I've been pondering these words a while. I see 'Drink Fresh' spouted a lot, almost to obsession for some - and whilst I get that hop forward beers such as a belting IPA being well suited to this philosophy, I also see a lot of misunderstanding on the subject. My understanding of cellaring is certainly very limited. This will hopefully develop in time for me but the bit of cellaring I've done has raised the odd issue and plenty of internal anguish! Which beers should I be cellaring? I have a rudimentary idea. But, the biggest quandary....when the hell should I open this beer or that beer?!? Do I now buy two bottles of a beer I might want to save for a later date, a special occasion or just because I think I should?
I have a few bottles stashed away but why am I doing this. How long should I hibernate the Cloudwater Gyle 123 Imperial Stout for? Thoughts Cloudwater? When should I open the 2009 Goose Island Bourbon County? Goose Island? When should I open the four year old bottle of Orval? Oh - I have. Alongside a more recent incarnation.
Recent Orval Vs early 2013 Orval
The pour - firstly, I lost a bit of the vintage as it was a little lively but other than that they poured similarly with high levels of carbonation - a large airy head present in both glasses. The colour was virtually identical, despite the appearance of the photographs but the vintage was a little more hazy.
The sniff - there was an immediately noticeable difference in aroma. The recent brew had the subtle yet funky aroma that I am familiar with whereas the vintage was far less subtle, much more fruity with a dank lingering nose.
Once I started to taste the two versions I immediately became aware of the challenge I had set myself. Unpicking the some subtle and some not so subtle differences between the two beers was far more complex than I had anticipated and made me question what I was expecting to get from the experience. The vintage was less fruity and less floral. It had less zing and bite. But it had significantly more body and an incredible mouthfeel. Drinking even a small amount of the vintage was a soft and full(ish) experience. The smooth soapy texture allowed the vintage to glide through the mouth and down the throat. In contrast to the aroma, the drinking experience of the vintage was far more subtle and rounded.
My initial experience of drinking the more recent version was more pleasurable. The vintage was preferable the further down the glass. Reading back this experience it appears that the vintage was the better of the two but I'm not so sure. I think I enjoyed drinking the vintage more but a lasting thought stays with me. It had lost something. Something in the flavour that came from all the apparent positives. I'm glad I had the opportunity to do this comparison but how would I have felt had I put the years in with the vintage rather than it being gifted my way a few months ago – underwhelmed perhaps? But it was such a well rounded interpretation of the beer!
I don’t feel as though I am any further on with this perpetual dilemma and I’m not entirely sure this will make any more sense to the reader than it does to the writer. It seems I have much to learn on the matter until I reach the heights of those that just seem to know.
Roll on 2019 for the Bourbon County eh........