I have the notorious habit of sticking beer into my cellar for aging and then not pulling things out to actually, you know, drink them. As a result I have too many beer in my cellar – over 100. At one time I instituted a one-in-one-out rule but that proved too hard (at the moment of the in-ing) to practice. So now I try to every once in a while cull the cellar by pulling out stuff for which the time seems right.
Recently I was doing one of my cullings and one of the beer that got pulled out was an Ola Dubh 30 dated from 2009. It got pulled because I got thinking that seven years was too long for an 8% beer, even if the wood character will help it hold.
For the uninitiated Old Dubh is a series of beer by Scottish brewery Harviestoun aged in scotch whiskey barrels. The number is associated with how long the whiskey had been in the barrel. Ola Dubh 30 was aged in a barrel that had whiskey in it for 30 years. The base beer is their Old Engine Oil, a lovely ale that is something of a cross between a porter and a stout.
I like using Ola Dubh in a side-by-side with Old Engine Oil to isolate the effects of barrel-aging, which if you have never done that is worth doing.
Anyway, on to the tasting notes, as that is what is interesting here.
It pours a stout-like black with a think dark tan head that drops fast. The carbonation seems quite low – likely leached out over the years. The aroma offers raisin, molasses, dark fruit, some woody spirit, whiskey notes and a sharp wood character. Rather pleasant, actually.
The flavour starts with dark fruit, molasses and a general silkiness. The middle brings out some sherry, raisin and a noted whiskey character that is both warming and angular. The finish is scotch and wood with a noted vanilla touch. I also am left with dark brown sugar. The linger has an alcohol warming and a complex earthy wood note.
Overall the barrel character dominates. It brings in some rich, deep flavours that I quite enjoy. The raisin and sherry notes point to the cellaring but, again are quite pleasant. However, in a way, the beer seems flat. I don’t get any of that lovely rounded chocolate, roast character of Old Engine Oil. The lack of carbonation enhances the feeling of lifelessness. I find my self wondering if I, indeed, left it a little too long in the cellar before opening it. In a way it feels the base beer has dropped away, leaving mostly the wood notes.
I hasten to add that those wood notes are marvelous and so still keep the beer interesting and enjoyable to drink, but I wish I had opened it a couple years earlier to see if I got a better balance of beer and wood.
Alas, such is the consequence of being someone who is loathe to drink my cellar.