Over the next few months, I am going to open beers from my cellar (beer collection). My collection has grown too large and many beers may be on the decline. Cellaring beer can be rewarding, but it's easy to get carried away to the point that some beers age past their prime. I have learned this the hard way. Some beers age gracefully and others don't.
I decided to start opening all the wood aged beers first. Barrel aging exposes more of the beer to oxygen, thus speeding up the oxidation process. Sometimes oxidation can compliment the beer (sherry notes) and other times it ruins the beer (staleness and wet cardboard).
I blew the dust off the bottle of a 2007 Schlafly Reserve Barleywine Style Ale. This beer was oak aged, thus moving it to the front of the line. This was stored at room temp for about 3 years. To my surprise, this beer has held up. The hops have faded significantly, bringing the caramel malt profile to the front. The oak is very pronounced on the finish, adding dryness and spice. I also pick up some accents of vanilla. This is definitely in the American style of barleywine, and not overly sweet or sticky. I sense a very very small amount of sherry, which means this beer is at the early stages oxidation. I am not sure that the sherry and oak are going to merge well on the palate. In my opinion, I think three years may be the limit on this one. If I grab another bottle, I may split the difference and go with 18 months in hopes of it having more hop presence. Look for this beer at any liquor store with a good high gravity beer selection. Definitely recommended if you like barleywines.