Beer Review 0289: North Coast Old Stock Ale 2012
The 2012 edition of North Coast’s (Fort Bragg, California) Old Stock Ale finds the brewery providing a helping hand to its hometown sister city — Otsuchi, Japan was hit hard by the 2011 tsunami, leaving the 800-year-old city devastated.
As of the release of this beer back in February, the people of Fort Bragg had donated a quarter of a million dollars to the recovery effort. And for each bottle of Old Stock Ale 2012 bought, North Coast makes a donation to the rebuilding fund.
North Coast opened in 1988, founded by Mark Reudrich (his signature is scrawled across the label of Old Stock) and quickly developed a staunch reputation for quality. Beers from North Coast have won over 70 awards in international competition. The brand features a core line, a California ale line, and “ultra premium” offerings, which is where the yearly Old Stock Ale release fits in.
Old Stock Ale is a beer that North Coast encourages you to cellar as age will only enhance its flavors. This Old Ale is brewed with Maris Otter malt, and Fuggles and East Kent Golding hops. The ABV (alcohol by volume) is 11.7%, and IBUs (International Bitterness Units) register at 36. For 2012, this beer was available in 750 ml corked and caged bottles, and 12 ounce containers.
Firstly, cheers to North Coast for not having a cork that requires pliers to open. My fingers thank you! The pour produced an average size head, creamy and lasting. The beer was dark amber in color, like nearly burnt caramel, and it had red highlights around the edges. The liquid was clear in body, featuring no particles or sediment, and it also left behind no lacing. But with the big 11.7% ABV, it left plenty of alcohol legs when swirled in the glass.
The aroma featured two dueling notes, big and bold up front: caramel and coconut. There were background touches of cinnamon and herbal hop. This aroma reminded me very much of cinnamon swirl bread, with the coconut providing a bit of a sweet cake feeling. There were some dark fruits, which, when coupled with the alcohol, took on a rum-soaked raisin quality. The alcohol was well hidden; what was present only added quality and wasn’t a distraction.
On the taste, Old Stock presented fruitcake up front, with a caramel topping. This beer is very sweet from the start, but it isn’t cloying. Middle of the mouth opens up with some dark grapes and raisins, hints at cinnamon, and the finish comes on strong with another load of caramel, a hop hit of some bitterness, and an ultimate conclusion of bready caramel that borderlines burnt. At this point, the alcohol rears its head and it is a beast, fully warming the body and taking over. This beer is definitely full-bodied, and the mouthfeel was medium – pretty foamy when swirled around the tongue.
By Old Ale standards, this is really nice. The flavors are great, the aroma is outstanding, but the alcohol…it’s a bit much. You need a couple of people to share this bottle with. Drinkability suffers due to the 11.7%, but I think allowing this brew a couple of years downtime would probably help that out tremendously. My recommendation is to buy two of these; enjoy one now and track the differences in a couple years. Either way, you’ll be rewarded with an outstanding creation, and you’ll be supporting a decent and just cause.
North Coast Old Stock Ale 2012, 92 points. Price: $11.99 US for one 750 ml bottle.