“They are to varying extents dark, rich and sweet, typically with suggestions of soft, curranty fruitiness and blackstrap molasses.” – Michael Jackson’s Beer Companion
What’s new is old again. An old ale will be on tap this weekend at Black Bridge. It’s called Old Pricks, which is an homage, of sorts, to the prickly pear beer brewed by the women of B3. That one is called No Pricks Allowed. This one is brewed by the old men of B3 and they wish to release it just prior to tax day. I’ll leave you to suss out the pun therein.
What do we look for in old ales? They’re beers meant to be cellared, or aged. So you would taste that time in the body. There will be some oxidation giving it a papery, stale, sherryish flavor. Imagine an amber or brown beer kept in a cask for several months or more. They would pick up the quality of the wood. Additionally, any leftover yeast would act on the beer, continuing to ferment and bequeathing a winy characteristic. The beer family these ales reside in, mild and barley wine, are oft considered “winter beers,” so releasing during early spring is … bold, maybe? It’s cool, to be sure, craft beer will be unleashed whenever brewers decide it is their desire.
It should be a malty, complex, stale delight.
That Smell ….
Muted and subdued. Mostly, I could identify bread. The pale malt comes right through in the nose. As successive glasses warmed there was maybe a little caramel and a slight ester character. I want to say it was prune that I pinpointed, but I’m not that positive. It was that kind of “dark fruit” smell, at least.
In Appearance …
Old ales should be darker beers. Not stout level but a it should have some woody chromatics. This has a gorgeous spectrum of red, orange and brown and possesses outstanding clarity and sports a sound ivory and tan head.
But the Taste …
Strong malt sweetness. Not overpoweringly so. Also a dry-ish finish. The oxidation, the staleness I sought was a specter in the aftertaste. I’d like to see that more pronounced, but that’s a subjective wish, isn’t it? The body does seem a bit light. Aging for extended periods can produce such an effect so in that regard, well done. It was only aged for 3-4 months, maybe some ruggedness will appear. If not, it does have a slight creamy mouthfeel that is pleasant and at 6.6% abv it does produce a warming alcoholic effect.
In Conclusion …
Another corking entry to the B3 taplist. It was only aged a few months, so I really want to see what this will be like when it gets a good amount of age on it in the keg but I really enjoy it now, too. It’s reminiscent of 80 Shilling, neither aggressive or assertive. Perhaps you remember the bready goodness of Oktoberfest; Old Pricks is like that, darker in overall tone, color and flavor. B3 has done an altbier in the past to which this might be similar. I could only find this note about that beer: “It was a cousin to the schwarzbier, lighter in color, heavier in body and still tasty.” Old Pricks is just as tasty. But it resembles some of the barley wines, mostly, though heavier in mouthfeel and not quite as hefty in alcohol.
History indicates an old ale should be nurtured quietly in the glass, near a fire and steeped in quiet conversation or contemplation. Old Pricks has that character. It adds to the pub culture engendered at Black Bridge, not requiring in depth analysis to enjoy but not fearing it either.