BEER BRAWL – Driftwood Brewery Old Cellar Dweller 2017 vs 2018
Have you ever bought an alcoholic beverage and not chugged it down immediately? Yeah, that’s not my style either. Sometimes the fact that a bottle of beer makes it all the way home before I crack it open surprises me. Yet here I was, in the wondrous year of 2017, purchasing a bottle of expensive craft beer with the goal of not drinking it for an entire year.
Why the hell would I do that? That’s a great question, considering that in December of last year I haven’t even conceived of the idea to start a blog and had no incentive to save it for a special occasion. This was an experiment I chose entirely out of personal curiosity and love for beer; however, as luck has it, I am now able to share my findings with the world (I don’t care if it’s just a handful of people, you guys are very international, and you’re the world to me).
I have admitted before to be an absolute Driftwood fanboy. In all brewsome battles of Driftwood versus other beers, the former’s style always came out on top in my books. But when I was introduced to their “Cellar Dweller”, I had been presented with a tough challenge: god damn patience. This barleywine style ale promised two very different experiences depending on when you drink it. The bottle recommended, like the name suggested, to let it dwell in your cellar for about a year. And that’s what I did.
Unfortunately, I didn’t exist during the cold war and therefore had no opportunity to purchase real estate for the same price as a loaf of bread. I didn’t have a cellar, I barely had a bedroom, and figured leaving it at room temperature would suffice. My plan was to purchase the 2017 edition of the Cellar Dweller, let it sit for one year, and in 2018 get my hands on the newest release in order to taste the two beers side by side. I wanted to know if it was worth it to wait an entire year before consuming this strong brew.
Let’s introduce the contestants in this beer brawl and let them duke it out.
In the fresh corner:
The Old Cellar Dweller 2018 edition. Yeah, that’s a frighteningly cool label and I’m glad the beer I kept in my room for a year wasn’t haunted. The notable difference right off the bat, before even pouring it, is the alcohol content. 2018 brings 10 % to the table, which is a strong fucking beer. However, last year’s Dweller sported 11.2 % and I’m not sure if the change was a conscious decision or just something that happened during the brewing process and nobody cared THAT much about consistency. It’s not like anyone would keep last year’s beer hanging out to compare with the next production and notice the difference.
Regardless, the percentage makes a statement how this isn’t a beer that will go down without a fight. Although both beers appear very clear, 2018’s Dweller has a slightly dark colouring. That scared me a bit as I’m not fond of darker beers and expected the “aged” Dweller to be even meltier than the fresh one. It was a pleasant surprise that there was no such strong malt flavour in the new brew. The 2018 Dweller smelled slightly off, a strange unpleasant scent of leftover gunk. Luckily, it didn’t taste like that. Accompanied by a subtle sweetness, there were a lot of flavours, including some bitterness, muddled together. It reminded me of the not too long ago fresh hop season. I don’t know whether wet hops were used for this brew, but it certainly contained similar aromas.
In the dwelled corner:
Now what in the living fuck do we have here? When the label said aging this beer would give it a “sherry-cask” characteristic, I expected a dark and malty brew. Yet, here we are with 2017’s Dweller being much paler than its fresh contestant. If you think the colour is where the differences end than you’d be as wrong as a “Black Label” beer enthusiast who says he “drinks for the flavour”. This beer that dwelled for a year is bursting with variety. The scent itself is vastly different. Instead of a whiff of fresh gunk, your nose is greeted with a mix of sour and wheat beer. When you can’t resist that invitation and take a sip, you get a wave of flavours coming at you in stages. There’s a strange taste that reminded me of medicine. But people drink Jaegermeister, the cough medicine of liqueurs, so let’s not pretend this is a foreign concept in alcohol. Then the bitterness reminds you that it is indeed an ale, but you’ll get confused shortly after when you taste cider. Yes, one of the flavour stages had traces of fermented fruit, very close to applesauce. I never had sherry before, so the closest I would describe the dwelled Old Cellar Dweller was that it had very similar characteristics to other “aged” drinks like whiskey or rum.
Let it dwell, people. It is so fucking worth it. The most notable difference in flavour is that, while both have the same ingredients, the fresh bottle has all flavours muddled together and the aging process separates them for a more clean experience. Despite the higher alcohol content of the previous edition and the fact that you can definitely taste the strength of both beers, the aged Cellar Dweller was easier to consume. The flavours contained in this beer emerge slowly like an undead body rising from its grave.
Although that god damn wax seal sure makes it a bitch to open.