Monday, November 24, 2008

North Coast Old Stock Ale review

North Coast Old Stock AleThere's something about big beers that seem to draw me to them. The last few years in craft beer have seen more and more big brews being made and more beer drinkers becoming fans. Today's beer is another from the North Coast Brewing Company in California and is labeled with a vintage year (2008) and is called Old Stock Ale.

I've heard from other beer bloggers that Old Stock Ale is one of the best beers you can buy to age in your beer cellar. Seeing how this ale is measured at 12.5% ABV and 36 IBU you just have to believe it will hold up to the test of time. These beers aren't cheap though. They come in a 4-pack and cost even more than a decent craft brew 6-pack.

This brew is classified either as an Old Ale or as a Barleywine, depending on your point of view. North Coast uses Maris Otter malt and bitters with Fuggles and East Kent Goldings hops - all from England. This brew seems to win medals each year since it was first tapped in 2000. But how would a brand new bottle taste before aging? I needed to find out.

Old Stock Ale pours a deep Mahogany red in color. When served ice cold this beer will pour with a small off-white head. There was a nice hiss when opened and it had a low but adequate amount of carbonation.

The aroma even smells aged already, almost like a bourbon whiskey. Strong nose of caramel malts and dark fruits (raisin or figs). The taste is hugely malty and semi-sweet as well as bitter. The alcohol is very present here with a spicy hop bit that lingers well after it's gone. The brew is very warming as it goes down.

At first taste it reminded me of something medicinal, but that was probably due to the high alcohol content. I can see why they suggest aging this beer. It needs to mellow a bit, both in the alcohol and the hop spice. You have to respect this beer and drink it slowly. It reminds me of a Scottish Strong Ale.

This beer will grab you right up front. Just one of these beers is all you're going to need that night as it's as potent as 3 regular session beers put together. Being this strong it's also a bit hard to judge. I can't help but feel that this beer MUST be aged in order to truly mature. While the beer is OK by itself now, it will surely improve over time.

I'm a bit mixed about this beer right now. While I was easily able to finish this beer I was hoping it will mellow in a year. The more I drank it, the better it got. I'll give this beer a slight Thumbs Up for now and putting the rest of the 4-pack away for at least a year to age. I'll mark my calendar for next October 2009 to open this up again.

Related articles:
- North Coast Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout review.
- North Coast Red Seal Ale review.
- Beer Cellar Aging - a short experiment.
- 2010 Big Beers & Barleywines Festival plans announced.

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