On Beer Cellaring

Often the subject of saving beers to age them comes up.  This is a tricky proposition as not all beers age well, however, some beers age amazingly well if handled properly.  However, if you are new to cellaring, it can be a daunting process.  Here’s a handy decision tree that should help you out.

The Decision Tree

  1. Have you had this beer before? No? Drink it. Yes? Move to step 2.  There is no point in aging a beer unless you have a baseline.  You won’t know if the beer improved or got worse over time, and in that case, what’s the point?
  2. Do you want to drink it now? Yes? Drink it. No? Move to step 3.  But wait, you say, this beer might be better if I age it, how do I choose?  Well, if it will be enjoyable now and make you happy, do it.  Tomorrow is never guaranteed.
  3. Will it age well? No? Drink it soon. Yes? Move to step 4.  See the notes below for a rough guide on this subject.
  4. Put it in a cool dark place that it won’t be disturbed a lot.  This is important.  Light is bad for beer, as is heat.  If you have a wine fridge, this would be ideal.  Unfortunately there does not seem to be a beer fridge on the market as of yet.  At least not one that I know of.  However, a nice quiet spot in your basement works as well.  Wine case boxes are a great way to be able to move your collection easily when you need to.

What Ages Well And What Doesn’t

What doesn’t age well: In general, the following doesn’t age well: Hops, coffee, chocolate. They tend to fall off in that order too, meaning that if you bought a chocolate beer, you should drink it right away, coffee can last for a couple more weeks and IPA can last a month or so.  However, there are some beers that seem to buck this trend and will be excellent if you age them properly.  Sometimes it depends on the amount of coffee or chocolate used.  Often chocolate refers to the color of the malt used to make the beer, and not the flavor.

What does age well: In general, high ABV beers, barrel aged beers.

Parting Thoughts

All that being said, beer is the same as art. If you took a Van Gogh off the wall and put it in a box, so nobody could see it, then nobody would be able to enjoy it. Make sure the goal isn’t some one-upmanship contest about what you have cellared. The goal should be to enjoy your beer, with friends.

For more information on cellaring and things to look for, this article (http://draftmag.com/how-to-cellar-beer/) over at Draft Magazine is a good resource.