Last time I got ahold of some Alchemist Focal Banger--March of 2017--I held back one can for an aging experiment. This week I finally got another batch. Equipped with two examples, one which is less than two days from the brewery and the other a bit over five years old, it's time for the taste test.
I had my wife pour each blind for me. It was immediately obvious which was the fresh can. The older can had no volatile odors at all. The newer can had all the fresh, floral and grapefruit peel aromas I expect from it, although those dissipated even from future pours after about ten minutes. Oddly, after the fresh can smells had dissipated, the older can presented some burnt caramel smells that matched the dominant flavor difference between the two.
You can see from the picture that the beer from the older can on the right is slightly darker than the newer can. That is consistent with the aged flavors of caramel that developed in it with time. It's a similar flavor difference that you might get from an aged wine. Besides a little more bitterness and the burnt caramel notes in the older beer, the two were difficult to tell apart.
Bottom line--I liked the fresher beer better, but it wasn't so much better that I'd turn down a can of good beer that was theoretically past its prime. No need for beer age snobbery.