Ales from the Cellar: Lagunitas Olde Gnarly Wine 2004

I have a few more beer reviews and previews queued up to publish, so let’s get on to it.

“Ales from the Cellar” is yet another line of reviews I’m starting up to cover beers that I have been aging for a year or more. Sometimes a lot more. I am taking a chance that this bottle might have gone over the hill long ago. So what I find when I open the bottle should in no way reflect on the brewer or how the beer should have tasted when drunk fresh.

The controversial National Lampoon cover that inspired my little profile picture.

The controversial National Lampoon cover that inspired my little profile picture.

This is also something I was supposed to have done some time ago. If you’ve followed my Facebook fan page, you’ve seen my profile picture of a menacing bottle opener held against this beer and the caption “500 Beeronaut like of Facebook, and I’ll KILL this dog.” Luckily this upset no one who might have remembered the reference to a controversial cover to the National Lampoon magazine. Well, I wanted to do something more special than I did for my 200th “like”, when I chugged a very old can of Budweiser. So I blew past 500 likes and even past 600; now 615 as this writing. So it’s time to keep that promise.

I set up my usual HD camera, and also put up the tablet to try Facebook Live, then immediately disappeared for 20 minutes to unload the dishwasher. And once I started talking the camera shut off a few minutes before I noticed. But I call my videos “One-Take Beer Review” for a reason. The real justification escapes me at this time, but here at last is the result.

Enough exposition! Here’s a bomber of Lagunitas annual Barley Wine release that I got in 2004, and managed to keep safely stashed in my beer cellar ever since! So let’s get to know the Olde Gnarly Wine, Class of 2004.

Right up front, I’m saying there is not a lot of complexity to this beer. No marvelous new or unusual blends of hop and malt. But instead, I have a 12 year old vintage ale that has made it through two moves, flooding, summer temperatures and winter condensation, and this is still splendid. The initial pour, which the camera did not capture, presented a tan fizzy head over a deep garnet body. The smell was an easy note of sherry with some toasty malts in the background. The taste brings in the same impressions, only more pronounced, and a bit fizzy on the tongue. With a cellared beer, I’d be concerened about phenol from aged malts, but there’s none of this here. Just some strong caramel malts in a still fizzy beer. Should be overly sweet, but there is still some hop bitterness to keep that in check. It has aged splendidly, and I recall this was pretty reasonably priced at the time. Another one to build a nice vertical for.

Although I have been sent many free Lagunitas beers for my comment, this one, of course, is something I bought for myself. The glass I used is another matter.

For this and the next few articles, I’m testing out the “Veritas” beer glass from Riedel, a German maker of high-end glassware. Usually its their Spiegelau subsidiary which makes beer glasses n all styles. The Riedel Vertias, meantime, is a series of stemmed glasses designed for almost 20 different wine varietals. The sample they have sent me is the first beer glass in the series.

RiedelGlassIt is a very interesting glass. Very light and thin crystal, yet allegedly very durable. I was not willing to test out that claim. Its tulip shape suggests beers with distinctive noses, like hoppy IPAs, Belgians and fruit beers. While the opening is just large enough for me to get my nose in, it is deep enough to hold just under a pint of beer. If you don’t swirl it. The short stem is not typical, and would seem to show off that its crystal better resists transferring heat from your hand to the beer. I think it was indeed useful in bringing out the malty and sherry notes of my aged barley wine. Of course this kind of flash comes dear, at $69 for 2.

I’ve written up some beer beer review notes lately, and will get them posted as my lethargy allows.

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    Mark McDermott

    Writer, trivia maven, fan of many things. I thought to learn all there is to know about beer as a way to stay interested in learning. It is my pleasure to bring Chicago's craft beer scene to you.

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