Sometimes when we lay our hands on a new beer for review, it sits around for a while before we get to it. Other times, it’s a big chocolate raspberry stout from Founders, and we start making plans to drink it on the day it arrives.
Big Lushious is the newest entry in Founders’ Backstage Series, their line of special release beers in 750 ml bottles. It’s a stout teetering right around the “imperial” boundary at 7.8% ABV, described by Founders as a “sumptuous, extravagant dessert beer” brewed with “all-natural dark chocolate and a kiss of tart raspberries.” It’s a description that hits the nail pretty much right on the head, especially when it comes to “sumptuous and extravagant.” It’s a beer targeted toward a specific demographic who will absolutely adore it; while others may find it a little overly twee.
The aroma is nothing short of incredible. The richness of the chocolate and tart acidity of the raspberries make for an incredible bouquet, something I could imagine as a perfume. The raspberry comes across in a very interesting way, not in the super bright “raspberry candy” sort of character we tasted in say, the New Belgium Frambozen in our Christmas tasting, but rather like a dark, tart raspberry reduction or raspberry sauce you would pour over vanilla bean ice cream. It smells like one of those 70% cacao dark chocolate bars you see in the “health food” aisle that has dried raspberry bits running through it—intoxicating and distinct.
The flavor is where things start to get really intense. The tart raspberry is there, and so is the cocoa, but there’s also loads of sugar. It has a very silky, creamy mouthfeel without feeling heavy of body—it actually feels a bit more thin than you would expect. The flavor (if not the mouthfeel) is ultimately like a fresh raspberry milkshake with dark chocolate syrup.
Without a doubt, there are people who read that last sentence and concluded “Holy cow, this sounds like the beer for me,” and if that’s your taste, then you’re absolutely correct. Founders calls this a dessert beer, and that’s what it is: A dessert. Sweet beer fans will love it.
With that said, I personally wish a few things could have been reined in and switched around. Another ABV point or two may have gone a long way toward making the beer feel a little burlier, although a corresponding (slight) reduction in the sugar might be necessary for that as well. A few small tweaks might be something that could push this release to the next level, giving it the kind of love we reserve for say, Founders Breakfast Stout, which will ever be one of the platonic ideals.
But if you love raspberry, and you love chocolate…seek this one out. Immediately. And pay what it costs, because you will not be disappointed.
Brewery: Founders Brewing Co.
City: Grand Rapids, Mich.
Style: Chocolate raspberry stout
Availability: Limited, 750 ml bottles