From a great article by Alastair Bland in Smithsonian:
“In a dark cellar at North Coast Brewing Company, the beer bottles endured the slow crawl of time. Years plodded by, the Chinook salmon industry crashed, whales migrated past going north, then south, then north again, and one American president replaced the next—until finally, on a recent afternoon in August, five aged bottles of Old Stock Ale saw daylight. I was lucky enough to be there, along with the brewery’s owner, Mark Ruedrich, and the company’s two brewers, Patrick Broderick and Ken Kelley, for a very special event: a vertical tasting. In a vertical, the drinkers taste multiple bottles of progressively older vintages of the same beer (or wine) in order to observe how the beverage grows and matures (or, if it happens to be the case, deteriorates) through the years. We started with the 2012 Old Stock Ale, and we noted the 12-percent alcohol beer’s bright and fresh youth, with its sharp and brassy scents of prunes and sherry. Then we stepped back three years and found in the 2009 bottle a fudgier, thicker version of the last. Next, we re-entered the George W. Bush era and tasted the 2007. The sharp, vibrant esters of the beer’s younger days had softened into something bittersweet, with distinct notes of marmalade. We dug deeper still into the strata of the years, back to 2005. The beer was a shade darker now and with a slight tartness of acidity in the rich layers of flavor. Now, think back: Where were you in 2003? I was just entering a long and homeless stint of trekking through Baja California, when I could live on a dollar a day but didn’t know a pilsner from a porter—and when Ruedrich and his brewers were just putting caps on the fourth vintage of Old Stock Ale. Opened nine years later, the beer gave off a heavy, bready smell thickened with notes of molasses and whiskey. In the mouth, it was soft and creamy. And we went back further still, into another era of modern society—when the Fort Bragg salmon industry was still afloat, and when people everywhere could still walk through airport security with their shoes on and, no doubt, with a bottle of wine in their carry-on. And with just the slightest hiss of escaping gas, the 2001 Old Stock came open—a creamy, thick, velvety beer of time-reduced carbonation but still delicious and alive. “Is there a point where this beer peaks?” I asked. “We haven’t seen it yet,” Ruedrich said of the Old Stock, which was first released in 2000. Want to have your own private vertical tasting of Old Stock Ale? Aged cases of this remarkable beer will soon be for sale, Ruedrich promises. Watch the North Coast Brewing Company’s website.”
Read the whole article here.