an excellent Old Ale and age it in bourbon barrel and you’re probably
going to end up with something great. That’s the premise of North Coast
Old Stock 2013 Cellar Reserve, and the result is a delectable, sweet
beastly brew that’s remarkably drinkable. My only complaint is that it’s
merely excellent rather than world class.
I poured a 500ml corked and cage bottle into a flared snifter (thanks to Patrick at the brewery for the bottle!).
Appearance: A hazy shade of murky burgundy to brown proper. Completely
opaque. Pours to a small, off-white, soapy head which fizzles away
quickly and completely.
Smell: Lovely scent of dark fruit, chocolate and bourbon though not especially pungent.
Taste: There’s a lot going on in this beer and it’s all pretty tasty to
say the least. The base brew has a sweet, authentic palette of dark and
dried fruits: plum, raisin, fig, cherry, dates, etc. But that’s after
the light milk chocolate sensation which opens each swig. On the finish
the bourbon barrel appears to impart an earthy woody character, some
vanilla and a hint of smoke. Alcohol grows stronger on each sip and
becomes ever so slightly distracting. There’s an aftertaste of fruit and
dark malt, though it’s only temporary. Hops have nearly completely
receded – only the faintest bitterness is detectable. Overall, it’s what
I would consider a great-tasting brew.
Drinkability: At 14.1% ABV, North Coast Old Stock 2013 Cellar Reserve is
a big beer by anyone’s definition. Yet, it’s not quite the behemoth I
was expecting. Yes, there’s considerable warmth from the alcohol, but
never is it out of control. The mouthfeel is not quite carbonated syrup;
in fact, it’s a little lighter than I was expecting. As sweet as the
palette is, it doesn’t leave a sticky, cloying sensation (perhaps it
should?). I was able to drink the entire bottle myself on a hot summer’s
night (for whatever that’s worth).