the underbelly

Aged Beer in the Mid Morn (pronounced Age-ed)
March 11, 2008, 2:39 pm
Filed under: Beer

The Selection

From Left to right: The Special Oerbier Reserva 2006, J.W. Lees Harvest 2000, J.W. Lees Harvest 2006

It’s eleven in the morning on a Tuesday and I’m on deadline. Okay, I have an article for class due but doesn’t “on deadline” sound so much more urgent? So I do what I have to do: I try the aged beers that have been chilling in my fridge. They’re from the overwhelmingly wonderful beer, cheese, chocolate and cured meats store: Bierkraft, in Brooklyn. I went there yesterday to talk to some of the guys about this whole bottle aging phenomena and obviously couldn’t leave without sampling some of the rarer aged beers. (Side note about how wonderful this place is: I got very lost on the way there. Not surprising to anyone who has known me for more than ten minutes. I walked from Prospect Park, where I foolishly got off the B train all the way down to 5th and 14th only to find that Bierkraft was on 5th and Union, much farther down. I was already tired and a little nervous as I had never been to real Brooklyn. But I trekked on. When I finally arrived, after watching the demographics of the neighborhood change drastically, I found that I had entered heaven. Literally I think I gasped. If I was religious person, Bierkraft might be where I worshiped.)


I cracked open the beers bright and early to test them out and see what all these beer geeks were going on about.

close up special reserva

Close up of the Special Reserva.

real close up reserva

Another money shot.

I bought the Special Reserva 2006 (full name: De Dolle Oerbier Special Reserva 2006), which was around $10..yah..ten big ones..because the guy giving me the run down said that it was hard to come by and an example of a non-dessert aged beer. I’m a sucker for hard to come by things and had never had a savory aged beer so I went for it. Also the guy showing me around was young but had salt and pepper hair. I think premature graying is a sign of a good man, think Steve Martin.

Tasting notes: Sour. Tannic. Would be great with a salty cheese. Like dry sherry. But still mildly refreshing. Sour apple, lemon. Aged in oak barrels (so that’s where the aging is coming into play) Refermented in the bottle (meaning yeast is added?) Belgium. 13% alcohol at the start. It’d also be good with pork. Oddly addictive as you keep going.

JW Lees 06

Close up of the J.W. Lees Harvest 2006.

JW Lees 06

Closer up of the ’06.

The J.W. Lees harvest series is something I’ve been hearing about since I started researching this aging stuff. It’s released every year on the first of December and it’s made from the first brewing (yes, that makes a difference. It has to do with there being more sugars….or something). And peppered hair dude told me I should try two different years so since we’ve already established that I trusted him absolutely, I chose the oldest they had (2000) and the youngest (2006). The ’06 ran around $9.

Tasting notes: Thick, dark amber in color, barely any carbonation. Mellow, honeyed sweetness, would love to curl up with a fire with this. Barely any bitterness. Very easy going. I might even drink this with burger or something. There is some bitterness coating the back of the tongue. Not overly sweet. Could use a little more depth.

JW Lees 00

Close up of the J.W. Lees Harvest 2000.

JW Lees 00

Looks like a tasty mid-morning treat to me.

Here’s the thing about the harvests. I actually tried them out of order, the oldest before the youngest, thinking that it was the other way around. Then I figured it out. But it didn’t make sense. In some ways the ’06 tasted like what I thought the ’00 would be. I had to keep taking sips out of the bottles to make sure I wasn’t going crazy. The ’00 ran around $10.

Tasting notes: sweet nose like baking bread. Thick, sweet, honeyed. Touch of bitterness on the end. Fizzy. Like a porter is fizzy. Small bubbles. Much fizzier than the ’06, weird. It shouldn’t be like that right? Or should it. Is that because it is somehow further fermenting? Deep copper color. More of an after dinner beer. Hints of a tawny. Much less sweet than the 06, which makes sense.

I don’t think I can pass judgment on these things yet. But I can say that I totally get the allure. You get to control these things, they become raw ingredients in your own hands and you get to reap the benefits much sooner than you do when you age wine, also they’re a lot more affordable. Yep, sign me up, I’m hopping on the beer geek wagon.


4 Comments so far
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Welcome aboard!

Comment by Michael

Nice photos. Seems much construction is going on. What’s the alcohol on the J.W. Lees?

Comment by Laurence Sterling

[…] to take this opportunity to point you over to this post on the blog The Underbelly. It details a tasting of three aged beers Justine picked up from the store Bierkraft in Brooklyn NY. The brews in question are a 2006 De […]

Pingback by Presenting Clint's Beer Cellaring Sheet and Another Vintage Beer Review | The Brew Basement

Enjoyed your article on Culture11. I hope you’ll inspire more women to consider quality beer. I try to wherever I go :-).

Regarding J.W. Lees, I’ve had some of their Harvest Ales that have been aged in different barrels: Calvados and Sherry. If you can find any of these, I highly recommend them.

Another project would be to compile a vertical tasting: Fuller’s Vintage Ale, Stone Vertical Epic, Thomas Hardy Ale, etc.

Comment by Rick Green

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