For this edition of Tasting Notes, we journey deep down into the depths of a bottle of Underground Mountain Brown from Founders Brewing Co. (Grand Rapids, Michigan).
Released in mid-August as the current installment in Founders Brewing Co.’s Barrel-Aged Series, Underground Mountain (previously introduced as a taproom-exclusive by the name of Barrel-Aged Sumatra Mountain) is an Imperial Brown Ale that has been brewed with Sumatra coffee – roasted in Grand Rapids by Ferris Coffee & Nut – and then aged for a year in Bourbon barrels in the “caves below Grand Rapids.” Crafted to be a true “celebration of the barrel, the bean and everything in between,” Underground Mountain Brown finds harmony as the malts of the Brown Ale base “complement the bold Sumatra coffee perfectly, while time spent immersed in oak creates layers of depth and complexity.”
Underground Mountain Brown is available now and scheduled to stick around through November (as long as supplies last). You can expect to find this Limited Release available in 4-packs of 12 oz. bottles, 750ml bottles and on draft at select craft beer-focused establishments located in Alabama, Florida, Michigan and throughout the rest of Founders Brewing Co.’s nationwide distribution area.
Alrighty . . . now that we have properly covered all the particulars behind this brew, let’s get to the bottom of Underground Mountain with some Tasting Notes!
Tasting Notes for Underground Mountain Brown from Founders Brewing Co.
Appearance: A somewhat vigorous pour produces a beer that is a heavily shadowed, dark brown in color and topped with one-and-a-half to two fingers of tan foam. When held to direct light, cola tones easily push through at the edges while the intensely dark brown holds at the core. Although quite dark and nearly opaque, the top portion of the pour (about a finger of area where the beer meets the head) reveals that this beer is clear and has a steady carbonation presence coursing within. Head retention is solid, falling ever so slowly to a thick, creamy ring that drops cloud-like dollops of lace on the glass throughout the experience.
Aroma: Deeply roasted coffee greets the nose with dark chocolate notes and a gentle dose of earthiness and nuttiness. The barrel character then rolls in, providing notes of vanilla, oak, and straight bourbon. Brown Ale character closes the aromatics with rich tones of caramel and molasses.
Taste: Picking up where the aroma left off, the base beer jumps out first to offer decadent notes of caramel, brown sugar, molasses, toffee and toasted grain. This seamlessly shifts to a distinct roasted coffee presence that is beautifully earthy, nutty and chocolaty (both milk chocolate and bittersweet dark chocolate). The bourbon then builds, enrobing the entire experience in a soft layer of oak, vanilla and booze. Everything here is incredibly smooth and cohesive.
Mouthfeel: Medium in body with a middling carbonation level, this beer has just the right amount of weight to it to remind you that it is indeed 11.9% ABV while still maintaining a bit of that smooth, airiness you expect from a Brown Ale (this beer does not at all drink like an Imperial Stout or Barleywine and rightfully so). It is mostly sweet on the palate, but the coffee’s bitterness lends a great deal of balance and keeps things from getting cloying. Getting back to that elevated ABV, it offers a gently building warmth in the throat and belly, but it is not at all out of hand. The aftertaste is all toffee and bourbon.
Final Thoughts: Elegantly composed, there is not one aggressive aspect to this beer. It is clear that the brewing team at Founders applied all of the knowledge that they have obtained from brewing KBS year after year to Underground Mountain Brown because the coffee and bourbon barrel character are both given equal billing.
As notable as that is, probably the most impressive thing about Underground Mountain is how incredibly well it is drinking right now. The elevated ABV is pretty tame, the barrel character is not at all aggressive, and the coffee has just the right amount of pop to it. It is wildly smooth for a fresh barrel-aged offering, and we suggest that you do not sit on these bottles for too long (well . . . stash a couple because this beer will be an incredible pairing for those wonderfully brisk fall evenings headed our way). It is damn near perfect at this point in time, so make sure that you drink Underground Mountain Brown now and drink it often while you have the chance. Prost!