It’s been since 2005 that the California-based North Coast Brewing Co. has been producing a barrel-aged version of the brewery’s Old Stock Ale. Differentiated by the added insignia of Cellar Reserve, new vintages of the beer have appeared on the market roughly every two years, with bourbon and brandy barrels used for aging in alternating editions.
- 2005: Bourbon barrels — 14.6 percent ABV
- 2007: Brandy barrels — 14.6 percent ABV
- 2009: Bourbon barrels — 13.7 percent ABV
- 2011: Brandy barrels — 15.9 percent ABV
Continuing the pattern, the 2013 Old Stock Cellar Reserve was aged in bourbon barrels, presumably for no more than a year considering it arrived at retail stores in December 2014.
Like past predecessors, the 2013 Cellar Reserve boasts an ABV of around 14 percent, and this is a beer that certainly not short on strength. It’s not brazenly boozy, but there’s a fair amount of warmth in both flavor and finish. Malt flavors are substantial, consisting of molasses, burnt brown sugar and dark fruit, but they aren’t quite enough to keep the beer from being bourbon-forward.
Outside of the that, the barrels add some faint wood tones and a hint of vanilla, the latter perhaps providing a bit of sweetness in the aftertaste. Tannins are minimal, leaving behind very little of the bitterness or drying sensation you sometimes get in these types of beers. The carbonation, though, seems fairly sharp, which makes me wish for a smoother experience overall. Still, in terms of the prevailing flavor profile, this is about as good as it gets when it comes to a barrel-aged old ale.