Driftwood’s Old Cellar Dweller Barley Wine is one of my favorite seasonal release BC beers and definitely my favorite barley wine. It’s an American style barley wine that uses three times the grain and five times the hops than you’d use to make a normal beer. If you aren’t a hophead you needn’t worry; the higher levels of malt, and the resulting higher alcohol content (12% ABV), balance out the hops nicely.
Last year was the first year Driftwood made their barley wine, coincidentally it was also the first year they existed. I bought two bottles, drank one, and put the other in the cellar. When the 2009 version came out this year I thought it would be cool to try the 2008 version aged a year in the cellar and compare it with the fresh 2009 version. As far as I know, the recipe didn’t change at all.
I recalled the 2008 version, consumed fresh last year, as having a wonderful hoppy aroma of citrus and floral notes. The same aroma was only faintly present in the aged version. We found the aged version to be much more subdued than we recalled. All of its younger and harsher characteristics had mellowed over time. The bite of the alcohol and the sweetness of the malt had blended into a deeper caramel and molasses like richness. We liked the aged beer, but we were reminded of why we loved this beer last year when we tried the fresh 2009 vintage. Powerful aromas, potent hops on the tonggue right after a sip, then a lingering and complex sweetness for the finish.
While our experiment was fun, we learned that Old Cellar Dweller, despite its name, doesn’t belong in the cellar. The hops in this barley wine make drinking it relatively young an experience you can’t pass up.