I was making the same face as the guy on the right the morning after drinking a half-gallon of this beer.

Sure, I COULD do a standard tasting note on the Founders’ Better Half, but really, how interesting is that going to be? It was rich, complex, delicious…blah blah blah. I mean, it’s a goddamn old ale aged in goddamn bourbon-barrels which were used to store goddamn maple syrup and it’s made by goddamn Founders. What would you expect? It’s amazing.

So instead, I’m going to do a tasting note on my hangover the next day. It was epic. It was surreal. It felt, as Muhammad Ali once said about fighting Joe Frazier, like the “closest thing to dying that I know of.” Let’s set the scene shall we…

Wifey and I are planning a cook-out with some neighbors so I run out to get some beers. No surprises there…everyone involved in the event knows that I’m a pompous Alehead, so clearly the beer procurement will be my responsibility. I head to the package store and stock up on Green Flash Palate Wrecker for myself, Wild Heaven Ode to Mercy for Wifey, some Good People Snake Handler for everyone, and some Anderson Valley Summer Solstice and a few lambics for my neighbor’s wife who is just starting to get into craft beer.*

*Sneer all you want, but if you want to get someone hooked on craft beer, mix up a half a Framboise lambic with half a cream soda-esque bottle of Summer Solstice and watch their eyes light up.

As I was set to check out, the little demon that lives in my brain (I call him Catch) reminded me that I hadn’t scoped out the draft lines yet. The package store in question has about 50 taps available for growler fills. It’s usually just the same stuff they have in bottles and since I wanted a little variety that evening, I was going to skip it. But the demon persisted, so I perused the list. Nothing really jumped out to me until I noticed the words “Founders”, “Better” and “Half.*

*In that order.

For those in the dark, the Better Half is the third offering in Founders’ Backstage Series that was made famous by the wildly popular Canadian Breakfast Stout. It’s their delicious Old Curmudgeon (a tasty old ale) aged in bourbon barrels that were formerly used to store Michigan maple syrup. The resulting elixir is a 12% ABV beast, redolent of maple syrup, molasses and booze.

It’s also very rare. Bottles of the Better Half are very hard to come by and, as far as I knew, Alabama only got one keg of it (showcased at the J. Clyde a few months back and drained very soon after it was tapped). I asked the store manager and he said he was pretty surprised to get a keg too. He actually wasn’t even going to sell it in growlers…he was planning on just selling small tasters in the store. But, for whatever reason, he changed his mind and added it to the taplist.

I already had more than enough beer in my shopping cart…but really, how could I possibly pass it up? I heard warning bells ringing in my head…I KNEW that I was going to be the only one actually drinking this thing (I figured Wifey would like it, but perhaps just a sip or two…and my neighbors would likely not get within 10 feet of that monster). I also knew that I’m not one to let a growler go unfinished and that I was probably going to be in for a rough night. As usual, I ignored all of my wiser instincts and happily snapped up a half-gallon of liquid death.

I won’t go into too many details beyond that. Suffice it to say, I finished 64 ounces of 12% ABV old ale in about 90 minutes. Then I drank a four-pack of Palate Wrecker as part of a wholly ill-advised game of beer pong (played with paddles, of course…the way God meant it to be played). Somewhere in there, I had an Ode to Mercy and a Summer Solstice too. In truth, I don’t recall any of that.*

*Nor do I remember falling out of bed and sleeping on the floor for an hour or two. Thanks to Wifey for describing my heroics in painstaking detail the next morning. Her tone was 50% bemusement and 50% “why-did-I-marry-you-again?”.

I may be an unrepentant Alehead, but in my old age, I’m actually fairly responsibly about my consumption. I generally just have a beer or two with dinner. A “big” night out might see my consume three brews. I’ve got kids and dogs that wake me up at the crack of dawn, and a wife that doesn’t appreciate when I’m incapacitated. Still…on occasion…maybe once a year, I drop the ball. This was one of those times. Although, instead of dropping the ball, I kind of punted it into the stands and then punched my coach in the face.

Anyways, here’s that hangover tasting note I promised/threatened:



Appearance: Red, bleary eyes…one of which could not open all the way. Sallow, wan skin with a sheen of sweat throughout the day. Hunched, almost pained walking and slow-motion limb movement. Often horizontal positioning. Slight tremors. General look of a zombie…except not even the kind of zombie that other zombies would want to hang out with. Even my zombie brethren would have been put off by my appearance. I was like some sort of zombie/leper hybrid.

Head: Tangled, matted hair…even after a 45-minute shower. Unkempt beard. I suspect that even if I had been clean-shaven, I would STILL have had an unkempt beard. Of course, if I had attempted to shave that day, I probably would have sliced my nose off. My hands weren’t so steady.

Lacing: I didn’t see any, but I smelled like I was covered in a thick layer of Brussels lace. Actually, considering how much I drank, that probably wasn’t that far from the truth.

Nose: Pervasive scent of sweat and alcohol coming out of every pore. Mild aroma of bile and stomach acid. Faint smell of whatever plant life I fell into while attempting to recover lost beer pong balls…maybe a wax myrtle? Oh, and I fell into a rose bush too. I don’t remember that, but I had thorns in my leg the next morning.

Taste: The aforementioned bile and stomach acid were the dominant notes. Plus, the highly unwelcome taste of partially-digested Better Half which kept attempting to revisit my mouth. Fortunately (or not), it remained wholly ensconced in my tortured stomach. There was no taste of any food or drink since the thought of ingesting anything that day was laughable. Also, a distinct, very strong flavor of shame, lack of dignity, and failure (I remember those tastes well from college).

Mouthfeel: Cotton-mouthed. Dry. A little sticky. Tongue felt swollen and too big. Felt like I had been chewing on an old gym sock…with a foot still in it.

Drinkability: This was a one and done. I can absolutely assure you that I will not be repeating this hangover again…at least not with a half-gallon of Founders Better Half. But if another ultra-rare, ultra-strong brew appears on my package store tap-lists then yeah…I’ll probably be seeing this one again. Stupid fucking demon.

Rating: 4 Hops for the beer…Zero Hops for the hangover. Bleh.


  1. Dear God. A 1/2 gallon of that rarity from a plastic milk jug. You and the store in question will go to hell for colluding on that sin. Can’t wait till a certain store opens selling glass growlers exclusively in the neighborhood of Pepper Place.

    1. To be fair, it wasn’t in the plastic container for very long. Considering how quickly it was consumed, I would have been better served just doing a keg-stand for 5 minutes. And there’s no need to curse me with the threats of hell…I spent last Sunday there, thank you very much.

      Count me amongst the other Alabama denizens eagerly awaiting the opening of Hop City West. Any word on the opening date?

  2. And your still alive? Son of a gun . That’s like $50 of carry out beer! And your close to 100 points on my personal drinking scale. I understand the drink the whole growler part. You know this is bad in soooo many ways. I had 5 lake Eire monsters and felt like a heathen.=45 points if I go over 50 I know I’ll pay for it. I believe 76 was my personal record of shame. Glad your still alive

      1. Yes, color me intrigued as well.

        I’m ashamed to admit that there were probably numerous times when I went WELL past 100 points during my even stupider days.

      2. Ha! I second that. Lake Erie has about a 9% alcohol content, so 5 of them only gets you 45 out of 100? I’m no lightweight, but I do believe my scientifically minded self may have to test this scale… For the good of the people, of course.

  3. Congrats on the growler score, i picked up some 2010 old crustecean from whole foods and did the same as you, except without the excessive hangover. Btw better half is the third backstage release, blushing monk was first.

      1. Check your math, Kid.

        And I have no desire to turn this into a competition. That’s a battle that EVERYONE loses.

        Edit made, Caucasian. Thanks for the Blushing Monk heads up…

        1. I was told there would not be math. I got into this business specifically so I would not have to check any math.

          1. Kid must’ve been drunk when he did his math. Not sure what the competion is, just sharing an experience and some knowledge.

  4. 64oz means nothing to a metric system-loving limey like myself. Once converting it into the Queen’s measurements – my mouth literally gaped. Almost two litres of 12% beer, then a four-pack of 9%? When did the colonials learn to drink to such a level? My goodness. Bravo Sir, bravo.

    1. We learned to drink when you forced us to dump all of our tea, Limey! All we had left was barrel-aged old ales and hop-forward DIPAs! At least according to the history book I’m currently writing, “An Alehead’s Guide to the Colonies”. Did you know that John Adams invented the Black IPA? And Elbridge Gerry was the first man to cultivate Citra hops? True story.

      1. …and Paul Revere rode to Boston to warn Adams that he’d spotted a cask-conditioned, 3.5% ale on at his local hostelry – “The Session beers are coming!”. The rest is history…

  5. You forgot to include the FDA warning..”kids, please don’t try this at home! Aleheads are professionals…well almost…. Me personally, too much awesome beer is always a good experience. I did a mini version… Hoptimum at 10.5, Double Trouble at 9.4 and Dank Imperial Red from O’so Brewing Company at 9.2…. yes I went down to one knee but the wild ride was fun… better then “bath salts” – crazy people out there these days. Thanks for sharing.. your a great writer.

    1. I sessioned the shit out of that beer! I think a half-gallon counts as an indisputable session.

      Can’t argue with your second statement though. If 21-year-old me had seen my hangover last weekend, he would have shaken his head and walked away in disgust. And then he would have drank a bottle of Jack Daniels.

  6. I’m in pain just reading your hangover, but remember Barley. You haven’t really vomited until you’ve projectile vomited. If evil wasn’t set forth from your mouth, you have to ask yourself, “Did I drink enough?”.

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