As you might have gleaned from my year's worth of posts, I don't have the most sophisticated palate in the world. This may seem odd given that I, you know, write about beer drinking and all, but I think in general having a less sophisticated palate helps me as a beer drinker. It keeps me from getting too snooty about the whole beer tasting ordeal. It keeps me more focused on drinking culture than on beer critique, which I think is good given that there's enough negativity and criticism out there. Also, given my not so sophisticated palate, I tend to get drawn to bigger, bolder, more interesting beers, which I'm just going to assert is a good thing. This would probably explain why one of my favorite beers, seasonal or not, is Bethlehem Brew Works Rude Elf Reserve. But having a less-than-stellar palate can also have some draw backs, such as if you're attempting to compare a beer to an aged version of itself. The differences can be super subtle and if you don't have the tongue for it, you might miss out on the differences. Fortunately for me, the beer I chose to age was a Bethlehem Brew Work's Rude Elf Reserve and the differences were, let's say, not too subtle.
Way back when, back when I first started this blog, I picked up a 4 pack of 25 oz bottles of Rude Elf Reserve 2009. I drank three, like, immediately, and patiently put one aside. The plan was to pick up a bottle of Rude Elf Reserve 2010 and then taste the bottles side by side to see what the effects of aging it were. You know what's tough? Having an apartment completely free of beer EXCEPT for a nice 25 oz bottle of Rude Elf you've promised yourself you wouldn't drink until the year's end. I don't want to say that this was "tie me to the mast so I can't run toward the Sirens" difficult but.....actually that's exactly what I want to say. But regardless of the difficulties, I did. I aged the ever-living-eff out of that beer and brought it with me to Bethlehem over Thanksgiving, ready to pair it with a 2009. Except it didn't exactly turn out like that.
I went to the Brew Works on Wednesday for dinner and to pick up a 25 oz, bottle conditioned bottle. The 25 oz bottle was key here, because those are bottle conditioned and the 12 oz ones are not. They're both great but I wanted to be able to compare apples to apples here. I am informed that they don't have any on hand at the moment, but to come back on Saturday because they might have some then. Dutifully, I returned on Saturday only to find out they didn't bottle the Rude Elf in 25 oz bottles this year. Well nuts. Not having the will power to age my bottle another year and hope that they bottle condition the 2011 version, I came up with plan B. Instead of a straight bottle conditioned bottle to bottle conditioned bottle comparison, I decide to compare my 2009 25 oz bottle conditioned bottle with a 2010 12 oz non-bottle conditioned bottle, AND one poured straight from the tap at the Brew Works! Here's some fun trivia: that last sentence used the word "bottle" eight times, which must be some kind of record.
The three way comparison thus described is a little disingenuous. I drank the Rude Elf from the tap at BBW at around 1. Then I proceeded to have an Oatmeal Stout. Then I went to the Weyerbacher Brewery were I did some sampling. Then around 9 I opened the 25 oz bottle. Suffice it to say, I can't really tell you how the tap tastes in comparison to the other two bottles because my sense memory, itsa, how do you say?, not so good-a. But the Rude Elf on tap was delicious, I can tell you that.
So let's get to the meat and potatoes here. I am awful at describing the tastes of beers, which is why I don't do too much brew review, but here's what I can say. The aged 25 oz bottle was super mellow, super sweet, and, oddly enough, not alcohol-y tasting. The 12 oz, non-aged bottle was way more intense. The spices were way more impactful, the alcohol more present. To make a strained music comparison that maybe three or four of you will understand, the 2010 non-aged bottle resembled the Mountain Goats' early lo-fi stuff. It screamed. It was raw. It was intense. The 2009 aged bottle resembles, lets say, the Mountain Goats' later album, We Shall All Be Healed. Still intense, but more produced, a little more settled, and a little more mature. The two Rude Elves, much like early v. late Mountain Goats, are both great in their own right and could very easily have ardent defenders. But in the end, its a win win. Both are great. Different, but great. So that was my adventure in aging and comparing beers. Worth it? If it means I got to drink three Rude Elves in one day (which also may be some kind of record), then yes, definitely.
Total Beers: 950!
(Sunday, I had nothing, Monday I had a Hebrew Lenny's RIPA, an Erdinger Hefe Dark, and an Otter Creak Octoberfest at home (3). Tuesday I had a Brooklyn Winter Lager at City Tavern and an Anderson Valley IPA and Otter Creak Octoberfest at home (3)).