Since 2011, Founders Brewing Company has been releasing 750ml bottles of some super limited and highly sought after brews under the Backstage Series label a few times a year. So far, only two beers — Blushing Monk and Mango Magnifico — have made an encore appearance, but the series continues to cover a range of styles and flavors. This year’s second release is Lizard of Koz: A bourbon barrel-aged Imperial Stout that’s brewed with blueberries, chocolate and vanilla. If you’re thinking that sounds like liquid dessert, I completely agree based on description alone.
Lizard of Koz is pitch black when it hits the glass with a thick mocha-colored head that takes several minutes to recede. It never fully disappears, instead leaving a decent bubbly ring around the edge of the glass. In the nose, all three of the aforementioned added ingredients are present, though the aromas of chocolate and vanilla dominate. I get a hint of blueberry fruitiness as well, but it’s a lot more subtle than the other two.
The first sip of Koz is loaded with blueberry sweetness and some oaky heat from the barrel-aging process. I was worried that this beer would be overly sweet, and while I’ve heard others make the comment, I don’t think that’s the case. Sure, Lizard of Koz is plenty sweet, but it’s best enjoyed in small amounts. I’d say if you can split a bottle four ways that would be a good place to start. I can see why people wouldn’t care for the sweetness if they tried to sip through a full 10- or 12-ounce pour.
As the beer warms up, flavors of fresh blueberries continue to dominate, but I get a smidge more vanilla than I did at first. A hint of bourbon remains, although it’s a little more subdued. I never really taste chocolate, but that might not be a bad thing as there’s plenty going on here already. This actually reminds me of a sweeter version of Olde Hickory’s Lindley Park — another barrel-aged Imperial Stout that doesn’t have the chocolate and vanilla additions and uses raspberries instead of blueberries. Let’s call those two distant cousins.
After a few ounces of Koz, my initial suspicion was correct: This is a great option for a dessert beer. There’s a ton of sweetness in the brew already, so I wouldn’t recommend pairing it with cake, pie or another sugary treat. A creamy goat cheese or something similar might be a better food pairing here. If you have to go for something sweet, plain cheesecake could be a solid choice. Of course, Lizard of Koz has the fruit, chocolate and vanilla you would normally get in a dessert item, so pouring yourself a glass and skipping the baked goods entirely would still provide a satisfying after-dinner treat.
Brewery: Founders Brewing Company
City: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Style: Stout – American Imperial / Double
Availability: Limited across Founder’s distribution footprint in 750ml bottles
Billy is the host of The Brewcast, a beer podcast that never records on a regular schedule. You can follow his drinking habit @beardbrews on Twitter.