Charleville Brewing Co. recently released a mixed-vintage four-pack of its barleywine. Each pack comes with a bottle from each year since 2013, the first year they switched from 22- to 12-ounce bottles.
Charleville has been brewing its well-regarded barleywine for several years. In 2012, the beer won a silver medal in the barleywine category at the Great American Beer Festival. The version they submitted was the 2009 vintage.
So why would anyone want to taste a three-year-old barleywine when most breweries encourage you to drink their beer fresh? While most beer should definitely be consumed that way, a small number of beer styles, like barleywines, imperial stouts and wild ales, can change in interesting ways over time. Some flavors and aromas, like hops, may fade, allowing others to gradually become more prominent.
The length of time to age a beer depends on the subjective tastes of the drinker. Many craft beer fans enjoy cellaring beer. They may buy several versions of a beer each year, drink one or two, and hold on to the rest to drink gradually over time. Many also like to try vertical tastings where multiple people get together to share different vintages of a particular beer side by side to see how the beer has developed over time.
Whether you're a cellaring pro or craft beer newbie, Charleville’s new mixed-vintage four-pack provides an easy opportunity to host a vertical tasting with friends – and with four 12-ounce, 10.5 percent ABV beers, you're definitely going to want to share these with a friend or two.
Charleville has held on to some bottles from each vintage every year. Since all four of the beers share the same basic recipe – Charleville says there may be slight variances in the grain and hop bill each year, but nothing dramatic – the main difference is the amount of time they sit in the bottle.
Working your way from newest to oldest, you can really taste the difference as the beer ages. The 2016 tastes carmelly with notes of dried fruit. The finish has a slight burn from the hops and ABV. By 2015 the finish is a little smoother. In the 2014 and 2013 vintages the taste is predominately brown sugar and the finish loses its edge completely.
You can find Charleville’s mixed-vintage four-packs in stores now. Later this summer, the brewery will release its first ever barrel-aged barleywine in collaboration with The Wine & Cheese Place, which provided the barrels.
Charleville Vineyard, Winery & Microbrewery, 16937 Boyd Road, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, 573.756.4537, charlevillevineyard.com