Last week, I talked about barrel aged beer and the creativity behind this concept and the resulting new aromas and flavors that emerge from barrel aging.
Although barrel aging is part of the brewer’s craft, you and I can also age beer– -it just takes a little patience. The term that’s used for this is “cellaring”, as in putting the beer in the cellar, or basement. Unfinished basements are ideal. The below ground nature of the space means less light, steadier temperatures and cooler air. Warm air and light are enemies when aging beer. If you don’t have a basement, use a closet where you rarely
turn on the light and there is no direct heat nearby. Light can give beer a skunky smell and the heat, essentially, cooks your already cooked– -brewed- — beer.
Okay, that’s the first step to proper cellaring. The second step is to store your beer vertically. Don’t lay it on its side. When your craft beer is stored in a vertical position, there is only a small amount of oxygen exposed to the beer. In addition, a vertical storage allows any yeast in the bottle to settle at the bottom.
The third step in cellaring beer is choosing the right beer. IPAs and most hoppy beers are best when they are fresh and, consequently, are not conducive to cellaring. In general, higher alcohol beers are the best candidates as well as ones with a strong malt character. Some of the styles that are good choices for cellaring include Barleywines, Scotch Ales, Belgian Strong Ales, Russian Imperial Stouts, Doppelbocks, Tripels and barrel aged beer.
Be sure to mark the year on each bottle so that you can taste changes as the beer ages. While there’s no exact number of years you can age a beer, if you can be patient, you can store some beers as long as ten years, and most beers in the styles that I just mentioned will age for at least two years.
Finally, just as there is no set perfect period of time to cellar your beer, there’s also no way to predict what will happen to your beer’s appearance, flavor and aroma. As the beer ages, some of the flavors that may have been prominent when you first drank the beer can fade and, in so doing, let other aromas and flavors become more a part of the beer’s character. And that’s part of the adventure.
Cellaring beer. Another part of the wonderful world of craft beer!
The Craft Beer Guy