Cellar Series, I had cracked open a 2006 Tyranena Spank Me Baby Barleywine after aging it for 2 years. Today, we've lifted the cap on a slightly younger beer - the 2009 New Glarus Golden Ale - the first beer in the R&D Series from Wisconsin stalwarts, New Glarus. At the time of its release, it was one of the finest Belgian beers on the planet, with a good strong hop presence, dry finish, and clean, crisp taste.
How has a year in the cellar treated this beer? Stored at a fairly stable 60 degrees or so (a little warm), I put the bottle in the refrigerator for a little over an hour or so before opening it. The initial temperature was around 55 degrees.
The body has mellowed considerably, while the head virtually explodes out of the tulip glass I chose for this beer. The aroma is understated, but contains glimpses of the bright hops, substantial malt, and evolving yeast presence. A year of clean pilsner malt, aged hops, and bottle conditioning have given the beer a decidedly more complex flavor. Most noticable is the drop in the hop bitterness, which has been replaced by a more flavorful approach. Combined with the yeast and graininess of the malt, there are notes of orange, citrus peel, lemon grass, raw sugar, and a slight pepperiness from the 7%+ ABV. The body has become soft and paunchy, yet retains its clean, crisp finish. The beer fills your mouth, but is not heavy or overly big.
As an overall impression, this beer continues to impress. If you have a bottle, drag it out and open it up. Drink the bottle yourself, or split with 3 or 4 people over nutty, buttery, cheeses and clean, peppery crackers. A light vegetable or chicken Risotto would pair nicely and emphasize the complexity and soft body; while a deep, rich braised beef would highlight just how light this beer actually is.
In short, a great, young beer, has gotten terrific with age. I would put this beer up against any of the finest Belgian Golden Ales. Indeed, BeerAdvocate puts it in the Top 3 for the style with Orval and Westvleteren Pale. After a year, it doesn't have the sharpness and hoppiness that the style is typically known for, and that it possessed a year ago, but it has shown grace and style in aging and creates a fine, nuanced, classy glass of beer.