Aged beer: whatever am I saving this for?

This month The Session, a grand monthly beer writing conspiracy, is a challenge from Sir Ron, blogger at The Ferm. He challenges beer bloggers who have a growing cellar of strong beers waiting for a special event to “break free and open up something special, whether with a friend, family, or even all on their lonesome.”

How’d he know we have a little problem with hoarding Special Beers?

Since there are two of us who work on BeerByBART, and we had the inclination earlier this week to open something good, we had no reason to hesitate.  Why wait for a special moment?  Isn’t life good enough to celebrate as special?  We’re both here, yay, and we’re lucky to both love beer. Let’s make that reason enough, and pull up something amazing.  (But not one of the sour beers!  Too special.)   Sheesh.  No, no, not that 22 ounce barleywine!  Gotta work tomorrow.

They get better until they don't

With all those strong beers staring back at us on a week night, it was reassuring to find a prize that was in an 11 ounce bottle. As soon as we opened it and got a whiff of the bread-pudding aromas within, however, it seemed far too small a container.

The beer we opened was a 2007 Dogfish Head Raison D’Extra.  It was an 11 ounce bottle we hand-carried back from a family visit back east that year.  It came back wrapped in dirty clothes in checked luggage and went into our San Francisco basement/garage, which averages just below 60 degrees F with relatively little variation in annual temperature. Not the cellar temperature of the mid 50s all the time, but strong beer seems to be fine at this temperature range.  We do not save anything below 8.0% alcohol by volume unless it is a sour beer, with a whole other biochemistry going on to make it keep on going.

This little bottle lists the alcohol at 18% by volume.  No, that’s no typo.

So as expected it aged gloriously.  We sipped slowly.  “Less raisin than I remember,” I say.

“Oh, I get a ton of raisins,” says Steve.

Hmm. I will investigate further.

Quiet sipping.  Ok, not by a fire, in front of TV, but I can’t remember what was on, and that’s the modern day equivalent of a romantic flickering fireplace.

“Bread pudding. Sherry or port or something like that in the sauce.  A dry chocolate note, like powered hot chocolate, too.  Yeah, I think there are raisins in the bread pudding.”

Altogether delightful, and much better than I remembered.

Medium carbonation. Dark brown, and not clear.  And…  yummy.  A yummy strong ale.

At some point we agreed that if someone served this to us and said it was an unknown port or sherry-like fortified wine, we’d be amazed but would accept that at face value.  It was a remarkable beverage that had come into its own in the bottle.

So cheers to seizing the day! No real reason, just a happy raison. Thanks to the bloggers who carry on the tradition of The Session.

-Gail

Explore Beer By BART; see our list of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

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