2011 & 2012 Commander Comparo

My wife, Amy, had made plans a while ago to spend this evening with a couple of her friends. I try to encourage her to go out when she can, since she’s always home with the kids. This would be a nice, fun break for her, and I would be able to do some PS3 gaming after the kids went to bed…

Unfortunately for my wife, her friends cancelled their plans. (Sorry PS3, you’ll have to wait for another night.) Lucky for her, I have a back-up plan! I thought it would be fun for the two of us to sit down and do a little beer tasting for the Lupulin Libations blog.

We’re going to compare the 2011 and 2012 versions of the Lift Bridge Commander barleywine. I’m even going to put Amy in front of the computer to type what she thinks! I know. Crazy, right? I’ve had the itch to do it ever since I gained possession of the 2012 bottle (so, like, a few days ago…).

About the beer: Commander is a 12.5% ABV English-style barleywine brewed with cardamom and aged in bourbon barrels, brewed by Lift Bridge Brewing Company in Stillwater, MN.

Alright, the kids are in bed. I think it might be time to get started. Are you ready? Let’s do it!

2011 & 2012 Commander Comparison


Nick: These two beers want to be the same color, and might just be. The 2011 is hazy, while the 2012 is crystal clear. That makes it hard to be exact regarding the color. They both have the same light tan head that dissipates fairly quickly into a thin ring of foam along the sides of the glass. Visible carbonation appears nearly identical.

Amy: The 2011 is definitely hazier, but seems similar in every other way. The foam does seem to stay around longer on the 2012.


Nick: The 2011 has big wiffs of bourbon, vanilla, cardamom, light alcohol. Wow. The 2012 has the same notes as the 2011, but much more muted and subdued. It comes off more like a light caramel. The 2011 definitely wins this section by a nose. (Sorry, couldn’t help the pun.)

Amy: They are so very close to me. The 2011 was easier to pull the aroma out, but the 2012 delivered the same aroma after a few swirls.


Nick: Mmmm, delicious. Both have very similar flavors: caramel, vanilla, bourbon, toffee, cinnamon spice, touch of bitterness. The 2011 seems a little sweeter, especially up front. The 2012 is a touch more bitter at the finish. Otherwise, there doesn’t seem to be a big difference.

Amy: They are both very yummy! This is a style I really enjoy. They are very similar, but I feel I could pull out more differences in the flavor than I could with the aroma. The 2011 seems to be sweeter and caramely in the beginning with less of a bite throughout. The 2012 has more of an alcohol burn in the middle with a more bitter finish.

Comparison Verdict

Nick: These two years of Commander are surprisingly similar, especially since one has been aging for a year. Both are delicious and are very enjoyable. You can’t go wrong with either. I think if I had to choose between them, the 2011 would barely edge out the 2012, due to the more fragrant aroma and the marginally fuller palate from the slightly more sweet beginning.

Amy: I am drawn a little bit more to the 2011 because I tend to favor the sweeter flavors. Overall it just seemed a bit smoother. Both have a very complex flavor base giving it a very rich flavor. That is why I feel like I enjoy this beer so much. There is so much going on in every sip!

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