Founders Brewing Company

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Lager - Malt Liquor
3.91 | pDev: 13.04%
Founders Brewing Company
Michigan, United States
Retired (no longer brewed)
Very Good
Notes: Here you have what could be the first malt liquor worthy of a glass. Typically a slighted style, we thought we would class it up with a stay in the wood and a healthy dose of dry-hopping. A huge hit of corn gives this one a smooth sweetness while its time spent aging in bourbon barrels will give you reason to share. Be warned: this one’s a pry-off, not a twist-off.
Reviews: 217 | Ratings: 640 | Log in to view all ratings and sort
Reviews by neliam24:
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neliam24 from New York

4.19/5  rDev +7.2%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Dec 02, 2019
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BEERchitect from Kentucky

2.96/5  rDev -24.3%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 2.75 | feel: 3 | overall: 2.75

Daring to do what has yet to be done, the brewers at Founders take on the daunting responsibility of making a malt liquor a craft beer. And they do so with a generous late hop character and a long slumber in bourbon barrels, so a promise of complexity comes strongly. We'll just see about that.

Bold amber a tawny, the golden and copper beer gleans in the glass. Capped with a sturdy eggshell froth, the beer's upstart is a far cry from those adjunct riddled beer. Its scent is rife with corn, caramel, honey and charred whisky. As coconut and vanilla aroams rise, the taste delves into a sweet corn, caramel and honey taste to start the session.

Although those upstarts seem pleasant enough, the corn presence and simple caramel coat trails into a grainy taste with barrel complexities of vanilla, coconut, caramel and spice taking too far of a command of the middle palate than should be. Spicy, solventy and soapy, the finish is an empty cloud of sweetness with a moderately bitter finish of pine, woods and mineral.

Full in a lush and lasting sweetness, but the beer's boozy thinness and lack of complexity renders the beer a shell of what a bourbon barrel ale should be. It shows that the underlying style of malt liquor is an inferior type of beer and unworthy of salvage. Harsh, spicy and fusel, the beer's aftertaste is long and solventy without palate regard.

Jul 22, 2017
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Smakawhat from Maryland

4.4/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Poured from the bottle into a nonic pint glass.

Frothy and huge rich four finger head, in a light khaki color tone, with fine bubbles. Out of the bottle it billows up like a big rich stout, with a head that just leaves a chunk that wont quit. Pretty impressive for malt liquor. Body color is equally nice, a golden brass orange and quite clear. Real nice looking brew.

Aroma hits with lots of barrel notes. Thick buttery sensing wood and caramel like bacon on the nose. Subtle not overblow, but almost a neutral expression of a well put together barrrel flavor and smell. Hints of smoke a bit, more so barrel notes than actual base beer character. This is a real impressive quality, but doesn't give an impression of the base style. Still it's fantastic.

Once again the barrel is the star on the palate. Oaky rich tones of vanilla and barrel caramel expressions. Woody splintery and almost pencil like shaving on the aftertaste, mix with a touch of adjunct sweetness on the finish. Muted tones of smokey wood and liqoury booze, but without the harsh edge. Full bodied and rich with a large wood tone expression.

The surprising thing is that this doesn't even come across as a high powered abv monster on the palate. This thing is dangerously good, the real brass monkey indeed.

Aug 17, 2017
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ryan1788a5 from Massachusetts

3.86/5  rDev -1.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

12oz poured into a globe.

A: Golden-amber colored with great clarity and a massive Rocky head. Chunky lacing.

S: Herbal and grassy hops, nuances of pine and perhaps even a touch of citronella? Lots of peppery whiskey and wood too. Plenty of corny sweetness.

T: Huge corny-sweet body flows pretty seamlessly into the bourbon and wood character. And there's a lot of bourbon and wood at play. A lot. The dry hopping kicks up a bit on the back end, though it integrates itself well too. Herbal, grassy, soft pine, maybe lemon, citronella too. Finish is all whiskey and barrel.

M: Rich, thick, round body. Chewy. Warming.

O: This beer ain't playin' around. It'll kick you right in the crotch (DKML=dick kicker malt liquor?). Big, boozy, corny sweet and whiskey potent (in a hot way, even). Plenty of hops at play too. A fun concept, and there's nothing else quite like it on the market. Just be prepared- your palate will be challenged.

Sep 05, 2017
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BucannonXC5 from California

4.28/5  rDev +9.5%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Type: 12-oz. bottle
Glass: Karl Strauss 26th anniversary .25L tulip
From: Bine & Vine Bottle Shop in Normal Heights (San Diego), Calif.
Price: $4.13 with 10 percent off for a variety 6-pack
Purchased: Oct. 5, 2017
Consumed: Nov. 7, 2017
Reviewed as: American Malt Liquor
Misc.: 2017 release; Bottled on July 6, 2017 at 11:08 p.m. ET


Recently was dared to review a King Cobra. Actually did not know that Malt Liquor was reviewable on Beer Advocate. Once I looked it up and saw I was, had to go with it. Once I saw that there were seven (seven!) (EDIT: now eight (eight!)) other Malt Liquors at the next-door market, made it a point to review one each Tuesday until I run out. Typically am against all the big boy beers, but I am breaking that rule for this challenge. Ninth up was the odds-on favorite - DKML from Founders, which was labeled as an Imperial Malt Liquor Aged in Bourbon Barrels. Had planned to have this as the final one of the 10 Malt Liquprs after picking it up at Bine & Vine over a month ago, but circumstances did not allow me to pick up a Colt 45 on this night. Therefore bumped it up. Description on bottle read, “Here you have what could be the first malt liquor worthy of a glass. Typically a slighted style, we thought we would class it up with a stay in the wood and a healthy dose of dry-hopping. A huge hit of corn gives this one a smooth sweetness while its time spent aging in bourbon barrels will give you reason to share. Be warned: this one’s a pry-off, not a twist-off.” Beer Advocate had this one at No. 1 on their rankings by style, clocking in at 3.87. Hoping to pass my No. 1 Malt Liquor so far, E40 at 4.17.

Poured an amber clear color with three fingers of rocky off-white head. Lots of bubbles coming up at different speeds from the bottom of the glass. Excellent foamy lacing. Outstanding retention. (Sight - 4.25)

Smelled hot, boozy bourbon up front. Thought I would be sipping on a whiskey pour. Man. Got a little better once it was able to breathe with sweet caramel, toffee, leather, oak, brown sugar (wishful?), honey (reminding me slightly of Firestone’s Helldorado), red apple and butterscotch. Crazy how less boozy it got after each whiff. Really flipped the ratings here. (Smell - 4.25)

Taste followed the nose, at least the last part of it. Super boozy, no hiding that 14.2 pct. ABV. Got bourbon, oaky wood, leather, brown sugar, honey (Helldorado still), sweet caramel, toffee, butterscotch, vanilla and spice. (Taste - 4.25)

Medium body. Sticky texture. Average carbonation. Long, boozy, warming finish. (Feel - 4.50)

Arguably the most liquor-forward beer I’ve ever had, but it did grow on me. For the style, it was the best Malt Liquor I’ve tried. Love the attempt here. Would not be as high if I was comparing it to other bourbon barrel-aged stouts. (Overall - 4.25)

4.28 | 95 | A

Nov 25, 2017
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jvgoor3786 from Arkansas

4.25/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Pours a deep amber with a short, light tan head that leaves good lacing.

The smell is bourbon and sweet corn and alcohol.

The taste starts very nice with a hit of Bourbon and a nice sweet punch to go with it. Then the alcohol slams in and takes over with a lingering alcohol heat.

The mouthfeel is medium body and carbonation.

Overall this has great flavor but it's really hot. I'm going to age a few of these and see how they are next year.

Aug 04, 2017
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NeroFiddled from Pennsylvania

3.66/5  rDev -6.4%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 3.75

Founders Brewing Co. "DKML"
12 fl. oz. brown glass bottle, "Bottled On: 07.03.17 1324 6" and sampled on 10.08.17
$5.49 @ Total Wine & More, Cherry Hill, NJ

Notes via stream of consciousness: I just had to try this beer based on the label. It's very basic but eye-catching. As for it being a "malt liquor", yeah I'd heard that, and I wanted to try it to see how it compared to Dogfish Head's Liquor de Malt, but I had no idea it was 14.2% abv. So, OK, here goes... clear deep gold body beneath a finger thick head of bright white that drops into a 1/4" thick creamy cap. There's no lacing left behind but I'm pretty impressed with the head retention. The aroma is malty with a light note of Bourbon. Where are the hops? I thought the label said it was dry-hopped? Wow, it's very malty, I wasn't expecting that. How big is this beer to begin with that it's this malty and it still has 14.2% abv? That's amazing. And I totally believe that all of that alcohol is there because I can taste it. It's not harsh, but it's clearly coming through. It actually helps to dry it. There's some oak as well, also helping, and a moderate bitterness level. As I work through it I'm finding some vanilla in there with the Bourbon and oak. It's got some adjunct to it, the malt shows that; and I can also smell the alcohol in the nose. Not bad, not great, but certainly with a "malt liquor" character. And it has a much higher strength than most. It's creamy and smooth in the mouth with a medium-full body and moderate carbonation. Overall I'd say it's interesting, and fairly nice to relax with and sip at, but given the price I'll give it a pass the next time I see it.

Oct 08, 2017
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tomdiamond from New York

4.44/5  rDev +13.6%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.5

Clear straw color with thick, fluffy white head. Excellent retention and lacing. Smells sweet with caramel and bourbon notes. Taste is borderline sickly sweet with caramel, vanilla, and some bourbon. Alcohol is apparent without being boozy. Incredibly smooth mouthfeel. I drank two of these, puked, passed out on the toilet and woke up with a hangover. Would repeat.

Aug 30, 2017
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smcolw from Massachusetts

3.92/5  rDev +0.3%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Light copper color and nearly clear. Small head with stringy lace. Attractive.

Sweet raisin smell. Very much like a barley wine.

The flavor is overly sweet with no hop counterbalance. The alcohol, while very strong, comes across only as a warming element. The body is rich as the sugar content would lead one to expect. Decent carbonation to balance the thick body. Short aftertaste of alcohol, raisins and very light hop. This could be described as a barley wine, but otherwise could be seen as a superior malt liquor.

Dec 09, 2017
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jzeilinger from Pennsylvania

3.76/5  rDev -3.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.75 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 3.75

A - Pours a nice clear medium amber gold color with thick lacing and no visible carbonation.

S - Light smoke, oak, vanilla, alcohol, light toffee malt.

T - Toffee, bourbon, vanilla, some butterscotch, and pine citrus bitterness.

M - Thick and full bodied, silky smooth, pronounced warming on the first several sips until the palate adjusts to the heat and then it's not so noticeable.

O - I didn't like this beer at first but it grew on me.

Oct 06, 2017
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beerthulhu from New Jersey

4.09/5  rDev +4.6%
look: 3.75 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

-Bot. on 7.14.17. Consumed in pint 02.14.18.

A: Foamy pitted weathered white head is active on the surface with a great deal of macro-bubbles clinging to the vessel walls. A clear pumpkin orange coloring has the slightest of haze.

S: Strong scents of whiskey and barrel woodiness. Lager malts corn whiskey, with a the alcohol taking center stage, but very soothing per its reported 14.2%.

T: The flavor is heavy whiskey tones/barrel influence set against a corn malt background. Corn husks, soothing barrel notes, warming sugars and sweet caramelized orange malt and grind add highlights.

M: Thick and syrupy mouthful, nothing like your perception of what old school malt liquor is. Warming whiskey glow, nice alcohol breath post-swallow.

O: Overall definitely one of the better malt liquors I've tasted. Heavy on the whiskey barrel influence, and a very good and thick viscose corn malting that is sweet and smooth. This is not your fathers malt liquor, it is a viscose, flavor filled delight with a heavy malt depth base. This is a prime example in an other wise forgotten beer style, that not many brave to venture, due mostly to perception. This should certainly change peoples minds and open up the possibility on what can be accomplished through crafty brewing. Strong drink-ability, it will catch up to your later, a great speciality niche that not many try, and an alcohol rate of 14.2% more then worthy per style, that drinks like a 8.0%.

Feb 23, 2018
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SeanGuenette from Florida

4.04/5  rDev +3.3%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 4.25

Okay, its not a world class beer thats going to blow your mind in terms of flavor, but it is totally unique and likable in its own way.
Pours a coppery transparent orange with a thick head that lingers longer than expected by appearance. The texture of the head and beer are very reminiscent of a stereotypical malt liquid you would buy at your local bodega, but the fizz sticks around much longer.
The initial nose and first sip immediately hit me with corn, almost moonshine-ish corn smell, but gradually faded into a more boozy rather than corny smell. Alcohol taste is very prevalent at first, and remains throughout, but is eventually balanced by a sweet whiskey and mild malty flavor. Unlike its infamous cousins, say an Olde English or Colt 45, it lacks the metallic aftertaste, and overall has much more character.
And as stated on the bottle, "Kicks you right where you expect it" the buzz after finishing one glass is very noticeable.

Easily takes the cake as the best malt liquor i've ever had! Some people may not consider that as much of an achievement, but I can appreciate the art of brewing that Founders applied to a beverage that most people would frown upon. Worth the four dollars and change to try at least one.

Sep 20, 2017
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Neverdie7 from Wisconsin

4.83/5  rDev +23.5%
look: 5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 5 | feel: 4.5 | overall: 5

This beer was a complete shock and surprise to me, and a very good surprise! Some of the reviews of this beer had me kinda turned off and I wasn't really even looking for it to be honest, but bam, hit my store on Friday after work and there it was. The clerk told me he couldn't sell it and was afraid he'll be stuck with it, so I graciously volunteered to be the taste tester.

Look - Nice clean slightly amber pour, the beer is clear with about a half inch head in a tulip glass.
Smell - Boozy, bourbon, slight hint of corn.
Taste - At first when ice cold I get mostly alcohol heat, bourbon and some sweetness. Where this beers sets itself off is when it starts to warm up a bit. Here I get tons of bourbon, caramel, vanilla and a nice warm and content tummy.

I expected this beer to be bad in all honesty, but in reality this was a awesome surprise. Just goes to show you can't always judge a book by it's cover! Needless to say I went back to the beer store, told my buddie the clerk he need not worry about not selling the rest of it because I was buying it all! Cheers!

Aug 14, 2017
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buschbeer from Ohio

4.54/5  rDev +16.1%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 5 | overall: 4.5

12 FL. OZ. bottle
Served in a snifter

This beauty pours amber with golden highlights. It is capped with an inch of beige head that leaves virtually no lacing.

Bourbon notes dominate the aroma. I get caramel, booze, and vanilla.

Whew! This is boozy. I taste alcohol with the aforementioned caramel and vanilla components. I get some soft malt liquor in the finish.

Medium and syrupy mouthfeel

I am a HUGE malt liquor fan. I was visible aroused when I opened this dick kicker of a malt liquor bottle. It will get the job done if you are looking to pass out early on your front steps. I have four four packs in the cellar to enjoy for months and years to come. What a great time to be alive!

Oct 22, 2017
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fly_marlin from California

3.22/5  rDev -17.6%
look: 4 | smell: 3.25 | taste: 3 | feel: 4 | overall: 3

This is my first experience with bourbon barrel aged malt liquor. I can tell how it was helped with aging in a barrel, however, the final product is simply a Mickey's with a shot of whiskey in it. It isn't too hard too drink, but isn't easy either. Notes of caramel, malt, bourbon, and definitely alcohol.

Feb 17, 2018
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Lucular from Maryland

4.25/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 3.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Taste is straight-up sweet bourbon. Bourbon barrel aged bourbon, in fact. Boozy but not hot or harsh. Not like anything I've had before but a remarkable beer, if it is a beer that is.

Dec 01, 2017
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Treyliff from West Virginia

4.31/5  rDev +10.2%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

12oz bottle poured into a snifter
Bottled 7/3/17

A- pours a clear deep amber color with a one finger creamy white head that has good retention after the pour

S- aroma is dominated by booze and sweet corn, with undertones of woody oak, bourbon, vanilla & just a trace of fruity hops

T- taste is very sweet initially, bringing out flavors of caramel and toffee, almost like a wee heavy. Mid-palate brings out the barrel notes with plenty of woody oak, vanilla and barrel juice. The finish is boozy and bold with lingers of sweet corn, caramel & bourbon

M- heavy body with moderate carbonation leads to a creamy mouthfeel that continues into a boozy warming finish

O- judging by style, this blows away and malt liquor I've previously tried. It big and boozy as expected, but has some nice caramel and barrel notes throughout, good stuff

Oct 10, 2017
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agreenman19 from Connecticut

4.02/5  rDev +2.8%
look: 4 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4

L - barrel aged malt liquor? Pours crystal clear caramel with a choir of bubbles. Some nice legs.

S - initial vanilla sweetness that turns to copper and some weird orange. Hoppiness like you'd find in a cheap IPA. Nilla Wafers.

T - even more vanilla. Surprisingly smooth for it's ABV! Some bourbon in there that quickly dissipates and is replaced by stale corn. Bit of a chalky bitterness and earthy hops. Tastes a lot like bitter bourbon without any burn. Strange.

F - the oddest thing: I can hardly tell that the liquid has hit my lips. Seamless. Thinnish, but also full-bodied. The carbonation is creamy and smooth as can be. Honestly pretty damn impressive. Puts me in a different world. Irresponsibly drinkable for its ABV.

O - I dunno about this one. You can polish a turd, but it's still a turd. Now this ain't a turd, but it's an exquisite attempt to polish one. The barrel character is fantastic, but the base beer ain't so hot. The dry hopping also seems more like a mask or bandaid than an actual complement to the beer. It's a valiant effort though, and ultimately an enjoyable beverage.

Aug 10, 2017
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MikeP64 from South Carolina

4.4/5  rDev +12.5%
look: 4 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

First sip is like a upper cut from Mike Tyson...BAM! This is a great beer! This is NOT your dad's malt liquor. Like a really smooth bourbon drink...I drink mine from a rocks glass and it seems happy there.

Sep 18, 2017
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josanguapo from Spain

4.25/5  rDev +8.7%
look: 4.25 | smell: 4.25 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

From Boxbeers. In Teku glass. Playing Cally's Caves 3. Huge abv surprisingly well hidden, with soft bourbon and wood notes much more balanced than usual in bourbon beers and some nice sweetness

Feb 14, 2018
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BSiegs from Illinois

4.14/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 5 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4.25 | overall: 4.25

Beautiful beer. Amber in color, very clear, brilliant white foam with excellent retention. Aroma is a nice blend of bourbon, oak, vanilla, slight alcohol heat. On taste, the bourbon comes through. Good barrel character. Clean, corn, malt, vanilla. Body is medium, low-moderate carbonation, creamy, low bitterness, and an alcohol burn on the finish. Overall, a well done, interesting beer from Founders.

Feb 17, 2018
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jwat from Pennsylvania

4/5  rDev +2.3%
look: 4 | smell: 4 | taste: 4 | feel: 4 | overall: 4

Aug 17, 2017
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Steve_Studnuts from Pennsylvania

4.14/5  rDev +5.9%
look: 3.5 | smell: 3.75 | taste: 4.25 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.25

Sep 19, 2017
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cbcrunch from Wyoming

3.52/5  rDev -10%
look: 3.75 | smell: 3.5 | taste: 3.5 | feel: 3.5 | overall: 3.5

Dec 18, 2017
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MJSFS from Florida

4.53/5  rDev +15.9%
look: 4.5 | smell: 4.5 | taste: 4.5 | feel: 4.75 | overall: 4.5

Aug 20, 2017
DKML from Founders Brewing Company
Beer rating: 86 out of 100 with 640 ratings