At the present moment it’s 4 degrees outside, I’m huddled next to my wall heater, and January is blowing so fiercely against my windows that hearing the actual wind chill might stifle my will to live. I swear I’m not thinking about my friends who left for Puerto Rico yesterday or my parents, whom I hope are heartily enjoying their vacation in Florida. Originally I had planned to spend the evening at their house, parking my Malibu in their nice heated garage, but my car didn’t feel like turning over tonight, so now I’m wearing a sweatshirt and a stocking cap and thinking about warming beer.
Had I possessed any foresight or a willingness to walk three blocks to the store, I would have grabbed a seasonally appropriate brew — perhaps an imperial stout or New Glarus’ Winter Warmer, which I’ve never tried but am pining for in the strangest way. Thankfully (beer burglar alert!) I always have a few warming brews stashed around my apartment. That includes a half-dozen barleywines that are 1 to 3 years old, but it seems a trifle overindulgent for just one person. But huzzah! — in the rear corner of my fridge, sitting around since who knows when, is one of my favorite high gravity Midwestern beers: Founders Dirty Bastard.
Purchase: At least one bottle of Dirty Bastard, from some place at sometime
Style: “Wee Heavy” Scotch Ale
Strength: 8.5 percent ABV
Packaging: Printed on a plaid label, the Dirty Bastard is depicted as a ghostly, scowling Scotsman with thick sideburns and the blurred patina of a long night on the town.
Appearance: The beer pours a nearly opaque copper-brown color with a thin brown head.
Aroma: The Founders Web site claims this beer is produced with seven distinct malts, and all of them are on sweet display here with caramel, molasses, raisins, and plums wafting over some pretty hefty alcohol.
Taste: The maelstrom of malts serves up a complex taste whose flavors swirl on the tongue. There’s a heavy peat bouquet, bitter chocolate, faint coffee, burnt brown sugar, and some strands of grassy hops that do a superb job of masking the “Wee Heavy” alcohol.
Mouthfeel: Relatively thick for the style, chewy, and with an excellent aftertaste that lingers.
Drinkability: At the moment the drinkability is stupendous, but this is a seasonal taste for me. Frankly, I don’t even like most Scotch ales, but once the thermometer starts its long march towards negative numbers, few beverages would top this.
Ratings: BeerAdvocate grades this a 91, while RateBeer gives it an even more superlative 98. In the overbearing arena of Scotch ales, I’d say those ratings are justified — though I rarely encounter people around town who sing this beer’s praises. It could be that the brand just isn’t that hyped, or maybe the setting is particular. Because outside of a tropical beach, heated blanket or roaring fireplace, that are few things I’d prefer beside me than this old Dirty Bastard.