| How To Age Beer Yourself
by Peter T. James
Hello Bob -
One of my favorite things to do is drink properly aged beer. As a big
fan of your column I thought I'd write and share some tips with your
readers that I've learned over the years on how to age beer at
home. In my opinion it's well worth the effort. Hope you might agree.
I also love wine and home cellaring is a common practice in that
world. Keeping a few bottles of a favorite label of varying vintages on
hand is a fact of life for sommeliers, both professional and amateur
like me. As the years pass, a series of chemical reactions between
acids and sugars transform the drink into a new and, to some
palates, improved version of itself. A simple equation is formulated
where the time spent cellaring increases the monetary and
emotional value of the bottle proportionally to the pleasure taken in
But who says wine people should have all the fun? Beer lovers can
partake in their own cellaring experiments as several types of beer
can benefit greatly from a few extra years in a cool, dark place.
Picking a beer to age is key. Before setting a beer aside to age, first
consider the style of the brew. As a general rule, if a brewer
presents you with a “best by” date printed on the label, listen to their
advice. Low-alcohol, session-worthy beers will have nothing to gain
and will only get worse with time. Beers like IPAs that thrive on a
fresh hop premise will likewise fall off the mark. Instead, for your
aging adventures, look to maltier fare such as porters, stouts and
higher alcohol beers like barleywines, or potent Belgian varieties.
The aging process is often referred to as “experimental” because
there are no promises for what will happen to your cellared beer with
time. Typically, the astringent burn of strong ales will mellow into a
sweeter, more palatable sipper. The bitter and aromatic attributes of
hops will recede. The specific qualities of the beer will begin to blend
and merge into a more consistent profile. Many times, the beer
created as the result of aging is wildly different but potentially much
more enjoyable than the original.
For your storage location, choose a spot with little to no light access
and a steady, cool temperature. Heat, light, and oxygen are the
enemies of beer storage. Make sure the bottles are tightly sealed
and that they are not subjected to prolonged exposure to bright
lights or warm temperatures. If you feel that your bottle caps need
extra attention, you may want to consider dipping the bottles in wax.
This ensures that no oxygen will seep in and also makes your bottles
look extra festive. Beer packaged in cans is ideal for long term
storage as cans completely block light and have tight seams.
I often save seasonally released beers for a number of years and
then conduct side-by-side tastings to compare the aging process
and determine an ideal storage time for the specific beer. Once
you’ve done this for your favorite brews, you’ll have a personal
preference established and get into a regular routine of buying,
aging, and drinking. Homebrewers can also get in on the act, which
will open a window on how their own creations change with time.
I hope this encourages someone to cellar a few beers. It's fun and
easy to do. It does demand a bit of patience. I'm a little thin on that
sometimes so I always have a few beers that have to be enjoyed
fresh in my fridge.
Thanks Peter for your most interest article. Your tips are right on. I
personally enjoy drinking properly aged beers. Also your suggestion of
doing a vertical tasting of the same beer is something everyone should
try. It's a fascinating taste experience.
Again, many thanks for sending your article. It's the first we've had on
aging beer and it's a good one!
I'd like to invite everyone to send me their own columns about anything
related to beer in any way just as Peter did. I select the best and
publish them here. So join in and get writing!
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