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Time usually mellows a beer that's strong enough to cellar, so I was encouraged by Central Waters' claim that their Y2K barleywine—more properly called Kosmyk Charlie's Y2K Catastrophe Ale and "originally designed for the Y2K survival kit," whatever that means—is aged for a year before it reaches the drinking public.
Plus I already had a few good reasons to trust Central Waters: not just La Petite Mort, the bourbon-barreled weizenbock they brew with Local Option, but also their excellent bourbon-barrel stout. Kosmyk Charlie's isn't aged in bourbon barrels except in special cases (and this isn't one of those), but it's clearly a much prized adult beverage: even at four bucks for a 12-ounce bottle, it was sold out at both Binny's outlets I visited this past weekend. Speaking of Local Option, though, they'll have it on tap at their Al Capone-themed beer event this Friday, January 25. (You should also try the De Dolle Stille Nacht 2011, the Emelisse Triple IPA, and the Local Option Kentucky Common aged in Templeton Rye barrels. At least. And don't try to drive.)
Kosmyk Charlie's is sweet, fruity, and richly yeasty on the nose—the first thing I thought of was apricot and prune kolaches still warm from the oven, but I can also smell brown sugar syrup, stewed figs, and black cherry. The hops are subtle, adding earthiness and a touch of fresh green pine. I can't really pick up the alcohol, though the beer is 10 percent by volume—a good sign.
The mouthfeel is pleasantly thick but not cloying or sticky, and the taste follows the aroma pretty closely—I get a lot of toffee, though, which I couldn't smell. The aftertaste is wonderful, like a boozy bread pudding, and it lingers side by side with a strong, cleanly bitter finish from the hops (perhaps abetted by oak tannins, though I don't know if this was aged in barrels or in steel). Honestly I prefer American-style barleywines that use their characteristically ludicrous doses of hops to provide fruity or floral character, not just bitterness—Three Floyds' Behemoth is a great example—but that seems like a quibble here. This is a damn fine beer, and I feel only slightly silly that I paid four dollars for a little bitty bottle. (I'm sure it costs more on tap, for one thing.)
But wait! Am I going to try to talk about metal this week? I know you've been on pins and needles! As it turns out, I am lazy, and I settled for searching my iTunes library for the words "apocalypse" and "catastrophe." So here you go: First, some dirty Swedish death metal from Miasmal's 2008 demo. This is "Apocalypse Legion."
And here's "The Catastrophe Exhibition," from the 2010 album Monument to Time End by black-metal supergroup Twilight. Good night and good luck.
*Yes, describing myself as having a "relationship" with a particular style of beer is definitely an OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE WITH MY LIFE kind of moment.