I have a slightly ambivalent relationship* with barleywines. Done right, they’re one of my favorite kinds of beer in the wintertime, but because of their high alcohol content—usually pushing double digits—and the concomitant need to heap a whole bunch of crap into the mash tun when brewing them, they sometimes turn out hot and harsh, with a mess of big flavors clanging discordantly.

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.)

Philip Montoro has been an editorial employee of the Reader since 1996 and its music editor since 2004. Pieces he has edited have appeared in Da Capo’s annual Best Music Writing anthologies in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011. He shared two Lisagor Awards in 2019 for a story on gospel pioneer Lou Della Evans-Reid and another in 2021 for Leor Galil's history of Neo, and he’s also split three national awards from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia: one for multimedia in 2019 for his work on the TRiiBE collaboration the Block Beat, and two (in 2020 and 2022) for editing the music writing of Reader staffer Leor Galil. You can also follow him on Twitter.