Monday, October 28, 2013

Want to know more about... Aging beer?

“But aging is meant for wine and spirits, not beer.”
“Beer will not age well.” 
“You can’t age that beer, it’s to light.”

In my opinion, there's no right or wrong beer with aging. Any beer can be aged, if stored properly and if you really want to. Usually, beers suitable for aging are bottle conditioned (visible yeast sediment), high-gravity (above 8% or so), and have complex flavor profiles to begin with. Not all these conditions have to be met. As stated before, you can age any beer you want... for science!!

What is the proper way to age, or cellar, your beer? That question is also open-ended as there are so many variations of packaging. If in doubt, the brewery might have instructions on how to cellar the beer properly printed on the label, which regularly consists of keeping the beer at around 55° or so. See the link below for a great article on storing beer properly.

One factor that is rarely mentioned is regarding bottle conditioned beers. Bottle conditioned beers have live yeast in them which provide the natural carbonation. Once your beer gets over about 80° or so (depending on yeast strain used), the beer will no longer develop a certain characteristic that live yeast can impart onto a cellared beer. For best result on bottle conditioned beers, temperature control is crucial! This might prove difficult to achieve, unless you actually have an underground cellar or an extra fridge with temperature controls.

Imperial Stouts, Barleywines, Belgian Dubbels and Quads, some Saisons, Flanders Reds/Browns (to a degree), wild/sour ales, etc... (The list goes on) are good to age.

There are beers that I would age just for pure experimentation purposes. Aging an American DIPA (Double/Imperial India Pale Ale) will essentially turn it into a Barleywine over time.

Hell, I had a 3 year old Corona once... I do not recommend it! It was stored in an un-insulated garage (temperatures rose to 120° in the summer!) and never placed in a fridge. The taste was something I will never forget. Think of fermented apple juice with vinegar added for the hell of it. It was interesting to say the least. Well, at least I can say I've had it. Who knows what the flavor would have been if it was actually stored properly.

It's quite remarkable how the flavors change and how some beers age better than others. It's a guessing game, at its core. It might age well, it might age dreadfully. I might say it has aged gracefully, but you might prefer the beer fresh. Great! Now you know not to age it.

The bottom line is, any beer is good to drink right now, as soon as it leaves the brewery. It is not necessary to age all beers suitable for cellaring if you don't have the patience, or you simply don't want to. If you want your beer now, then drink it.


Gilbert “Charlie” Perez, Certified Cicerone®

Article on beer storage: