Founders Brewing Co. needs no introduction, and any number of accolades offered here wouldn’t sufficiently convey the market command they undoubtedly possess. It’s an industry leader and much of its product line is often and rightfully coveted. Despite their conglomerate proportioned reach, Founders Brewing maintains their philosophy of making beer that beer devotees want to drink.

As Founders says on its website:

We don’t brew beer for the masses. Instead, our beers are crafted for a chosen few, a small cadre of renegades and rebels who enjoy a beer that pushes the limits of what is commonly accepted as taste. In short, we make beer for people like us.

Founders’ beers are certainly enjoyable, from its year-round availabilities to their limited and nearly mythical white wales.

Founders Project PAM bottle

There are a few releases each year that are registered in the Backstage Series and many of them are highly sought after and thoroughly hyped. There is little to no detail concerning the inspiration and future production of some, which brings us to Project PAM, a black India pale ale distributed in limited numbers in November 2015. This black IPA is brewed with Amarillo, centennial, chinook, El Dorado, Mosaic and nugget hops. The grain bill for this dark elixir is a mixture of Crystal and Midnight malt. Then lastly, Project PAM is allowed to age in maple syrup bourbon barrels. Theoretical impressions of this brew lead my hop head down a complex and a palate evoking rabbit hole that takes many well liked characteristics and puts them in one bottle.

While pouring, the color is a fascinating transition from very dark brown to something well below the SRM scale. Project PAM absolutely showcases the midnight malt once settled into the glass. The head is surprisingly lean and a moderately aerated khaki color leaving only faint lacing as the beer drinks. Visually, the carbonation isn’t well perceived however this is solely due to the obsidian-like body. The aromas are quite complex and busy, ranging from sweet plum, molasses, vanilla extract, bourbon, char, and mild, disappointingly so, hops.

Founders Project PAM

The mouthfeel is a solid full body which is very thick but also crisp on the front end thanks to generous carbonation. Project PAM immediately coats the mouth like a milk chocolate candy right from grandpa’s coat pocket. This characteristic I believe is the largest influence yielded from the maple syrup bourbon barrel aging process. There is also a significant umami sensation on the taste buds that finishes with a notable bourbon heat. The taste is very much like the aromas previously noted but also comprising of rye and muted hops. Project PAM finishes chewy and heavy on the tongue and in the belly, and the carbonation that at first helps to disperse the beer does not linger long and soon becomes forgotten until the next sip.

Founders Project PAM
BREWERY: Founders Brewing Co.
LOCATION: Grand Rapids, Mich.
STYLE: Black IPA
ABV: 10.8 percent
IBU: 55
PRICE: $14.99
RELEASE DATE: Nov. 20, 2015
AVAILABLE IN: 750ml bottle
BEERS POURED: One
A blind taste test might result in a category change from black IPA to sweet stout. I feel that the hops are overshadowed by the tar likeness of Project PAM, which is a letdown for those seeking the biting humulus lupulus profile. Also the thick texture is not offset enough by the carbonation and potentially distinct notes of the supportive ingredients. Overall however, Project Pam is a satisfying and complex combination of roasted malt and dark fruit. The bourbon flavors are a nice addition to the main body and aid in managing the sweetness.
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