We’re fortunate enough to have author Patrick Dawson as an advisor and sounding board, and he assured us that, while the fullest flavor evolution in most vintage beers requires a year or more, certain beers will change enough over the course of a few months to make aging them a fun and manageable endeavor.
So, we started a Vintage Beer Club!
Patrick recommended we try American barley wines and imperial stouts. According to Vintage Beer, the quantity and type of hops in both (and the maltiness of the imperial stout) make them ideal for the relatively quick results we were looking for. From his list of suggestions, we located Sierra Nevada’s Big Foot Ale (an American barley wine) and two imperial stouts — Brooklyn Brewery Black Chocolate Stout and Founders Breakfast Stout.
Here are some notes from our inaugural tasting:
Sierra Nevada Big Foot Ale
Appearance: Honey/Amber color with a cream-colored head that lingered and clung to sides of glass
Aroma: All of us noted elements of pine (Alee smelled juniper, specifically) and citrus; crisp and clean.
Taste: Overwhelming comparisons to a very hoppy IPA, with a bitter, resin taste and a slightly sweet aftertaste
Overall: Alee called it “refreshing!” while Sarah noted that it gave her flashbacks to RenFair days. IPA fans rejoice; IPA detractors are unmoved.
Brooklyn Brewery Dark Chocolate Stout
Appearance: Dark brown molasses-like color with light cream-colored, quickly dissipating head
Aroma: Most of us remarked on the coffee aroma, which wasn’t necessarily pleasant (more than one called it “burnt”). Alee and Zan both noted a sweetness in the scent, comparing it to molasses and chocolate.
Taste: Mild carbonation, and almost all of us remarked on a burnt, bitter flavor. Several of us tasted elements of red wine (tannins or tobacco). We all experienced a strange, sour aftertaste. I felt like it left a coating in my mouth. Matt noted that he didn’t taste much chocolate.
Overall: Alee was ready to pair this one with a brisket or something rich and heavy. I definitely wanted to pair it with something, to rid my mouth of the coated feeling and the bitter aftertaste.
Founders Breakfast Stout
Appearance: This beer had the dark reddish-black of a black cup of coffee and a creamy head.
Aroma: Coffee and chocolate were both present with several café mocha comparisons. It was hard for me to get past my dishwasher-scented pint glass, but I might have detected a hint of caramel.
Taste: Founders Breakfast Stout was divisive. Sarah and Matt both noted a burnt quality (must be those well-roasted malts!), where both Alee and I thought it was well balanced between sweet and bitter, chocolate and coffee. Matt was the only one of us to taste fruit, a hint of cherry that he found medicinal (his notes say simply “Tastes like Robitussin®”).
Overall: I thought it was creamier and less sweet than the Brooklyn. Alee and I both deemed this one our favorite of the tasting while others (as evidenced by Zan’s “yuck”) were less impressed.
Our next tasting happens at the end of April, and we can’t wait to see what’s changed.
Want to join in? If you’re ready to try aging beer for yourself, follow along with us! You can duplicate our beer list or find those beers you prefer to age. Use our adapted score sheet, or the more complex original, to keep track of your own observations, and share them with us! We’d love to hear your experiences.