As you are aware, I can't say enough good things about Founders Brewing. We get a decent amount of their product in Chicago and I sure wish we got a whole lot more. So, when a friend tipped me off that Whole Foods' flagship Lincoln Park store - the one with 20 taps around the store and you can take your beer shopping with you - had a "brandy" barreled cherry beer from Founders, I had to make a special detour. The Newaygo County Cherry is what they call it. Not brandy, it's actually a bourbon barreled version of Founders' Cerise cherry beer, which is a summer release available in bottles where you can get Founders. A web search confirms that this beer is generally understood to be bourbon barreled.
I had it poured for me into a tall, stemmed brandy glass. Of course you get cherries on the nose, as is the case with Cerise, but you can smell a bit of alcohol too. The head is fleeting. It wasn't the unique flavor bomb I expected - actually I didn't know what to expect in combining beer, cherries, and hard liquor. It tasted of tart cherries that make you pucker, and there was this looming finish of licorice and cherry gum. The bourbon presence is rather subtle but contributes to that licorice flavor. The mouthfeel is effervescent, soda like, and light.
I'm not going to bother formally rating this beer because chances are you can't get it. I'll bet that less than 50 barrels were made. What I can say is that it seems like the brewmaster's first take on a style they could really perfect with several more tries. I think it needs a stronger bourbon presence and more cherry tartness. Most importantly, this beer is just another example of fun with barrel aging, an exploding segment of the craft beer market that has no end in sight in terms of styles or ingredients.