The Cyclops Olympics celebrates the Elysian Brewing Company Cyclops Barleywine on 5/16/10. As part of Seattle Beer Week 2010, the Cyclops Olympics included Cyclops style competition and a vertical tasting of Cyclops Barleywine.
The vertical barley wine tasting included five different vintages. The first three were on cask: 2004, 2005 and 2006. The 2007 vintage was not available but the 2008 and 2009 vintage was available on draft. Ed and I ordered a vertical flight and an order of Pork Chili Verde to share.
The most striking thing about this vertical was the prominence of hop bitterness. The newer the vintage, the more prominent the hops. The 2004 and 2005 vintages had sweeter caramel notes related to the oxidation expected at this age. The oxidation buffered some of hop bitterness inherent in American barley wines. Don’t worry, there is still enough hops in these older vintages to give them complexity. Hanging out with the beer geeks, most preferred the 04 or 05 vintage with the 04 having a slight lead. Ed liked the 2006 vintage best in the line up.
2004 Cyclops on Cask – This was a really smooth and elegant barleywine. The nose is grapefruit and caramel. Sophisticated and smooth malt flavors are tempered by non-assertive hops.
2005 Cyclops on Cask – This vintage was more intense than the 2004, like someone had turned up the saturation. It had a bigger hop profile and more pronounced bitterness on the finish.
2006 Cyclops on Cask – This was the most intensely colored in the line up, it also had the most clarity. This is where pine essence started to prevail over citrus in the hop profile.
2008 Cyclops Draft – This dark amber colored barleywine was pine on the nose. The hops moved the malts to supporting role on this vintage but didn’t hog the stage. This beer really amped up the heat of the jalapenos in the Pork Chili Verde whereas the other barley wines were a great match.
2009 Cyclops Draft– This is a tasty barleywine but it did illustrate the benefits of age on a barley wine. Aging really brings out a lot of nuances that are yet to come to light in this vintage. If you have some, stick it in the cellar and let it lie for awhile to truly appreciate it.
BUT if you were lucky, you could win a bottle of the extremely limited 2002 Cyclops Barley wine in the bottle! Someone had won before we got there and they were still raving about it an hour later. I set my eye on the prize!
The Peasant Toss involved tossing the poor peasants into the mouth of the hungry Cyclops. Olympic contenders had to wear an eye patch to keep with the Cyclops theme and to throw off their aim. I watched competitor after competitor throw their peasants to the balconies behind the brewery, on to the Cyclop’s horned head. Lots of peasants were literally torn apart when snagged in the Cyclop’s sharp teeth. A few worthy competitors successfully fed the Cyclops and proceeded to the Wheel of Fortune to determine their prize.
Pin the Eye on the Cyclops was another challenge. I watched the other competitors for awhile and I noticed that they almost went way to the right. Mr Cyclops had more eyes pinned to this palm then to this head! I had a plan.
I got my blindfold on and passed Ebony off while I was spun around to appropriate dizziness. Ebony was handed back to me so I didn’t fall and hit my head. As I headed towards the wall with the Cyclops, Ebony pulled me to the door on the left to keep me from hitting the wall and I stuck the eyeball right in the middle! I won a bottle of the 2002 Cyclops that I am going to let lie a little bit longer.
A great way to spend a Sunday afternoon!