The beer on the left is the 2008 Imperial Stout by Full Sail. The one on the right is the 1998 Imperial Stout, also by FS. They are related, certainly, but the differences are strong enough that I consider them to be very different beers.
The ’98 has burbonesque flavors with very little head, and certainly didn’t retain its head at all. The burbonesque part gives the beer a sweeter aftertaste; a little caramel, a little alcohol warmth, that doesn’t exist in the ’08.
The ’08 has a bitterness there, like coffee, not only on the back end but pretty much running through the entire beer. There’s also more CO2 in this beer, which provides a more sparkling mouthfeel, a little like soda pop. I could see, drinking the ’98, how the beers were related, but instead of bitter coffee flavors, it has mellowed significantly, and absorbed more from the burbon barrel aging. There was a more roasted coffee flavor, instead of bitterness
It also seemed to me that as the ’98 warmed up, that sparkle in the mouthfeel seemed to come more to the fore. I couldn’t prove it, but it felt like the ’08 was served colder than the ’98, and this might’ve been an effect of more CO2 being present in the younger beer.
It was a real treat to try these beers side by side; they were dense, filling stouts, so I had water make a special appearance (seen in the middle) to help clear my palate between sips. I drank the ’98 much slower, because once it was gone, it was gone. One of the joys of beer, to me, is that it exists at a point in time; not just the circumstance of drinking (although that’s certainly part of it) but also the finite existence of it. I enjoyed that beer, and am remembering it here, but I won’t get to have it again, and so it’s worth appreciating. At the same time, beer is meant to be drank not held forever as a time capsule, so I both appreciate the specialness of a beer that’s been held back for years, and the fact that it only exists in the now.