I love a good barleywine and prefer them a bit on the Hoppy side. Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws and Three Floyd's Behemoth are two of my favorites. Right now Elysian Brewing on Capitol Hill has both their '03 and '04 Cyclops barleywine on tap. You should go get some
I had an opportunity Saturday night to try them side by side. I enjoy good barleywines but sometimes they are a bit sweet for my taste. Either way I had to try what a 7 and 8 year old Brewer's reserve barleywine tastes like. It was a special treat I couldn't pass up. Check out my preference after the break.
I started with the 04. It had more visible carbonation with a thin head on top. The nose was sweet and barleywinesque. Very sweet. Like Cotton candy and marshmallow sweet. It was clearer than the 03 and clearly a different recipie. There was a little lacing on the glass. And they both had a carmel color to them. Kind of like carmel apple at the county fair.
The '04 was cloyingly sweet. The sugary sweetness dominates the flavor. Maybe the yeast crapped out early? It was too sweet for my taste. No hops to speak of. If you have a sweet tooth this is for you. Tastes like the county fair in your mouth. Minus the livestock tent.
03. Less carbonation but more hops! How does an older beer have more hops left in it? Definitely a different recipe. This is a little cloudy, a little malty a little sweet a little hoppy a little country and a little rock n roll. If you haven't figured it out I like the '03 better than the '04. It has better balance and an excellent flavor.
This is definitely worth drinking and a well aged barleywine. A few ounces in a snifter is all you need.