There comes a time in every manís life when he must do the unthinkable Ė clean something. I donít mean that weekly fondling session with your vintage sports car or prized pickup truck, either. I mean roll up your sleeves, dust away the cobwebs, and haul stuff away. In this case, it is beer. The cellar, which is just a bar fridge set to a light chill, was getting full. I keep a small spreadsheet to track the beers in there. I list when they were put in, when they were made, and when I was planning to take them out. The latter criterion generally was based on how long I thought the beers would improve, not some anal-retentive drive to schedule my beer consumption.
Iíve had a busy year so far, with very little down time, and so I hadnít really had much need to raid the cellar. This left me with several bottles that could be removed. Given that winter is coming and there will be a number of strong ales available that Iíd like to cellar a while, I figured anything that could go, should go. Most of these are B-list beers anyway, so I thought Iíd just have a couple a night for a few days.
The first victim was Piraat. Iíd acquired this by virtue of having to buy a pair of mixed-sixes a couple years ago, to meet me own needs (of trying three new beers) and the needs of others (I had to send some in a trade). So the duplicates were available to do with as I please. Not being a big fan of Van Steenberge, I decided to pop them in the cellar and see if Father Time could turn these into enjoyable products. My notes on the 2-year-old Piraat:
Orangey-amber liquid is so choked with thick yeast clumps that is it rendered opaque. The head is a thin white whisp. The aroma is strong - pineapple, passion fruit, guava and brandyish alcohol. On the palate, the alcohol is very upfront, hitting hard like Golden Glow w/o the nasty off-flavours. Beyond that are layers of peach, honey, nuts (the latter two giving it a baklava note); sweetness of still unfermented malt plays off the alcohol and esters in a triplex harmony that is bludgeoning and yet shows some gentle, nuanced character. Ap2, Ar7, F8, P4, O15 = 3.6
This is a significant step up from a fresh Piraat, and to me is getting into a pretty good range. Not something Iíd drink with frequency (ultra-strong beers would have to be rated higher to do that), but an enjoyably successful experiment.
The next one was Petrus Triple, again 2 years old, again from a gift pack Iíd purchases to facilitate a trade. This beer had changed. As expected, the hops really dropped out of this one, leaving a sweeter, more estery product behind. The overall quality of the beer was basically the same, but the accent was different.
Next up was Augustijn. I never did care for this beer, and aging it didnít help. There were all kinds of odd flavour and aroma notes that really didnít sit very well with me, as you can see from my notes:
Hazy copper-amber. Cheesy, woody, sourish aroma with port, figs and orange zest. The palate is plasticy still, with corn syrup, peach, perfume, dust, mildew...some dead yeast cells perhaps? Just maybe. In fact, this dead yeast thing really sends bizarre messages to my brain, like Karakalpak yurt felt. Iíve only been in one Karakalpak yurt and that was a display piece, not one that had been used, so why that jumped into my head Iíll never know. But thatís exactly the problem with this beer, whether fresh or with aging, itís just odd, and not in a good way. I donít want to drink a stiffly alcoholic yurt, you know what I mean? Vintage rating 2.4.
Next was Petrus Oud Bruin. Aging these sour Flemish browns is not generally known to help them, with the possible exception of something like Crombť Oud Kriek, and this was no exception. Observe:
Amber-burgundy colour is lovely. Fruity, woody aroma with grapes. Very wine-like. Effervescent body. The malts have fermented out a bit, but really this hasnít changed all that much. Sweet caramel, woody, plummy, cherryish notes abound, but little else. Just enough acidity to be quenching. Not bad, but doesnít appear to benefit from aging. Vintage rating: 3.2
The last of the Van Steenberge beers, Gulden Draak, proved too timid to interest me, even though there were some hints of interesting things. It also got very alcoholic as it warmed, and I ended up disposing of the bottom 50cl. I still can offer no explanation as to the popularity of this beer.
Then came Slottskšllans Kloster. I had originally thought Iíd cellared the God Jul, but alas it was the regular. Fair enough, as I prefer that version when fresh, but maybe the stronger one would age better? My notes:
Burgundy-brown, little head; rich maltiness; dark fruits, port, raisins. Sweet body with lots of rich fruits. Slightly thin with a hint of acidity in the back (good thing I got it out when I did!). Long apricot notes, cabernet, toffee. Alcohol sneaks in late. Ap 4, Ar 8, F 8, P 4, O 16.
So I still like that one a lot. Lastly, a beer which can really be sublime at times Ė Duvel. After 2 years, itís still extra foamy. The aroma showed me sour apples and stomach acidsÖI stopped right there. Alcohol led off the flavour, into a blank maltiness. There was a distinct lack of esters, hops. Hugely disappointing. I doubt Iíll bother aging a Duvel ever again.
And so there you have it, my cellar is cleaner (though thereís still one or two beers left to drink) and ready for this yearís new crop!