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An experience of years

The recent experience that Martyn Cornell and Ron Pattinson shared in their respective blogs reminded me that for already quite some time I had the tale of a... I was going to say "similar experience", but that'd have been a huge overstatement... let's leave it at "slightly related".

Last Autumn my good friend Fernando, owner of the best pub in Ávila, paid us a visit and brought me a bottle of Westmalle Trippel he had in his cellar. The best by date was 25/10/08 and the bottling date was exactly two years before. The trip had shaken the bottle quite a bit, so I put it in a corner of my "cellar" and pretty much forgot all about it.
One day I found it again and I thought it'd be a good idea to taste it side by side with a fresh one. I couldn't find a 75cl bottle at the time, so I had to make do with a 33cl one, with a best by date 12/12/13, which implies that it was 5 years younger than the other one. I was quite excited, the closest experience I had to this one was with that 2 year old X33
I opened both bottles at the same time. Just by pouring it was clear that the beer had change a lot, it was a bit darker, clearer and didn't that much of a head. The rest had also changed, it was a lot fruitier, with more caramel and honey and flatter, too. Those typical notes from the yeast had left only a memory behind. "More like Autumn" was the phrase that came to my mind while I drank it. I was quite surprised, although I didn't know what to expect, I hadn't imagined that five years would bring such drastic change.
My wife preferred the "old one". I liked better the "young one" and its almost casual complexity. Now that I think of it, it was a bit like life itself. Men usually prefer young, bubbly women, while the ladies would rather go for more mature and warmer men.

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  1. Really interesting. I'd read somewhere recently that tripel is not meant to be aged and this sort-of confirms that. Must get stuck into my last remaining 75cl bottle soon.

  2. I had a very similar experiment late last year: but I much preferred the older version as I'm not a fan of Westmalle usually, but the aged version was a revelation to me. ...does that make me a girl? ;)

    1. No, not necessarily, but you might have to start questioning your sexuality :)

  3. Lukáš "Elf" Provazník3 July 2012 at 00:38

    I tasted a few 13 to 15 years old beers recently. Pale Lagers and one Pale Ale was rotten. But with Duvel I made similar experience as you. I compared the old one with the fresh one. The old one was little bit darker, almost light copper. Bite was lower, body more stonger. Aroma and taste profile was very different than the fresh one. I have preferred the fresh one.
    In my opinion only a few beers are suitable for storage for a long time. Many beers, even the strong ones accoring to ABV, are better fresh. IPAs for example losing their hop aroma and taste in time, but bitterness remains.

    1. I believe that, generally speaking, only strong, dark beers and sour beers are suitable for aging. In fact, I've read a couple of articles that recommended not to drink big-ass imperial stouts at least until a year after they've been brewed.

      Funny thing with the IPA's, the original ones were not meant to that hop forward, the trip around Africa would have killed much of the hop character, at least the aroma...


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