Tag Archives: Cellaring/Aging

Some Aged Beers

I’ve had some aged beers recently and thought I might write a little about them. I will add that my beer closet is the perfect temperature. I put a thermometer in there and the temperature is always between 46 and 53. I couldn’t ask for a better place to keep beer. I just hope it doesn’t get much higher than 60 in the summer, though I don’t expect it to except on really hot days.

Tonight, I had Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout from Bluegrass Brewing. I happened upon these at Coastal Wine& Spirits in Branford, CT. I picked up a 4 pack because it sounded good, and was a 2006 bottling. With almost 3 years on the bottle, I have to say it was pretty good. It wasn’t mind-blowingly awesome, but it was good. I’m not a big fan of hot bourbon flavor in my beer, this had just enough. I think it was the stout part of it that didn’t do much for me. Regardless, it was worth buying the 4 pack. I gave 1 away as a gift and I’ve got 2 more. They’re tasty, but nothing special.

I have also recently had a Great Divide Hibernation Ale from last winter. It aged nicely, but seemed a bit lacking. I don’t know if they just need more age, but it had a bit more flavor fresh. I’ve got a couple more in the cellar. I’ll have to try another and decide if I really like it or not.

I also got to try the most recent Sam Adams Utopias, from 2007 I believe. This is one amazing beer. It’s different and nothing like a beer, but it’s still a beer. Lots of fruit flavors, like cherry, some maple, a little burn from the alcohol (no surprise, at 25%). Each sip had something different going on. Next time they release this, I’m picking up a bottle.

Victory Storm King Stout at 1 Year

Last night I pulled up a can of Oskar Blues Ten Fidy that I had been holding since last year and a bottle of Victory Storm King Stout that I had been holding for a year.  I decided to try the Storm King.  This beer is normally a very hoppy, “in your face” Russian Imperial Stout.  I figured I’d age it and watch the hops mellow out a bit and bring some of the malt flavors forward.  That’s exactly what happened.  The beer is now much smoother, though not silky smooth.  It has more of a roasted malt flavor with some chocolate notes and a slight hint of coffee.  It’s also a lot easier to drink without the huge bitterness from the hops in addition to the huge flavors from the malts.

I’ve got three more bottles of this in my cellar.  I think I might save them for the next three years and see what happens.  There are plenty of RIS’s out there that don’t need aging that I can get by without this one.  I do think I’ll buy more soon, though, and let it sit in my cellar for a while.  The Ten Fidy will be another night this weekend.

Southampton 10th Anniversary Old Ale

Last night, I decided to pop open my bottle of Southampton’s 10th Anniversary Old Ale.  This was brewed in 2006 to, obviously, celebrate their 10th anniversary.  The beer was aged some when I bought it, and then it has aged in my cellar the rest of the time.  It’s 2 years old now.

The beer pours a nice brown with hints of red.  It’s a little more carbonated than most old ales, but not overly so.  There was very little head in the pour.  It smells of dark fruits, some sweet malts, some caramel, and a hint of toffee.  The flavor was much the same.  There was a slight hint of alcohol, a nice fruity sweetness mixed with caramel.  The flavor was nice and smooth.  Unfortunately, the carbonation took a little from the overall enjoyment, but the beer itself was still really tasty.  The body was slightly lacking, though it was a nice medium bodied beer.  If I could still find it, I’d probably buy more.  This was a tasty beer.

Unfortunately, I never got to try this one fresh, but it was still worth trying.  I can’t tell how much longer it has, but it could probably last another year or so to let some of that carbonation fizz out and the rest of the alcohol mellow.  However, it’s drinking pretty nice right now.

Brief Thoughts on Some Beers

Alright, this is going to be quite the post.  I haven’t been writing about every beer I’ve been drinking lately.  In part, it’s because I was sick last week, preventing me from drinking some of the more “special” beers I have here.  It’s also been because I’ve been lazy.  Work has been busier than it had been because of the beginning of the semester and hiring new staff and all that goes along with Septembers for me.  So I’m going to write a few lines about most of the beers I’ve had recently.  This is in no particular order.  I’m just writing.

I’ll start off with tonight because it’s fresh in my mind.  I’m currently drinking an Anchor Old Foghorn Barleywine Style Ale.  This one was bottled in January.  That means it’s about 10 months old.  This is the reason I clicked the “cellaring” category.  I opened this one because I needed a nice little nightcap.  At 9.4%, it fits that bill just right.  The beer is sweet and malty.  It’s got a seriously strong fruitiness to it, which is really nice.  It’s not like drinking a fruity beer, it’s just a fruity maltiness.  It’s perfect.  It’s got just enough hops in it to give it some balance.  Unfortunately, I have never had this beer fresh.  For whatever reason, I can’t get it in RI.  I picked this up at Julio’s over the summer.  Get it if you see it.  It’s awesome.

I also had Stone Coast (RIP) Jamaica Style Stout tonight.  Susan and I tried to split it, but she wasn’t crazy about it.  I thought it was fantastic.  This one has probably also been aged, though in the store, not my cellar.  Stone Coast Brewing closed on August 1.  I bought this, along with some others, while I could still find it.  It has a very roasty flavor to it.  It’s got a nice medium-full body.  It’s a very drinkable stout.  If you can still find it, get some.  It’s good.

How about some Double IPA’s next?  I’ll continue with Stone Coast.  If you can find some 840 IIPA, get it while it lasts.  This is a great double IPA (their regular IPA is 420 IPA, also excellent).  It’s quite different for a double IPA in that it’s got a strong caramel malt presence.  This doesn’t ruin the beer, however.  It actually enhances it a bit.  It’s not overly hoppy like a west coast IPA, but it’s definitely got a good bit to it.  It is actually not a double of the 420, which tastes almost like a west coast IPA.  They also made a 1260, which I was lucky to be given a bottle.  I’m kind of saving that one.

Rogue Imperial IPA is also a good one if you can get past the cost of the ceramic bottle.  At $15 for the bottle, it’s a bit pricey, and honestly, not worth the price.  However, it’s a great double IPA.  The beer is nice and hoppy, but has a great malt backbone to it.  You might be best trying to find this on tap somewhere (Doherty’s East Ave in the Bucket had it on tap for a while).

The last, but certainly not least, of the recent double IPAs is Smuttynose Big A.  Holy crap!  This is probably the single best double IPA I have had.  I enjoyed this far better than Ruination, Hercules, and even YuleSmith (though I haven’t had the summer YuleSmith, meaning I haven’t had a fresh YuleSmith).  This one has all the hops the west coast DIPAs wish they had, and it came from 2 states north of here.  This one is a must have, though it sells out fast when they do release it.

Being October, I have had a bunch of Oktoberfests, Harvest Ales, and Pumpkin Ales lately.  I’ll mention some of those.  Nikki’s just did 3 weeks of Oktoberfests and Pumpkin Ales.  Here’s the best of those, some of which I bought.  I’ll start with Pumpkin Ales because I tend not to like them.  The only one at the Nikki’s tasting I really liked was Wolaver’s Will Stevens’ Pumpkin Ale, which seems to be sold out now.  It wasn’t overly spiced and had a nice hops flavor to it.  It was just right.  The best Pumpkin Ale I have ever had was Schlafly from St. Louis.  Susan was nice enough to bring back a bunch of beer for me from her trip out there.  Schlafly Pumpkin Ale is the single best Pumpkin Ale I have ever had.  It was all around perfect.

Now, the Oktoberfests… The best is still Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen.  This beer is a perfect German Oktoberfest.  Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr also have great Oktoberfests that are actually German.  I don’t even know how to describe the flavor.  It’s crisp, clean, and flavorful.  Of the Americans, the best I’ve had are Brooklyn Oktoberfest, Clipper City Marz-Hon, and Wachusett Octoberfest.  They’re all similar in style, though the order I listed is the order of my preference.

Of the autumn/harvest ales, my favorite is Gritty’s Halloween Ale.  It’s an ESB and absolutely fantastic (go figure, their Best Bitter is also awesome).  It’s got that perfect flavor for the fall weather.  It just goes with the fall foliage for some reason.  Long Trail Harvest Ale is another good one.  This is a nice brown ale.  It’s easy drinking and has a good flavor to it.  It’s supposedly made from all Vermont ingredients, though I don’t know if they actually got the hops from up there.  Finally, there’s the Woodstock Inn Autumn Brew.  This one is brewed with cinnamon and nutmeg.  I don’t normally like beers with a lot of cinnamon in them (like Harpoon’s Winter Warmer).  However, this one is actually quite tasty for a beer with those spices.  It’s also worth a try.

And now some one off’s.  Continuing with the Schlafly thing, Susan was nice enough to get me 2 bottles of their Dry Hopped American Pale Ale.  This one is fantastic.  The dry hopping gave it a nice floral aroma.  It has a nice floral hop flavor to it as well and then goes into the pine and grapefruit flavors as it warms up a bit.  It’s a fantastic APA.

I decided to open my bottle of Russian River Damnation while watching and helping some friends brew an ESB.  I’m not normally a big Belgian Golden Ale fan.  However, this beer is probably my favorite of the bunch.  It’s absolutely perfect in my opinion.  It has a good amount of carbonation, but not too much.  It has a nice malt flavor with just the right amount of hops.  It’s sweet, dry, and crisp all at once.  I wish I could get their beers on this side of the country.

And finally, last but not least, probably the single most talked about new pale/amber ale on the market.  I got to try the Budweiser American Ale, and I have to say that I’m very impressed.  It’s nothing special, but it’s solid.  It’s a good pale/amber ale.  It has a nice body, which isn’t thin.  It has a good flavor of hops and malt.  And the best part it, it’s very accessible by people new to craft beer, while having a brand that’s familiar to them.  I think this will be the next gateway beer for many people.  I can see myself buying it for friends and family who prefer lighter beers.  I see myself giving it to people new to the craft beer scene.  I see myself drinking it when I want something cheap or if it’s the only thing a bar has (I drink other stuff if they don’t have any craft beer).

Thus concludes my recent beer thoughts.  I’ll try to keep up from now on, though you never know what might happen.  I apologize for the long post, but this had to get written.  I have even more that I didn’t write about.  If I added those, it would be about 3 times as long.

My New Cellar/Tasting Notes Spreadsheet

I decided to totally geek out today (both beer and computer) and made a spreadsheet (using Google Docs) of the beers currently in my cellar with a sheet that has past beers with some tasting notes.

You can view the spreadsheet here. It’s publicly available for viewing. Here’s a few notes on it. The bottled, best by, and purchased dates are all subject to my memory (in the case of purchased date, though they’re pretty accurate, at least to the month) and what’s written on the bottle. The drink before and drink after dates are all arbitrarily chosen by yours truly. In some cases the bottles only have a year. In others, they have a full date. For those that only give a year and a month, I assumed the first of the month (and in the case of the Moinette, it looks like it says 2.06 on the cork). Still others have some crazy code. BA score is the score on Beer Advocate (rAvg is what I used, easier to sort by that than their letter scores).

I’m open to comments on things I should add, subtract, change, etc. I’m also looking for anyone who knows the following:

  • La Trappe/Koningshoeven bottling/date stamp code.
  • Kasteel bottled on code (the one I have says 070712, took it to mean YYDDMM, because in Europe they put the day before the month).
  • Meaning of the hourglasses on the Russian River label.

Update: I added what I have in my fridge as well. Anything in my fridge is open season, preferably oldest first. I’ll be attempting to update the “Past” sheet as I drink beers (which will only be beers I drink at home). I’ll continue to write posts about each beer as well. Finally, I could also use the Kulmbacher bottle code if anyone knows that.

Great Divide Hibernation Ale

Last Thursday’s tasting at Nikki’s was a winter beer tasting.  I was excited to see that he had Great Divide’s Hibernation Ale.  Great Divide is one of my favorite breweries.  You just can’t go wrong with any of their beers.  Their website said this is a limited seasonal.  I was thinking it was super limited, but I am glad I was wrong.  Anyway, I picked up a 6 pack of this great beer after tasting it at the tasting and had one the next evening.  It’s an Old Ale, though it’s very reminiscent of a Scotch Ale.  The beer pours a dark brown/ruby color with a small tan head.  The smell is immediate smoke with a slight hint of some caramel.  The flavor goes the same way.  While I was hoping it was going to be better, at 8.1% ABV it should age for a year or so just fine (it even won an award for best aged beer in 2005 or 2006).  I am not saying this is a bad beer, but I’m hoping that in a year some of the smoke flavor will go away.  Aside from the up front smoky flavor, there was some caramel and a slight roasted flavor in there as well.  I’m hoping to get some fruitiness that is characteristic of Old Ales after aging it for a year.  I put 3 of them in my fridge (though there’s now only 2 after drinking that one) and I’m going to age the other 3 until at least next winter.  I’m hoping some of those other flavors come out.  There is a very slight alcoholic warming quality to it, but it’s not overpowering.  In fact, you can barely tell how strong it is until you finish the glass.  Having this after 9:30 at night knocked me out.  I have some high hopes for this one after a year, but even fresh, it’s still another solid offering from Great Divide.

Thomas Hooker Old Marley Barleywine

I decided to try Hooker’s Old Marley Barleywine tonight since we skipped the gym. The beer pours a dark copper/brown color with absolutely no head and no visible carbonation. Smells of alcohol and oaky/vanilla scents with a little bit of the normal fruitiness found in barleywines. Taste is more of that oak/vanilla with a hint of smoke. Unfortunately, this was nothing like a barleywine in my opinion. It lacked the strong fruity flavor and hops. Fortunately, it was a very smooth ale, though a slow drinker. It was more like a good strong ale with it’s fine sherry/cognac characteristics. I’d say it was drinkable, though I don’t know if I’d call it a barleywine. I liked it and would definitely drink more, but not when I’m expecting a barleywine.

The label says the beer was aged in oak bourbon casks for a month. It tastes like it spent 6 months in the oak casks. While I like a good oak aged beer, I think this whole thing is getting out of hand. This would probably have been an excellent barleywine had it skipped the oak barrels. If you like scotch, cognac, whiskey, or sherry, this would be a good beer for you. The 10% ABV was noticeable with a nice warming quality and a nice buzz after drinking 2/3 of the bottle.

I absolutely love the bottle. It’s a dark blue flip top 500 ml bottle. Very beautiful bottle, but the beer could have been better, considering it cost over $7.  Most of my issues with this are probably due to the aging of it.  Hops flavors tend to disappear after extended aging and this one is probably 1-2  years old as it said “Bottled in 2006” (I don’t know when they release this one).  I’m going to try to find a fresh bottle and try that one.  I’m hoping it’s better.

Seriously Bad Elf

Last week, when making my weekly beer run and tasting, I picked up a bottle of Ridgeway’s Seriously Bad Elf on sale for $1.99 (great reduction from the original $6.49).  I had it last night.  The beer is good.  It’s not like most stronger beers in that it’s got a lighter body (I’d call it medium body), but that doesn’t make it bad.  The beer pours a clear amber color, looks like a regular pale ale.  Smells of some malt sweetness, some hops, and some fruitiness as well.  Taste is similar.  It has more of a hops flavor while coolers mixed in with some malty sweetness (I’m thinking caramel malts).  The fruit flavors don’t come through until it warms up a bit.  The 9% ABV is not at all detectable in the taste.  It’s a very easy drinking English ale.

Because of the higher alcohol content, the cheap sale price, and my new interest in aging beers, I’m inquiring with the BA Cellaring group as to how well the beer would age.  If the consensus is good, I’m going to pick up another bottle to age for a year.

Ridgeway releases a bunch of beers in the winter.  They’re all some sort of Bad Elf and increase in alcohol content as they increase in “badness”.  There’s Bad Elf (6%), Very Bad Elf (7.5%), Seriously Bad Elf (9%), Criminally Bad Elf (10.5%), and Insanely Bad Elf (11.2%).  Next year, I’m going to try to get my hands on one of each of these and drink them in consecutive days and compare the differences (the Seriously Bad Elf is the only one that Nikki’s still has, though I suppose I should check out Yankee Spirits at some point).

New Forays with Beer (for me)

Recently, I decided that I would start aging beers.  After trying Newport Storm’s 06 a year later, I decided that some beers really benefit from aging.  While I don’t have an ideal cellar for proper cellaring, I am keeping them in my dark pantry at room temperature (the nice thing is that the pantry doesn’t have a baseboard heater).  I have a few beers that I will be aging.  I bought a 6 pack of Victory’s Storm King Stout for our little New Year’s get-together and I drank 2 of them and decided it needed some aging.  I put the other 4 away.  I’m going to try 1 or 2 of them in a year (depending on whether or not Susan will like it, she might have one for herself, as right now it’s too hoppy for her).  If I decide to drink them all, so be it.  Otherwise, I’ll save the other 2 for an additional year.

I also have 2 bottles of Stone’s Double Bastard.  I plan on drinking one and saving the other for a year or 2.  This beer is ready now and I like the way it tastes just fine, but I’m curious to see how it is aged.

The other beers I’m hanging onto at room temperature are JW Lees Harvest Ale (an English Barleywine aged in Lagavulin Scotch casks, vintage 2005), I’ll try this one whenever I feel like it; Allagash Interlude, I had this at a tasting and decided I would hang onto it for a year and see how it tastes; Koningshoeven Trappist Quadrupel, this one had already been aged for a year by the distributor, I’ll try it whenever for a nice special occasion; Southampton’s Old Ale, brewed for their 10 year anniversary in 2006, so it’s already aged a year, I’ll try it whenever; and finally, Left Hand’s Widdershin’s Barleywine, vintage 2007, I’ll have this whenever, though I might save it for a while.

As I get more into aging of beers, I’ll probably post about the beers individually as I store them and as I try them.  I’ll try to buy 2 of each that I plan on aging so I can post some tasting notes pre- and post-cellaring.  And once I have a house of my own, I’ll work on putting together a real storage area for cellaring.  The basement in the house I live in right now would be good for cellaring as it stays pretty cool year ’round, but I’m not the only person with access and I wouldn’t want anything happening to the stuff I put down there (plus it’s really kind of gross and nasty).

The other foray I’m getting myself into, as you may have read in the comments from a recent post, is homebrewing.  I received a Mr. Beer kit in a yankee swap last Christmas (2006).  I decided I will brew it this weekend and see how it comes out.  While it’s not the ideal way to make a true homebrew, it’s probably going to be a good start.  I should also be getting true homebrewing equipment from my manager as he no longer brews his own beer.  I’ll post about it more as I go through the process.