Not many people are forgetful or patient enough to age a bottle of beer for five years. Luckily, I happen to be a little of both, no matter what my wife tells you about the whole patience thing and the new/exciting expletives I invent during video game play. On the label of Goose Island's high(er) end beers, it is claimed to develop in the bottle for up to five years. The bottle of Pere Jacques that I will be reviewing today has been aged for 62 months to the day, past the date it was bottled. I have not experimented with a beer like this before so I am excited to see how it will end. If well, that means the other aging beers in my cellar have a chance. If not, I may have wasted a whole lot of beer money. To say I'm a little anxious is to understate the matter. Let's pour!
The label says "Belgian style ale," but it is clearly leaning more toward the tripel in aroma. Lots of fruit present here. Mushy, over ripe apples are present along with notes of real apple cider, though without the spice. Bright raisins are not far behind and if I were more familiar with my dark fruits, I'm sure I could tell you if it were more fig vs something else, but all I can say at this point is that it stops short of prunes while definitely hinting at them. Absent from the "Belgian style" is any sort of Belgian yeast notes and any spice. I don't necessarily expect the former in a dubbel/tripel/quad, but I certainly expect a little of the latter.
Easy points here. It's a dusty copper shade when poured in small amounts, but larger amounts lend bright red and magenta highlights to the brew and make it pleasing to the eye. The head on this 5-year old beer was still (surprisingly) present in a half finger's worth of tan foam that faded with a slight crackle.
This beer takes its time to make an impression on the palate, fading straight away into its backbone of flavors and giving no introduction. The easily found primary flavors are the dark fruits from the aroma, but without the bite or subdued acidity that the apples might have brought. The cider character of the apples is still present and plays very well with the other fruits. There is a notable booziness that hid itself in the aroma, but comes across as very outgoing in the flavor. Holding the brew in the mouth allows the initial sweetness of the fruits to die down a bit and the slightly bitter, "browned apple" flavor to step forward in addition to a previously undetectable spiciness. A welcome addition to any Belgian ale! It pricks the tongue a bit, gives more interest to the bitter, and keeps things true to style. A swallow quickly brings more of the bitter as well hints of a vinous, purple grape. Ultimately, the bitter and the sugars of the dark fruits combine to give a lasting final impression of the beer. The aftertaste is more notable for its mouthfeel than its flavors, becoming somewhat sticky in the mouth and the alcohol drying on the tongue. Though it the acidity of the apples does reprise itself after a lengthy pause.
The body is good for the style and the spiciness does eventually show up if you hold it in your mouth long enough. The alcohol is just right in this beer - enough to let you know it's there, but not so much that it even comes close to taking over a flavor, even a minor one. Carbonation is adequately active, though made to seem less by the medium-heavy body is has to move through. The spiciness is a nice addition to the finish and, with the carbonation, is another way the beer's creaminess is perceptibly diminished without effecting the body.
Overall Impression 8/10
Even for an "old" bottle, this beer is unsurprisingly tasty. Lots of dark fruits, true to its style, and a robust version of a Belgian without trying to be too huge. I would be more than pleased if someone purchase this beer for me in a pub. Goose Island prints right on the label, "Develops in the bottle for up to 5 years," and by George, they're not lying.
If one were to use the "grading scale" found in schools, this score would register a solid "B," but if you were to ask me personally I'd say an easy "B+." Bottled on May Day 2009, this beer has had to wait a long time for its heyday, and it delivers with a true to style, tasty, dark fruit laden, palate-warming treat. Furthermore, this bottle has been impeccably kept, remaining either in standard refrigerators or a special beer fridge (50 degrees Farenheit) for its entire existence. Talk about a princess. Such excellent storage conditions in mind, had there been any "off-putting" flavors, the beer would have no one to blame save itself. However, with its excellence proven, it now stands to claim all the glory. Solid work, Goose Island. I'll be trying this experiment again.