Old Stock Ale by North Coast Brewing is one of life’s great pleasures. I know, I know, BEER is one of life’s great pleasures, but among those pleasures, Old Stock Ale ought to be placed on a high pedestal and enjoyed slowly and thoroughly. But the Cellar Reserve variety? Well, it truly ought to be on a pedestal on top of a pedestal. Why does it deserve this precarious perch? Read on, my ale-loving reader…read on…
Old Stock Ale in and of itself is a robust, malty, and flavorful beer. The high-gravity makes for a viscous mouthfeel, while the caramelized malts provide flavors and aromas such as vanilla, butterscotch, toffee, and overall, the ale possesses a buttery richness that is tough to beat. A really awesome dimension of such high-gravity beers is the ability to age them. In 2006, I purchased a 4-pack of Old Stock Ale, and forgot about a bottle…for 5 years. Earlier this year, the Deacon and I took it out of the cellar and tasted it against a 2011 Old Stock. The results were awesome. The 2011 was hot; the alcohol burn far more pronounced. The toffee, vanilla flavors were there, but they were overpowered by the burn. It’s a big beer, a warming beer. The 2006, on the other hand, was rich, the harshness of the alcohol rounded off and mellowed. The toffee notes were far more pronounced, as was the vanilla. It was still warming, and it was even more fantastic than the 2011, which is a tall order. If simple aging in the bottle will produce such an amazing effect, what would aging in bourbon barrels do?
In 2009, the wonderful folks at North Coast Brewing Co. in Fort Bragg, CA decided to put some of their premium ale into bourbon barrels and see what would happen after a couple years. What ended up happening nearly ripped holes in the fabric of the space-time continuum with blazing bolts of awesome.
Appearance: The beer pours a dark and a rich amber color, from what I could see in the light of the room. The head was off-white and billowy. It didn’t stick around for very long, but it did its job in releasing the fantastic aroma of this really stellar beer.
Aroma: WOW! Like WOW! I’ve had aromatic beers, but never have I had a beer that so perfectly advertised its flavors in the In the nose are butterscotch, toffee, vanilla, hints of cognac and bourbon. And all of these aromas are BIG, BIG, BIIIIG! It’s not subdued in any way. There were several non-beer drinkers when we decanted and they all said the same thing. WOW! They picked out several of the aromas. These notes are not subdued. It’s a big beer and makes no apology for it.
Mouthfeel: As was commented on many times, this bad boy is viscous. The ale rolls slowly across the tongue, lingering richness and buttery goodness in its wake.
Flavor: YES! This is everything a beer can be. Even those who dislike ale on a regular basis were able to appreciate various flavors. One of our number really got a lot of toffee. I picked up on quite a bit of vanilla, while another of us was pondering a flavor that reminded him of a liquor he’d had. (It was cognac.) Also present are an alcohol burn, and the entire flavor profile lingers wonderfully.
Overall: This beer is not cheap. I paid $21.99 for a 500ml caged and corked bottle. This is one of those beers that really is worth it. It’s not something you’d want to have on a daily basis. I’d be afraid it would ruin me for all other quality ales. However, the special gathering we had last night was the perfect opportunity to enjoy this amazing craft beer. If you can find it somewhere near you, pick up 2. It’ll set you back quite a bit, but once you have it, you’ll want to know that you can have it again sometime. Lay it back…save it for that perfect gathering. After enjoying this beer, a fantastic steak supper, and some great conversation, we gathered in the great room to sing some christmas carols, the memory of this fine beer still tingling my tongue. It’s a memorable experience, and I hope you get the chance to share it with your loved ones this Christmas season.
Merry Christmas, my friends!