<a In another "case study in aging beer," today I'm cracking open Dogfish Head's infamous Immort Ale, the 2008 vintage. Back then, I always would grab a four-pack of this beer every year, because it had a reputation for aging well. Immort Ale is and always has been a bit of an odd bird – it's really an English-style barleywine brewed with maple syrup, a bit of peat-smoked malt, and oak. It's also on the strong side at 11% ABV, which, as you may recall, is one of the markers we generally want to look for in terms of beer ageability.
It smells sweet and oaky, like vanilla-infused maple syrup. I’m not getting much of the smokiness in the nose this had when it was young. In its early days, this beer often lets out a phenolic “band-aid” character in both aroma and taste that some find off-putting (not me), but I’m not getting any of that here.
It’s sweet, but oddly not as sweet as I expected it to be. A ton of vanilla with some maple, raisin, pipe tobacco and licorice. Notes of Scotch whiskey come through with the peat, but overall, this isn’t as smoky as I remember it. Drinking incredibly smoothly – the 11% ABV is absolutely nowhere to be found. I love that aspect of aging beer – it turns fiery hot high alcohol beers into easy, lush drinking. Oh, if you drink a full bottle of this, you’ll feel the alcohol – but it won’t be tasted. Pair with a cigar, a Stilton, or use as an after-dinner drink by itself – I don’t see a ton of food pairing application with barleywines like this.
This is a beer Dogfish Head brews annually, so I’d suggest picking up a 4-pack every year, drinking one bottle, and squirreling the remaining bottles away for an extended rest.