Review by: Cory Smith and Drew Lockard
Kuhnhenn Brewing Company in Warren Michigan is known for being one of Michigan’s best breweries. That’s saying a lot from a state that has Bells, Founders, Shorts, Jolly Pumpkin, and Dark Horse, just to name a few. One of the reasons they’re so highly regarded is because of beers like DRIPA, a double rice IPA that at 9% is smoother than any other high alcohol beer you’ll ever find, yet light, fluffy, and full of hops. Another beer that gives them their status, the one we’re trying tonight, is their World Beer Cup gold medal winner — 4th Dementia (4D) Olde Ale. But, this isn’t just any 4D, this is Barrel Aged 4D! Is your attention piqued yet? It should be.
4D is an old ale that clocks in at 13.5% ABV and is aged in barrels for a minimum of nine months. This particular bottle is the 2012 vintage, and I assume it is made to be aged as long as you can hold off drinking it. Kuhnhenn’s says it. “… has an intense sweet caramel malt flavor and aroma that develops into a toffee/toasted marsh mallow like character.” I don’t know that I’ve ever had a beer that was described to be that sweet yet that packs that much of an alcoholic punch. Drew and I are excited to see what 4D has in store, so let’s dive in!
Like many high alcohol beers, 4D poured with no head. It is murky and opaque, like dark, muddy water. It’s almost layered, lighter on top, and darker as it gets lower. Drew compares it to sugar, caramelizing to the point that it’s almost black. Although it has no head, you can tell that there is some fizz to 4D, it won’t be an old, flat beer.
From the first pour, this beer reeks of wine. Cabernet, Merlot, I don’t know, but I know it’s a heavy red. Notes of chocolate and English toffee also shine through. Like a Heath bar dipped in wine. Alcohol is present and so is the character of the barrel. Oak, vanilla, and bourbon meld perfectly with the caramel sweetness of this Olde Ale.
4th D is full bodied, medium to low carbonation, and sticks to your mouth like syrup. It coats your gums with residual sugars. Drew was shocked that he can taste the beer just by licking his gums. The alcohol starts off a little faint and finishes strong. It’s like a shot that you think was smooth until about a minute after you swallow.
There’s not many beers that make me repeat myself. The first two words out of my mouth were, “Wow,” and, “Wow!” The initial smoothness is almost unmatched in a beer this big. It smelled more sour and alcoholic, but the taste is sweet toffee, chocolate, brown sugar, and molasses. There’s a big flavor of burnt marshmallows; not campfire smoke in the background, just pure caramelized sweetness. Drew brings up the point that we wouldn’t want more than one. We’re both having half a bottle and it’s going to take some time to get through the saccharine flavors of 4th D. It does get more of a burn as it warms up, but the flavor and aroma are almost two separate experiences. The aroma says wine, the flavor says burnt sugar.
I’m not going to pretend to be a Old Ale connoisseur, but this is by far the best Old Ale I’ve ever had. This title used to belong to Founder’s Curmudgeon ale, but 4th D ousted it of it’s top spot. The sweetness and toffee like flavors . Drew is giving this an 93. He drink old ales often, so he’s basing this off of how excited he would be to have this again, and how else could he want to improve this beer. I’m going to give it a 97. I think this is great for the style. It has amazing flavors, but we both agree that the smell and the taste should harmonize better. The smell was so different from the taste that it threw both of us for a bit of a loop.
I can see where all the hype is coming from. Barrel Aged 4th D is just an incredible beer. I don’t think I’ve ever had something quite like it, and enjoy the sweetness and candy-like flavors it brings to the table. It was worth the wait in line at the Winter Solstice. If you’re in the area in December, make sure you get in that line and get yourself a 4th D. You’ll be blown away; we were.