Doggie Claws at Six and a Ghost From the Past

As I get ever longer in the tooth, my beer cellar ever improves. I've made a concerted effort this year to start laying in good beers, but I also have scattered purchases dating back to the late 90s. Last night, to toast the new president, I broke out a couple.

2002 Doggie Claws
Confessions first: I don't love barleywines. I know this is an excommunicatable offense among beer geeks, but what can I say? To my palate, most barleywines are like music piped through speakers a few clicks of volume higher than they were made to handle. The malt is sticky and cloying, the hops shrill and overwrought--painful, but unable to temper the syrupy goo. Ah, but when they're good, they're insanely good. So it is with six-year-old doggie claws. Everything about this beer was perfect, from the head retention, which inexplicably lasted until the final drop despite the alcohol, to the aroma of gingerbread and spice to the magnificent flavor, where the malt and hops were silky rich but at the perfect volume. The malt had lost the leather quality and was more akin to something baked--spiced plum bread or gingerbread. The hops retained a lively spiciness that perfectly drew out the malt notes. I have almost never tasted a beer I would score 100 points out of a 100 points, but this had not a single flaw; better, the elements were greater than their sum. An amazing beer. I'll be laying a lot more of this away in the future.

1998 Saxer Three-Finger Jack Doppelbock
A few of you will recall Saxer Brewing, kaput since the late 90s. They specialized in lagers, and the annual pièce de résistance was Three-Finger Jack. Saxer was ahead of its time with lagers in an ale land, but there was no dispute about the doppel--we all loved it. I bought a sixer and I've been parsing it out at very special occasions.

Sadly, I think I've waited too long. It's gone beyond its prime. It was extremely oxidized and more or less flat. The original flavor was suggested, but dissipated. I was reminded of snapshots from the 70s, before they'd perfected color photography. You look at them now and they're all spotty and blurry. This is a risk with aging beer, and one to which I'm particularly susceptible. I regard the beer as too precious to drink. It's stupid, a subversion of the art, but we all have our faults. Perhaps this will encourage me to start drinking these beers, before it's too late.