Old Stock Ale - North Coast Brewing Co.

Oh how I wish there was a beer fridge-sized time machine.  It seems like half of the good beers I want to try out are good, but everyone claims that it will “drastically improve with age”.  Well, I certainly hope my patience improves with age, because dang it all if I can not just let a good beer sit around in my closet.  I know it’s there, and I know I am thirsty.  Besides, they say that hunger is the best spice.  Maybe my craving for it will improve the flavor even more than a couple years of solitude will?

Oh who am I kidding.  Until this miniature and quite irresponsible use of time travel is invented, I’ll have to be old fashioned and set up a little rotation of beers.  Investing in a good age-able beer can pay off in spades in a couple of years.  The great thing about aging is that it can turn that pretty meh-tier beer into a real high quality bottle.
However, what if you start with a beer that not only is meant to be aged, but is also a really great beer to begin with?  That’s what we’ve got with North Coast Brewing Co.’s Old Stock Ale.  They come out with a vintage every year, but the one I tried was the newest, 2012.  They’re all at about 11% ABV, so I would consider sharing.  Of course whoever had to keep it in their pad for a year without being able to drink should get a touch more.
Luckily I didn’t have to worry about that.  I was looking forward to this un-aged one anyway, so I eagerly gave myself a pour into a tulip glass.  Old Stock pours a dark amber, almost ruby color.  There is a bit of visible carbonation, and it makes a thick and creamy white head.  Quite lingering too, almost leaving a semi-solid cap.  The scent is very thick and sweet.  Caramel malt, brown sugar, and stone fruit all make an appearance.  There is also a significant bit of a booze hit to the nose.  A bit odd because it was rather cold, and booze is something that usually comes out in the nose when something is served warm.  It didn’t phase me much, but I assume this is one of those components that will be suppressed after aging.
The taste was similar to the nose, but far more intense and distinct.  I got a heavy hit of fig and date sweetness, and just a touch of bitterness from the Fuggles and East Kent Goldings hops.  The bitterness doesn’t linger much at all.  It gets swept away pretty significantly by the syrupy malt and fizzy carbonation.  The tastes that linger kind of come from left field.  A kind of nutty taste, almost like almonds or marzipan with all this residual sweetness, and good full-bodied oak.  Subsequent tastes let you go back and kind of see where these two flavors pop up, but it is a small effect next to the sweetness and hops.  The mouth feel is a very clean, but heavy stickiness.  The carbonation can really foam it up in a delightful way.  Besides all this, you still get a consistent alcohol air to it.  Alcohol a bit like a bourbon when considered with the oak and sweetness.  Not at all unpleasant, but it was a bit distracting from the actual flavors going on.
Overall, a great beer.  Everything hit it’s mark and was enjoyable at every point.  Fairly complex and very well made.  However, it really does a great job at showing you that it has the potential to blow it’s past self out of the water after a year or so.  If that oak comes out and the alcohol and hop bitterness settles down, maybe the malts and sugary flavors mingle a bit, this will be one world class hell of a beer.