I have a big passion for aging beers, I think it's a really interesting 'hobby'; buy a couple bottles of beer, drink one right away and save the other for a couple of years later. I dunno why, it just seems an interesting thing for me to do. I know some basics about the beer aging process. I asked Zak today what was the main difference between aging beer and aging wine, and the discussion which followed, on the properties and physics of oxidation and other aspects of molecule binding etc... may have been a little much for my limited brain. (took it in though, otherwise I couldn't have just wrote all that!)
As with many things in life, to get the best out of something, you have to follow some basic rules. The basic rules for aging beer couldn't be simpler. 1. Keep it cool, not cold. 2. Keep it preferably in a dark place (avoid any sunlight). 3. Try to keep it upright.
That's about it really. You need to be aging the right sort of beers though. Your basic lagers will not benefit from any aging process, they're better drunk fresh. That's the main point of the cellaring, it's to see if the beer will benefit from some extra maturation. How does it develop, or evolve in the bottle. Does it become more balanced or mellow, or will some flavours become more prominent, thus making the beer more than one dimensional. (if it may have been before)
Beers which you should be getting in your cellar;
- Beers high in alcohol, it will help the preservation of the beer.
- Bigger the better. Big bottles will usually be better for aging.
(not to say that you can't age some 'nips')
- Imperial Stouts or Barley Wines will go great.
- Old ales, usually high in alcohol.
- Most Belgian Strong ales will do perfect.
- Beers that are bottle conditioned.
I know there's probably more but I can't think of any right now.
I'd been looking at my stash, and thinking, I should probably start drinking some of these really - space is becoming a concern in this cellar!
So tonight I decided to share a wee old bottle with a good couple of chaps at the Ritz:
After trying the new version of Thornbridge's Bracia and thinking it was an awesome beer last week, this one had been staring me in the face somewhat. From the best before bottling date, we guessed this beer to now be 2+3/4 years old - not a bad age to get tucking in.
The bottle quotes: "Bracia is the Celtic name for a beverage brewed in Iron Age Europe with reference found on a Roman inscription at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire. Little is known about this except it was high in alcohol, brewed with cereals and, most probably honey." Sounds good to me! In fact the list of ingredients in this beer is quite staggering. 4 hops, 7 malts and tonnes of dark and bitter chestnut honey (I won't list them all specifically, that would take a lot of spell checking!). They've thrown in plenty of champagne yeast too to finish it off.
It's hard to say if this beer has been affected that much from my cellaring. The bottle says it can be cellared for up to a year, maybe more, but it seems it could stand the test of time for at least ten years! I'll leave the tasting notes up to your imagination, I say that because you can still get plenty of the new batch and try some aging for yourself :)