Did you know you aren’t limited to just aging wine? Ageing beer in your cellar, like wine, could be a wonderful thing if done correctly. Beer doesn’t necessarily get better with age but it gets different, meaning beer flavor profiles change. A brewer will bottle his beer how he wants it to be drank; they have already done the aging for you and have no intentions of you aging it any further. However, if you wanted to age a beer on your own just to see certain qualities come through, or a slight difference on one of your favorite beers, then aging beer can be awesome!
“Properly made beer is ready to be consumed as soon as it is bottled. Fresh beer is beer in its purest form, and is what the brewer intended you to enjoy. You may favor a properly cellared beer more than the fresh one. But ‘better’ is always up for debate.” – David Acra, Northern Florida area manager, New Belgium Brewing Co.
Keep in mind, aging will allow the loss of certain aromas and flavors. For example, bourbon barrel-aged beers lose some heat, and wild yeast strains gain more funkiness. Certain notes may fade off entirely or just a little, and other notes may become more pronounced. Fresh fruits may fade off, with some darker fruit notes taking on a dried-fruit characteristic. Hops tend to always fade away within 90 days, sometimes even less! So hop forward beers are not great candidates for aging. Also, coffee flavored beers are not great for aging either. Coffee fades relatively quick, and those flavors with turn into vegetal flavors like green pepper. It’s sort of a game, you never know how the beer will age. That’s why I always suggest drinking one fresh so you can compare later on. For me, almost all beer is always best drunk as fresh as possible. However, I do have a cellar full of beer – most are favorites that I’ve drank fresh already and I just want to see how the flavor profile changes over time.
So when aging a beer, keep it in a cool, dark place. Remember light will skunk and ruin those precious beers, and all of your hard earned work of letting those bottles sit on a shelf and collect dust will go down the drain! Cellars work best as they maintain a cool temp year round and tend to be dark. If you don’t have a cellar you can keep it in your closet with a dark sheet or towel over it. I have more beer in my closet than i do of clothes! Keeping beer at room temperature will speed up the aging process though. So crack those open sooner than later. A good cellar temperature is around 55° Fahrenheit. Choose beers that are malt forward like, stouts, barley-wines and sours, and with an ABV of 9% or higher to act as your preservative. Unlike wine, you’re going to want to stand your bottles upright rather than laying them down on an angle. And lastly, I recommend picking up a few bottles if you plan to age. Drink one fresh so you understand how it tastes from the beginning, then have another 6 months or so down the line, and then another in a year or two and you’ll be able to see the wonderful progression of a beer aging.