To be sure, this is an American style barleywine.
Barleywine is an English style of strong, complex, and very malty ale that
we Americans have usurped and given our own signature to by hopping it to
the max. English barleywines will be well hopped too, but only enough to
balance their huge malty character which otherwise would leave them
cloyingly sweet. Both American and English barleywines will generally age
out well; in the case of the Americans the intense hops will subside over
I have learned from experience that most Rogue beers are rather fragile, and best consumed fresh. To be fair, that is true of most beers. One exception in the Rogue line, however, is Old Crustacean. Rogue suggests on the bottle that the beer be aged at least one year, and for that purpose provides the year of bottling on the bottle.
Here's what I thought of this beer in 1997:
The bottle before me is dated 1995, so it is roughly two years old. I have enjoyed Crustacean rather young, when the hops completely dominated the brew, and at the given level of 100 IBU's (International Bitterness Units), that is no surprise. I open the beer and pour it in my glass, and a dirty brown nectar fills it halfway. The nose is extremely complex, loads of sweet malt character and yeasty esters here but not much in the way of hops. As I sip, I get caramel-like flavor right off the bat, not the malt kind but rather the sweet candy type. The beer is syrupy, sticky, warming with noticeable alcohol, and hints at fresh bread and butterscotch. The hops have all but faded, with just enough presence in the finish to balance and keep the beer from being overly cloying. Absolutely incredible.
I have more of the 1995 before me now. It's big and chewy with loads of caramel and fresh bread as it was when I took the preceding notes in 1997. Perhaps it's me but it seems hoppier, not so much aromatically but with the bitterness in the finish. It has aged very nicely.
Currently the beer has an even higher IBU rating of 120 and Chinooks and Centennials are used. Malts used are Munich, Great Western Harrington, Hugh Baird carastan and Klages. Original Gravity is about 1.04. This beer is an American classic, my only complaint is the 7 ounce bottles : they just aren't big enough. If Bigfoot can come in 12 ounce bottles, then Crusty can too.
I wouldn't pair this beer with cuisine, rather I'd have it before or after your meal. It's a great aperitif or digestif.
And remember, try a new beer today, and drink outside the box.
*Pricing data accurate at time of review or latest update. For reference only, based on actual price paid by reviewer.