North Coast Brewing Co – Old Stock Ale Cellar Reserve 2009

I recently talked about the thrill of the hunt.  You stalk and search for your prey.  Checking out different stores, you sometimes come close only to find that you just missed out.  Finally you experience pride and relief when you see that lone bottle sitting on the shelf.  Well the opposite happened with this bottle.  Unlike “the hunt” this bottle was found through pure dumb luck.  I had no idea if this is a hard to find beer, or what it would be like, but I knew it came from a brewery I enjoyed and it looked pretty cool.

As I have mentioned before, I like to do a little hunting while traveling.  I stop in at really any store that looks good to see if something could be hiding on the shelves.  Pennsylvania is a terrible state to do this in because of the strange beer sales laws, but while traveling around NJ this holiday season, I managed to stop in a few places.  I had been searching for one Christmas beer for a little while, and one beer store was highly rated.  I had to go take a look.  Thankfully I found what I was looking for at long last, but I couldn’t stop just there.  I talked myself out of a lot of other bottles while perusing the shelves, but I came across this bottle at the front of the store.  It was the only one left, and it exceeded $20.  I still couldn’t just let it pass me by.

The bottle bore no real description, so when I got home with it, I had to do a little research to find out some more.  Looking at the North Coast site, I found that the actual type of beer inside is called an Old Ale that has been aged in bourbon barrels for 18 months.  Old ales are low attenuated beers with high levels of dextrins, creating a full malt body with plenty of character.  Aging it in bourbon barrels brings is up to over 13% abv.  The only other two beers I’ve had that have been considered old ales are Great Divide – Hibernation ale and Founder’s Curmudgeon.  Having really enjoyed both of those beers, I was really excited to break into this bottle.

I knew I couldn’t tackle this alone, so I took it to my friend John’s for New Years Eve. He did a fine review of CBS a week ago, and I knew it had to be enjoyed by someone else who could appreciate it.  After some cheese fondue, baked brie, london broil, and salad we settled in for in for a little tasting.

The pour on this one came out an extremely dark auburn color.  I kind of want to say there is no clarity to it, but it wasn’t that it was too dark to really say if it was hazy or not.  It was pretty much all haze.  Light could not penetrate the beer, but it was due to the haze and not color.  A nice light white head develops on top of the beer, but it is neither substantial nor did it linger.  The lacing was very ample, and it was evident this one had quite a bit of alcohol to the content.  There was a little light carbonation visible around the edges of the beer.

The bourbon definitely made it into the smell of this beer.  I guess spending 18 months in a bourbon barrel will do that.  The sweetness of this was really surprising on the nose as well.  It has something like syrupy sweet caramel molasses smell to it.  Also mixed in are some boozy malty smells with a slight hint of raisins.  The booze was really the strongest aspect to the entire smell.

The first sip coats your entire mouth and warms you almost immediately.  The tasting has a really sweet malty kick to it right at the introduction.  The booze is nearly all you can taste right in the middle of it.  The sticky sweet boozy flavor isn’t too off-putting, but it really does have an alcohol burn to it as well.  The sweet finish comes back with some brown sugar, maple, and molasses flavors.  The finish has the remains of the bourbon booze left to it.

The mouthfeel is interesting.  There is actually obvious carbonation in the beer, but everything else going on in the beer overpowers the ability to have the carbonation mellow out some of the syrupy booze present on the palate.  The aftertaste relies heavily on the booze and sweetness, but I didn’t really find it too off-putting.  It definitely feels closer to drinking a glass of hard liquor than a smooth beer, but I still liked it.

Ultimately I had no knowledge of what to expect from this bottle when I picked it up, and after breaking the bottle open, I was really happy with what I got.  There is no way this beer is for the light beer fanatic, but if you like something nice and heavy, you definitely need to check out this bottle.  Look and see if you can find yourself a bottle.

Teacher Grade: B



  1. Ah, I was just doing inventory of my cellar last night when I stumbled upon my own bottle of this beer. It seems that you know more about it than I do. Thanks for the review. Now, I know what to expect.

    • Well I really had to do some research to figure out what I was drinking. The bottle does little to help out with that. It really expanded my knowledge of this type of beer.

  2. Good find. We had a 4-pack of the non-barrel aged 2008 version of this. We actually let one sit for a year (that was the best we could do). As I remember, it seemed to be a beer that would be a good candidate for some bourbon barrel goodness.

    Although a B is not to be scoffed at from a stingy grader, it seemed there was a slight tinge of disappointment. Was the omnipresent, sweet booziness its flaw?

    • It was really good. I think I went with the B because the drinkability is a little low. This is going to be for a very select crowd, and if I had another bottle laying around, I imagine I might try another bourbon barrel beer before coming back to this one. It’s just so strong. Really good and tasty though.

  3. […] sitting way in the back was the last bottle they had.  I quickly bought it up, as well as, the bottle of North Coast I reviewed a few weeks ago.  Even though Christmas has come and gone, I felt the need to pop this one open last Friday after […]

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