The New Year is here, and since we declared 2014 the “year we break into our cellar,” it’s time to start digging around to see what we have. In the coming weeks and months, we’re going to deliver more of the great, good, and “we should have opened that sooner” beers (aka lessons) from deep within our cellar.
Let’s get started:
Sierra Nevada Celebration 2012
Yes, we know it’s insane to age a fresh-hop beer (especially if you value the taste of fresh hops) but we couldn’t resist. We’ve had this bottle since winter of 2012 and, shockingly, it’s actually fared quite well. The beer’s original hop-forward aroma has mellowed, leaving behind a little trace of juicy orange that’s sweetened up by a touch of caramel. The mouthfeel? Really smooth. The beer’s big bitterness has vanished, giving way to rounded caramel-and-bready malts laced with touches of orange and grass. True, there seems to be something missing here (a big, bright hop punch), but it’s still easy drinking and quite pleasant.
Recommendation: Age a current version for no more than a year—if you’re someone who likes to have fun with beer—but drink the rest of your stash fresh, like intended.
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 2009
Sierra Nevada’s other winter seasonal, the annual favorite Bigfoot, is an American barleywine that clocks in at 9.6%-ABV. It’s a trusty candidate for aging (this particular beer was bottled on 1/16/09). Surprisingly, there’s still some boozy spice in the aroma, but wafts of dark fruits (some figs and raisins) complement the heat. An ultra-creamy mouthfeel carries hints of sweet cherry, figs and caramel; a little toast adds depth to the swallow. Just a faint hint of cardboard comes out in the finish, signaling this vintage might be on the decline, but it’s otherwise a delicious barleywine that’s aged gracefully. Assertive, drying alcohol wraps up this smooth, fruity sipper.
Recommendation: Since some undesirable off-flavors are just starting to appear, we wouldn’t recommend aging this more than the five-year sleep our vintage took.
Have a different experience with your vintages? Tell us in the comments.