OK, so I have been brewing about 4 years now, and know about good fermentation and storage practices. One area where I don’t have a lot of experience is brewing big beers.
In 2008 I brewed a big barleywine (1.10+), and bottled it in early 2009. It tasted pretty bad in the fermenter and even worse a couple of months after bottling. I had used some homegrown hops which gave the batch an unpleasant bitterness, and I used a dry yeast (either Nottingham or Windsor) which was very aggressive and caused a very fast and hot fermentation.
This beer was unpleasant - murky, solventy tasting, and gave me an instant headache. The only reason I haven’t dumped it out is sheer laziness.
Today, just for giggles, I threw one in the fridge for a few hours and popped it open. Gone is the murkiness, gone is the harsh hop flavor, gone is the overpowering solvent flavor. In it’s place is some residual bitterness and some sweet caramelly goodness.
How can a batch of beer go from being utterly offensive to nice and mellow? I always heard about that beer can improve with age, but I didn’t think the shift could be so dramatic.