Malt liquor at Beer Festival? Founders has it

Tom Gromak
The Detroit News
Founders Brewing is pouring their new Barrel-Aged Series beer DKML, a dry-hopped malt liquor.

You wouldn't expect to find malt liquor at the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival. But this isn't your father's malt liquor.

Clocking in at 14.2 percent alcohol-by-volume (ABV), and carrying a vanilla oakiness imparted by bourbon-barrel aging, Founders' DKML Malt Liquor shows little resemblance to the Colt 45 of old. Instead, the beer has a tasty, full finish and an eerie easiness to it.

"Most people will be pleasantly surprised," said Kevin DeVries, Founders Brewing sales representative for south Michigan. "Think about the stigma of malt liquor. But this is a beautifully balanced beer. It does not drink like it's 14.2."

But it's a malt liquor, different than beer in that sugar, corn or other adjuncts are added to the malted barley during the boiling process to boost the total amount of fermentable sugars in the wort, raising the alcohol content without making it sweeter. And DKML has its roots in another Founders dry-hopped malt liquor, "Summer Sizzler." It was first brewed in 2013 and released only in the tap-room to the brewery's 2,000 mug club members. The 2014 version of Sizzler was barrel-aged for club members.

"They're our test market. They're brutally honest, and we love that. And they liked it," DeVries said. Being Founders, the next natural step was to see how it would barrel age. It went into the barrels at 11 percent ABV. It came out at 14.2%.

"It'll do well with time, too," DeVries said, suggesting that beer enthusiasts will get good results from aging. They'll get their chance. DKML is the fourth in Founders' barrel-aged series this year. It will be available in 750ml bombers and 4-packs of 12-ounce bottles in August. Backwoods Bastard will be fifth in the series. The name of the sixth is a secret for now, DeVries said.

Try DKML at the Founders tent at the Summer Beer Festival at Riverside Park in Ypsilanti, from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. today. Or get in line for KBS, Founders' iconic barrel-aged stout. If that runs out, they're also pouring "Doom," a 23.4 percent barrel-aged imperial IPA. 

Going to the Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival? Bring your patience, and your tickets. Saturday's session is sold-out. Pictured here is Friday's entry line.