Bell’s Third Coast Old Ale Vintage 2015
Product description: Third Coast Old Ale starts with a rich, caramel base, and finishes with a heavy hop bitterness. Sharply intense at first, it will age gracefully, adding complexity and subtlety in your cellar. Go ahead, test your patience.
Bell’s Brewery – Bell’s Third Coast Old Ale Vintage 2015, Reviewed in 2018 – 12 oz. bottle poured into a snifter – 10.2 % abv.
Similar to Bell’s Expedition Stout, Third Coast Old Ale is a great beer for the cellar. Both of these beers are relatively bitter for their respective styles. Along with the obviously high alcohol content, I think that the high bitterness helps give these beers some prolonged longevity. Think tannic red wine.
Sampled from a 12 oz bottle packaged on 10/2/15, Third Coast Old Ale is clear, deep red in color with impressive yellow foam that has better head retention than you might expect for a barleywine. (Though the beer is named Old Ale, the label calls this a barleywine.)
The nose begins with intense strawberry jam and toast. As it warms, the aroma pivots to something very minty and herbal – perhaps the ghost of what was a more robustly hoppy aroma when fresh. Dig in and the flavor starts minty as well with kettle hop bitterness piling on in a ferocious way for this style. It’s not overpowering as you still get some strawberry jam sweetness and a solid malt base that brings burnt toast flavors. Sit around with the beer and you get more dessert flavors of treacle tart, golden syrup, golden raisin, and toffee. In the background, you get balancing flavors of pine sap, pine needle, and touches of dried citrus peel. The finish is then drawn out with lasting herbal hop bitterness in the palate coupled with earthy bread crust that tip-toes closely to charred and ashy. It’s a nice change of pace since many barleywines taste like sticky sweet strong amber ales. Here, bitterness I’d say is at an 8 out of 10. Sweetness is a tad less at 7 out of 10. It’s a monster beer for sure that could easily hold up for many more years in the cellar.
This beast can easily be enjoyed at room temperature as a nightcap or dessert beer as well. When it was chilled and carbonated, it reminded me more of Stone Arrogant Bastard with so much body, caramelized malt focus, and aggressive piney hop character. I’m envisioning Double Red IPA. Once the beer warms up to room temperature and has sat out for a few hours, you have a different looking beer entirely. It’s a clear, flat amber red with no foam at all. In the snifter it looks more like brandy and you even get some dark alcohol aromas at this point like amaretto. I like the beer a bit more at this stage – enjoying it as a cordial by the fireplace.
Overall, this is a classic beer that puts a non-classical spin on the barleywine style. I’m a big fan of the amped up bitterness, which gives it balance and excellent structure. This is a beer where I would buy a six-pack and drink one from the pack each year just to see how it changes.