present in the nose, which is typical for this style.
As I took a sip, the adventure began. This beer feels very viscous and full-bodied, but it goes down smooth, almost like melted candy. The flavor is extremely complex, with toffee and caramel notes at the forefront and noticeable roasted malt and smoky flavors present as well, which are actually quite reminiscent of Scotch whisky. There is a definite bitterness, but the hop flavor is more subdued. Also, the alcohol is well hidden; it is very hard to tell that this beer comes in at a whopping 8.5 percent ABV. Throw back a few of these, and before you know it you’ll be talking about plaid and bagpipes with your buddies in a Scottish accent. All in all, the Founders Dirty Bastard Scotch Style Ale is something to behold. Slainte!
My ratings (out of 5):