At last we’ve come to the final round with Michigan clinging to a 1 point lead. Ohio needs to win in this round to even things up, any other result and Michigan wins. In this final round we have two bourbon barrel aged Scotch Ales.
Wulver by Thirsty Dog (Akron, OH) – Thirsty Dog is an Akron brewery that puts out a line of beers, nearly all of which have dog names (Whippet Wheat, Labrador Lager, Barktoberfest, The 12 Dogs of Christmas,…). So what exactly is a wulver? According to legend it is a kind of werewolf that inhabits the Shetland Islands of Scotland. Unlike werewolves, Wulvers are supposed to be kind hearted, leading lost travelers back to safety (although the two wulvers on the label look pretty aggressive to me). So the name does fit the dog theme with a Scottish twist. Wulver is aged 11 months in bourbon barrels. The final product is a whopping 12% abv, with a mere 22 IBUs as you might expect for a big malty beer.
Backwoods Bastard by Founders (Grand Rapids, MI) – Looking to clinch the series, Michigan once again turns to its flagship brewery, Founders, which has accounted for half of Michigan’s wins to this point. As beer lovers know Founders is famous for its bourbon barrel aged stouts like KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout, which is their Breakfast Stout aged in bourbon barrels) and CBS (Canadian Breakfast Stout, which is Breakfast Stout aged in bourbon barrels that have been used for aging maple syrup). Those two beers are harder to come by than a Trappist ale at a fraternity party. Since I became aware of KBS 4-5 years ago I’ve managed to find two bottles in Columbus, and I’ve only seen pictures of CBS. Fortunately it is possible for a mere mortal to get his hands on Backwoods Bastard, but you still have to pay attention. It’s the #3 rated Scotch Ale on RateBeer.com. Backwoods Bastard is made by aging Founders standard Scotch Ale, Dirty Bastard, in oak bourbon barrels. It checks in at 10.2% abv and 50 IBUs.
Picking a Winner
As with all of the other rounds in this contest I give you two perspectives on the winner. We threw a party and invited a dozen ordinary folks (beer drinkers, but definitely not beer geeks) and had everyone choose their favorite of the two in a blind taste test. These results are captured in a short video shot live at the beer tasting party and found at the bottom of this post. I call this the People’s Pick. I also tasted the beers side by side and offer my thoughts and pick for the best beer. I call this Pat’s Pick. Depending on your affinity for beer you can decide which opinion best represents your tastes. Better yet go out and pick up each beer, try it for yourself, and leave a comment here to register your own vote for the winner.
Backwoods Bastard is a deep, dark mahogany color with a small beige colored head. Some ruby highlights make it through the beer when held up to the light. The nose is an enticing mix of caramel, bourbon and vanilla. Coming to the taste you are initially greeted by a wave of smooth caramel, the bourbon flavor emerges mid-palate and leaves a lingering bourbon burn on the finish. The mouthfeel is rich and silky smooth. There is a nice balance between the caramel, vanilla and bourbon. If you are a bourbon lover you owe it to yourself to give this beer a try.
In just about every way Wulver is similar to Backwoods Bastard, but when you taste them back to back there are some subtle differences. Wulver has a bit more bourbon in its aroma, but interestingly the bourbon is dialed down a little in the taste, which really lets the caramel and vanilla shine through. I’m not a huge bourbon fan so this is an advantage for the Wulver in my book. The mouthfeel might be even more silky smooth if that is possible, and it finishes with less bourbon burn.
Based on its reputation and my one encounter with it, I expected Backwoods Bastard to win this contest. However, after tasting both beers side by side I have to give the nod to Wulver. The rich smooth caramel character of Wulver is simply delicious, while with Backwoods Bastard the bourbon comes on a little too strong for my tastes. On a 1-10 scale I give Wulver a 9 and Backwoods Bastard an 8.
See the video above for the people’s pick. Here I’m joined by Cindy who is from Kentucky and knows her bourbon. The effects of the alcohol are starting to get to everyone (at least to me) by this point in the night so the final video in this series is a rambling 7 minutes that goes off track a couple of times. Fortunately, the panel of judges finally gets it together for an objective and decisive final pick.
Pat’s Picks: Michigan = 4 vs. Ohio = 4
People’s Picks: Michigan = 4 vs. Ohio = 4
True to his place in Scottish legend the kind-hearted Wulver emerges to beat back the Michigan threat and put Ohio back on track. Toledo will remain part of Ohio at least for another year. The results of each round and my scores are
- Round 1: Bleeding Buckeye (7) defeats Bell’s Amber Ale (6)
- Round 2: Bam Biere (7) defeats Rockmill Saison (6.5)
- Round 3: Red’s Rye PA (8) defeats Wiley Wolverine (7)
- Round 4: Founders Porter (8) defeats Edmund Fitzgerald (7.5)
- Round 5: White Rajah (9) defeats Bell’s Two Hearted Ale (7.5)
- Round 6: 4-Elf (7.5) defeats Holly Jolly (5.5)
- Round 7: Bodhi (8.5) defeats Hopivore (4)
- Round 8: Wulver (8.5) defeats Backwoods Bastard (8)
So in both Pat’s poll and the People’s poll the contest ended as a tie. I know this is an un-American way to finish the game, but at that point in the night we were too far gone to come up with a clever way to break the tie. If I sum up the total points for each side Ohio racks up 59.5 points while Michigan totals 56 points, which could be as good a tiebreaker as anything.
If you’ve been following along for the entire series, thanks for tuning in. If you have other ideas for breaking the tie leave a comment below. I think we will make this an annual event, with a different set of beers every year. So I think we’ll wait for next year to break the tie. I’d love to get some suggestions for next year’s contest though.