Wednesday, July 17, 2013

North Coast Old Stock Ale 2010

Type: Old Ale
Origin: Fort Bragg, CA
Price: ?
ABV: 11.7%
NSP: ?

Had this beer presented to me by Andy and Carey for some occasion that was long enough ago that I don't remember the when or the why, just the who.  Since John's been a big-ass bag of beer-sharing, I thought I'd try and return the favor with this one.  North Coast is and interesting brewery, in that they seem to be forgotten in discussions of California brewing- perhaps because their IPA isn't really known (though Andy reviewed it quite positively).  It probably doesn't help that they're in a part of California that you'd never really find yourself wandering through- it's BFE enough that if you're there it was most certainly your intended destination.  But at the same time, they're known to some reputable beer, among them Pranqster, Brother Thelonious, Old Rasputin, and this bad boy, which has been released as a vintage since...well, at least 2010.

"Old Stock Ale" isn't really a usual style, but you can kind of figure out what it's supposed to be by simply removing "Stock".  And then when you pour it, you can immediately identify what you're dealing with- if it's a malty English-style SOB with a hefty ABV, it's pretty much a given that it's an old ale.  Or you can look it up on BA if you want a shortcut.  Anyway, it certainly smells like an old ale- sweet and malty, with lots of cola/root beer aspects.  It's not noticeably boozy in the nose, which is not something you can say about a lot of 11%+ beers.

Well, it looks rich and malty, it smells rich and malty, so guess how it tastes?  The cola thing comes through again, or maybe more specifically rum and Coke (the wife said rum raisins), plus there's a good bit of the vanilla/toffee flavors that you hope come along with this style but frequently don't show up due to overwhelming sweetness.  The carb's nice and high, which keeps it feeling light despite the rich flavors- and it also means North Coast's bottle capper works really well because it hasn't lost anything over the intervening three years.  There's a bit of booze, but I'd never guess it's 11.7%.  And the best thing about it- it's not overly sweet.

I kind of think of old ales as brown ales on steroids, but using a term like that for this one would be insulting.  I'm highly impressed here, because they've taken a style that I'm not even remotely predisposed to enjoy, and have made something I like a lot.  It's drinkable and complex, and highly dangerous to boot.  If I was looking for a beer to drink while sitting in front of a fire with the rain blowing sideways outside, I'd take this over most of the stouts and porters I've had in a heartbeat.

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