Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cellaring notes on North Coast Old Stock Ale 2008

North Coast Old Stock AleI've only recently started aging beers in my basement for a little over a year now. To be successful in cellaring beers I figure I would have to adopt a personal strategy or two. These old sayings came to mind when approaching cellaring beer:

"Good things come to those who wait."
"Out of site, out of mind."
"With age comes wisdom."
"We will serve no wine before it's time."

I've been storing 3 bottles of North Coast Old Stock Ale 2008 for about a year now. Back in November 2008 I had purchased a 4-pack of the Old Ale style brew and reviewed a bottle. At the time, the 4-pack had been sitting in the liquor store at least several months prior to my purchase. At the time I sampled the first beer in the 4-pack it had probably been in the bottle for perhaps up to 6 months.

After my initial sampling, I decided that this beer needed more time before it would be just right. Old Stock Ale 2008 weighs in at 12.5% ABV and is a prime candidate for aging. I put 3 bottles into a box and placed it in a dark corner of my basement. This part of the basement has a bare cement floor and the area stays a constant 64 degrees throughout most of the year. While not an optimal temperature, it was at least in the dark and at a constant temperature for the last 11 months.

North Coast Old Stock AleNow that Fall has arrived plus the fact I had promised to revisit this beer again this month, I decided that now was the right time to open up one of the 3 bottles of the 2008 brew to see how time had changed this beer. I chilled down the beer for about an hour and opened it up to enjoy while watching football on TV.

North Coast Old Stock Ale poured a dark crimson color. It appeared dark in the glass but when held up to the light showed some nice ruby red edges. The brew poured with a small 1-finger tall light tan head. It's appearance hadn't changed noticably in a year. At least it still had some carbonation in it.

I chose to once again sample this beer in a big wide chalice type of glass. This would allow the beer to breathe and for the aromas to come out fully. This time around I got a big sweet caramel malt aroma. It was very rich with a hint of alcohol, vanilla and dark fruit. The sweetness in the malts dominated here a bit more than I remembered it. The alcohol whiff had subsided a bit after a year.

Last time I reviewed this beer, I complained that it's initial taste was a bit medicinal and had reminded me of cough syrup. The first couple of tastes this time around had a slight hint of that old taste but was now much more malty in character.

After a few sips had gone by and my palate had adjusted to it, I really began to enjoy this beer. It gave me a slight warming sensation. The spiciness of the brew had mellowed a bit and seemed noticeably smoother in taste. I was enjoying this beer more than I did the last time for sure.

I made sure that I had my notes from last year next to me while drinking this beer. I tried to see if I could taste the same things I had last year but left an open mind to see if I could pick up on anything new. I made sure to taste it first and wrote down some initial thoughts before reviewing my old notes however. I didn't want my old notes to skew my thoughts initially.

Old Stock Ale 2008 had just 38 IBUs but it seems to have become less than that over the last year. Hops tend to mellow out with time and this sampling confirmed that for me.

I got the feeling that this beer could be aged even more to get this to perfection. There are 2 more bottles remaining that I will keep in the cellar for another 1 to 2 years. I'll revisit this beer again next Fall to see how it tastes after 2 years.

Overall, I must say that this is a much better brew after a year. I wasn't overly impressed last year with it. Boy am I glad I took someones advice to age this beer. After attending the Denver Rare Beer Tasting a week or so ago I feel that aged beers will always be a special treat. I will definitely apply this to other big beers that I purchase, in particular my darker and bigger ABV beers.

If you have a beer that's over 8.0% ABV and have the patience to put it away for a year or so - DO IT! It will be well worth it down the road.

Original tasting notes on Old Stock Ale 2008.

Related articles:
- Cellaring notes on Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout.
- Cellaring notes on Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout.
- Odell Woodcut No 1 aged an extra year.
- Beer cellar aging - a short experiment.
- Nick's 10-hour birthday party and beer tasting.

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