Gone Fishin’

I would say that posting will be light, except that I’m already pretty far along this week, and I was able to publish something today that I wrote earlier using the magic of my mobile telemaphone. If I can get that to work again, there might be another post on Friday for The Session. In any case, I’m spending time up at Kaedrin North. Alas, beer options appear limited. I thought perhaps I could swing by New Hampshire or Cooperstown and hit a brewery or two, but alas, it appears that I’m in the middle of nowhere (a solid 4 hours from the breweries I’d like to visit). But whatever, I’m on vacation. Check it:

Kaedrin North

Have a good week everyone…

The Session 65: One is the loneliest number…

session_logo.jpgOn the first Friday of every month, there’s a beer blog roundup called The Session. Someone picks a topic, and everyone blogs about it. This month, Nate wants to know:

The way I see it is that I love beer and pubs and I don’t see why I should only go to the pub when I’m with other people.

Am I weird for going to the pub alone?

How do you feel about going to the pub alone? Do you feel it’s necessary to be around friends to spend time in a pub?

No, fine, and no, respectively. As Nate mentions earlier in his post, there is a stigma attached to drinking alone that ultimately boils down to concerns about alcoholism. And those are valid concerns. I realized a while ago that the majority of my drinking is done alone. It’s not that I don’t drink with other people, I certainly do, but my most interesting drinking happens when I’m home alone. For a number of reasons, I try to keep my drinking in check. I don’t usually drink to get drunk. It’s fine to do so on occasion, but my obsession with beer (and scotch/bourbon) is less about drunkenness and more about flavor.

There is a hedonistic aspect to all this which is troublesome. Sometimes I wonder if I’ll end up solving puzzle boxes and playing with Cenobites, but for the most part, I’ve got things under control. I generally only drink on weekends, with the occasional happy hour (or beer club meeting) for fun… but that’s with other people. I digress. This session is about going to the pub alone. I do this too, but not super often.

There are a few reasons I’d end up at a pub by myself (Beerbecue has some other reasons too, all of which are excellent). One is that the pub will have some hard-to-find beer I’ve been trying to track down. Stuff like Pliny or Hopslam or anything by Hill Farmstead. This does not preclude going to the pub with friends, and sometimes the stars align and that happens, but my friends are not as obsessed with beer as I am, so I sometimes go it alone. Another reason I like to go to the pub alone is that most places with a great beer selection also have great food, and you know, I like good food. Again, none of this precludes going with friends, but these visits are often extemporaneous and unplanned, so if no one’s around, I end up at the pub alone, with a good meal and fantastic beer. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Finally, I usually find that I’m not alone at the pub. I’d say that about 90% of the time I go to the pub alone, I end up having some interesting conversations with other patrons (with 9% being uninteresting or frustrating conversations and 1% being no discussion at all). It turns out that beer dorks are friendly, outgoing folk. I’m a massive introvert and I live in an area where striking up conversations with strangers is… unusual. But it happens in good beer bars, and for the most part, it’s a welcome development.

Again, none of this is to say that going it alone is preferable (or not, for that matter), but I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. I like that I do both from time to time, but honestly, I don’t think it would matter all that much if I did one or the other exclusively. In the end, I like beer and I like pubs, which is all that really matters. Alone, with friend, with strangers, whatever. There are pros and cons to everything, and anything in moderation can be a good thing. That being said, I can’t wait for my next visit to Teresa’s, or the Station Taproom, or the Side Bar, or Iron Hill, or even Victory. Come join me! Or not! It doesn’t matter!

The Beer Cellar Update

Back in February, I posted the contents of my beer cellar. At the time, it was actually quite an impressive list of beers, but while I have been toying with the concept of aging beer, I have to admit that most of my cellar was more or less unintentionally curated.

What can I say? My eyes are bigger than my liver. In terms of beer quantity, I don’t actually drink that much. Or at least, I shouldn’t drink that much! So my cellar kept growing, and when you’ve got a whole lot of monster barleywines and imperial stouts, it’s difficult to drink your way through them (this is not a complaint, in case you were wondering). The end result of this is that my beer runs have been much more limited in 2012, and I’ve slowed down my homebrewing activities as well. At a certain point, having too much beer in the house becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Hmmm, I have 7 cases of beer laying around, I should really drink some of this stuff!

So I’m happy to report that I’ve made great strides in drinking down the cellar, to the point where I only have a few massive face-melters waiting in the wings for immediate consumption (while the rest are meant for aging). For the most part, you’ve seen reviews of the beers I drank, though there are 4 or 5 reviews still in the pipeline.

Because I know you’re all dying to know what’s left (and what’s been added since last time), here’s a list of the current cellar:

Um, ok, so that’s still a lot of beer, but I checked 18 beers off the list since last time (and, um, only added 6 new ones), which I consider to be a big win. And the majority of the above are beers I actually intend to age, instead of beers I’m accidentally aging. Of course, I’m not listing some of the stuff I have laying around, such as all that homebrew or some of the Founders standbys hanging out in my fridge for regular consumption. Things will probably slow down over the summer. I don’t find it likely that I’ll be cracking open bourbon barrel stouts that frequently during the summer, but I guess you never know!

The Dammit Meme

So I’ve been tagged in one of those godawful memes that are supposed to spread throughout the internet like wildfire, except that dorks like me… actually, I generally participate in memes. I like answering interesting questions, and beerbecue has some decent ones, so I figured I’d play along. At least until the time comes when I have to follow the rules. I don’t play by anyone’s rules. Especially not my own. That’s my rule.

Since I’m not following anyone’s rules but my own (which I don’t actually follow), I won’t post the original rules. Basically, beerbecue has listed out 7 questions, and I have to answer them. I think the original thing had something about creating new questions and tagging other folks to participate, but I’m not going to do those things because I’m uncreative, lazy, and don’t want to cause any ruckus in the beer blogging world. Enjoy:

Your first beer: That’s an excellent question. I have no idea. Well, I have ideas, but I’m not positive about anything. This is partly because my first was undoubtedly macro crap and thus not very memorable. I may have had a sip of MGD when I was a wee nerd, but when I think about it, I think it may have been a Busch beer. Certainly my first big drinking session was from a case of Busch pounders. Again, not very memorable.

Your first good beer: Also a tough one to pinpoint. I remember drinking Honey Brown, but that’s not exactly a “good” beer. Yuengling lager? Perhaps. But the standout craft beer revelation of my life was most definitely Ommegang Hennepin, stumbled on completely by accident (I wrote about the full story before).

Your favorite BBQ joint? How’s this for good memory: I don’t remember. But I do remember that I was in Texas, which does a slightly better job than PA when it comes to BBQ. And by slightly better, I mean ridiculous to even compare. On the other hand, I’m no expert, and I’m sure there’s something here, I just haven’t really sought it out. I hope beerbecue doesn’t lynch me.

Which childhood star most influenced you? Um… I don’t know. Ron Howard?

Would you rather listen to Exile on Main St. or Sgt. Pepper’s? Exile on Main St. I will say that I like both though, and quite frankly, I’ve never really gotten the whole Stones vs Beatles argument. Then again, I’ve always been more of a movies guy. I love music and all, but I just don’t understand it the way I do movies. Or beer for that matter:p

Which is better: kimjongillookingatthings.com or kimjongunlookingatthings.com? I, too, prefer the original – kingjongillookingatthings. Sequels are rarely as good as the original.

To the extent divulging it would not reveal top-secret, upcoming reviews…what beers are in your fridge right now? My upcoming reviews are probably no secret to anyone who follows me on Untappd, but I will share with you the results of my most recent beer run, because I’m super excited by all of these:

DH 75 Minute IPA, RR Sanctification, Founders KBS, and Firestone Walker Sucaba

(Click for larger version)

And there you have it. Of course, I probably won’t get to these anytime soon, but you’ll probably start seeing reviews in a few weeks. Though I may not be able to hold out on the KBS. Can’t believe I score two bottles of the stuff.

And that just about covers it. I’m supposed to tag 11 other bloggers, but I’ll just leave an invitation open to anyone reading. Heck, start your own blog and answer some questions. Otherwise, like beerbecue, I’ll just take the opportunity to pimp the bloggers on my blogroll over there on the right. They’re all awesome, and you should read them.

The Grading System

It occurs to me that I have not explained my grading system at all, and for the most part that’s because it’s a bit of a nebulous thing. How do I know something is an A (or an F or a B- or whatever)? To paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart1, I know it when I see it (or, in this case, drink it). Then again, most beers could probably shift a level one way or the other and still be valid from my perspective, and I’ll admit that a big part of this is just a sorta gut feeling. That being said, I have some definite guidelines that have been brewing2 in my head over the course of the year and a half I’ve been running the blog.

I’m not entirely sure why I chose the letter grading system this time around, but it probably had something to do with the fact that most of the folks I read used that scale and at the time, Beer Advocate was using letter grades too (they’ve since moved on to a much simpler system comprised of, like, 13 different values, all weighted and averaged on a logarithmic scale to yield 3 separate ratings that you must analyze separately and together in order to get a broad snapshot of what a bunch of strangers think about the beer3). Plus, I’d never used it before myself (I use 4/5 stars for movies and at some point I had a 10 point scale for books, though I’ve reverted back to stars).

One thing I’ve realized that might be important when considering the below is that, well, I was a huge nerd in school. Not super-genius nerdy, but let’s just say that anything in the C range was unwelcome in my household (I got a C+ one one report card once and my parents grounded me for a month). Low Bs weren’t exactly favored either. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in school, but I think you can still see that bias seeping through my ratings. The other thing you’ll notice is that I tend to avoid the extremes. Very few A+s and, correspondingly, very few Fs. Most of the stuff will be in the middle of the pack. Anyway, let’s get this party started:

  • F: There’s something dramatically wrong with this beer. Initiate quarantine protocols; the end is nigh. Fortunately, as of right now, I’ve only given this rating 4 times. Once was for a non-alcoholic beer, once was for the God-awful abomination that is Cave Creek Chili Beer, and two were for beers that were skunked to high heaven. I suppose you could argue that skunked beers don’t deserve an F, but in both cases, I get the impression that the base beer wasn’t very good to start with and in one case, it was packaged in a green bottle – a distinct decision made by the brewery to emphasize marketing over quality (and thus I have no problem giving it an F). I suppose there could be a plus or minus modifier on an F, but once you reach this level, there are other things you should be worrying about.
  • D: There’s still something wrong with the beer, but there is at least some redeeming quality that prevents me from going nuclear and rating an F. Out in the real world, a D is technically a “passing” grade, but if I ever brought home a D, I’d be in serious trouble. To my mind, the textbook beer example is Brewdog Storm, an Imperial IPA aged in Islay Whisky casks. Interesting idea, but my bottle may have been well beyond its shelf life (this nerdy mystery is detailed in the linked post) and I’m not sure I can blame Brewdog for that snafu. All I know is that they tried something interesting and it didn’t work out, hence a D. In other cases, I rate beers a D if they seem stale or if they have weird off flavors that don’t necessarily overwhelm the beer. For some reason, traditional English Pale Ales that have a lot of buttery diacetyl seem to fall into this category a lot). Plus and Minus modifiers have actually been used on the blog, but that only really comes into play in a comparative tasting. In short, if a beer is anywhere in the D range, it’s in trouble. It’s possible that I will finish these beers, as I really do hate to waste a beer, even a bad one, but it’s also possible that I won’t be able to take it anymore either.
  • C-: There may be something wrong with this beer, but it’s subtle and the beer is drinkable. I’ll finish it, but I won’t be happy about it. I’ve only given this three times, and in all three cases, the beer turned out to be a subpar version of better beers. In one case, there were minor off flavors, but nothing dramatic. Some of my least-favorite macros fit in here (for example: MGD, Natty Light, Beast, etc…)
  • C: Profoundly average beer. There’s probably not anything outright offensive about this beer, but it also doesn’t have much going for it either. Drinkable, but nothing to go out of your way for and probably not worth the calories. I would say that a lot of macro-lagers and light-lagers would fit into this rating (For example: Bud, Bud Light).
  • C+: An average (read: boring) beer. When circumstances are right, these can be acceptable. There’s nothing particularly special about this beer, but it’s the first rating discussed so far that isn’t meant as entirely negative. These are beers that usually suffer in comparison to other beers, but again, in the right circumstances, they can be solid. For example, last summer, after an entire day spent out in the sun, a friend handed me a Coors Light. And you know what? I enjoyed it. At that time and place, it was just what I needed. Sure, it’s practically water, but I think that’s what made it work. Now, it’s obviously not going to compete with most of the full-flavored beers I review on the blog, but it has its place. So I’d call this the top tier of the macros, with the occasional craft disappointment that still shows promise.
  • B-: This is the first genuinely positive rating, though I also tend to use this as a place to dump beers that I can tell are well crafted, but which never really jived with me. For example: Founders Breakfast Stout. Everyone seems to love that stuff. Me, I’m not a big coffee drinker. I can tell the beer is well made, but it’s just not my thing. So while this rating is positive, a lot of beers rated here tend to be something of a disappointment to me. That being said, I’d pick these over anything in the C-F range any day and twice on Sunday.
  • B: Unambiguously good beer. It won’t set your world on fire or melt your face, but it’s a good brew worth drinking. Lots of beers fall into this range, so it’s hard to really define a pattern, but if you’re rated here, you’re doing very well. These are beers I would try again, though I don’t think I’d necessarily go out of my way to find (but they’re certainly a sight for sore eyes when your in a bar sporting mostly macro crap).
  • B+: Extremely good beer that is nonetheless lacking something that would lead to true greatness. However, I really like this beer and would go out of my way to try it again. This is my most frequently used rating, so perhaps I am overrating some beers. Or I just have an amazing intuition when it comes to picking out new beer. After all, it’s not like I’m trying to find bad beer!
  • A-: A great beer. Despite the minus, I wouldn’t say the beer lacks anything or has any real flaws. However, there may be something that’s holding me back just a teensy bit. Maybe the mouthfeel is just a hint off, or the flavors could be better balanced. While I may rate a ton of stuff at a B+ or A-, I still have rather high standards, so to get higher than an A-, your beer has to be something special. That being said, beers that get an A- are things I’m going to seek out again and things I’d recommend to others. If you’ve got an A-, you’re doing very well indeed. These are great beers, and they actually are setting the world on fire… but it’s an orderly fire, suitable for roasting marshmallows and making s’mores. Which are, like, totally awesome.
  • A: This isn’t just great, it’s special. Awesome, in the true sense of that word. Excellent, superb, brilliant, fantastic, fabulous, fantabulous, heavenly, sensational, hyperbole, HYPERBOLE! Oh God the world is on fire! And my face! It’s melting! Yet somehow I want more… gimme! As of right now, I’ve rated 36 beers as an A, which strikes me as being a bit on the high side. And every one of them is truly great. These are beers I’d go far out of my way for. These are the ones that keep me drinking beer.
  • A+: No words. No words to describe it. Poetry! They should have sent… a poet. So beautiful. So beautiful… I had no idea. I HAD NO IDEA! Yeah, so at the extreme high-end of the ratings, I’m apparently very strict. Only 3 beers have reached this transcendent level. How does one attain this level? It’s a little mysterious. You need more than just a great beer to get up here. This is the one rating where I really do try to make sure I’ve had the beer multiple times to ensure it holds up (though I did break that rule once, which would be mildly shameful if I didn’t absolutely love that beer).

And to further demonstrate my nerdery, I’ve graphed the number of ratings I’ve given out. This is only really an approximation, as I’m using the post count rather than looking at individual beer reviews. This means that posts that feature, for example, 2 B ratings, will only count as one on the chart below. And if you look at those posts, there often are multiple Bs and B-s, etc… Anyway, here’s my dorky chart:

ratings.png

Not quite a perfect bell curve and the peak is probably centered on too high a rating to be statistically sound, but I’m not that much of a nerd, so I’ll just say that I think this is a rather fine distribution. I suspect that my hesitance to rate along the extremes (i.e. A+ and F) will continue unabated.

1 – Did I just reference a Supreme Court ruling in a freakin post about beer rating? Well, yes I did, and I normally try to avoid devaluing the Supreme Court by applying their rulings to the trivialities of my life, but I don’t feel that bad about it this time because the court case in question was about pornography (for the record, I know that when I see it too.) I should probably just chill out and drink a beer rather than whine about ratings and the Supreme Court.

2 – Tee hee! Get it? Oh, you’re annoyed that I made a whole footnote just to giggle at a lame pun? Well, fine then. Be that way.

3 – Ok, so it’s not nearly that complicated. I just miss the letter grades. It was sooo much easier to tell at a glance what a bunch of strangers thought of a beer. Now I have to, like, do calculations. And why do their beer listings use a different, 5 point scale? Pick a scale and stick to it. Or make them all available all the time. Ungh.

Oscars Beer Drinking

So I promise I won’t promote my other blog all the time, but here at Kaedrin, we have a yearly tradition of watching the Oscars, mocking celebrities, and drinking beer. So stop on by my generalist blog for predictions (which are up now, around noon EST) and frequently updated commentary/mockery (starting with the ceremony, around 8:30 pm EST or so). (To get an idea, see previous liveblogging posts are here: [2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004])

I’ll be cracking open a bottle of Firestone Walker Walker’s Reserve Porter and maybe a few others throughout the night. It’s obviously not the focus of the night – it’s more about me accusing celebrities of being drunk rather than getting drunk myself – but I’m a nerd, so I’ll be commenting on beer too.

Moar Kaedrin

Did you know I had another weblog? In actuality, I’ve been blogging there for almost a dozen years now, and I write about lots of stuff, even sometimes touching on beer, like a few weeks ago when I talked about genres and beer styles, including this quote about beer styles:

In one of the many stories he likes to tell about German, English and Belgian brewers, Michael Jackson first asks a German how beer is made. “Pils malt, Czech hops,” the brewer replies. Then Jackson asks the German brewer down the road the same question. “It’s the same as Fritz said. That’s how you make a Pilsener, that’s what we learn in school.”

After getting a different answer from a British brewer, Jackson turns to a Belgian brewer. “First of all, you take one ton of bat’s droppings. Then you add a black witch,” the Belgian answers. “The brewer down the road uses a white witch.” Jackson concludes with the lesson: “Belgium is a nation of tremendous individualists.”

If style guidelines for Bat Dropping Ale stated that color shouldn’t be less than 25 SRM, do you think that would have stopped the brewer down the road from using a white witch? Of course not. Style guidelines don’t limit creativity, lack of imagination does.

And of course, more on the subject in that post.

Do you like movies? Cause I love them. I recently posted my top 10 movies of 2011. And we have an annual tradition here at Kaedrin about liveblogging the Oscars. Check it out next week! (Previous editions here: [2011 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004])

Basically, I have another blog and you might enjoy it. Check it out! I’m also on twitter and Untappd. The Kaedrin empire is wide ranging and powerful. Follow it!

The Session #60: Growlers Galore

session_logo.jpgOn the first Friday of every month, there’s a beer blog roundup called The Session. Someone picks a topic, and everyone blogs about it. This month, Kendall from the Washington Beer Blog wants to talk about growlers:

Tell us about your growler collection. Tell us why you love growlers or why you hate them. What is the most ridiculous growler you’ve ever seen? Tell us about your local growler filling station. Ever suffer a messy growler mishap? Anything related to growlers is acceptable.

I have to admit that I’m not a big growler guy. They have their uses and I’ve certainly availed myself of the growler’s services, but it’s an elusive creature – not something I frequently use. I don’t really have any crazy objections to it, nor do I have a strong opinion about tap versus bottle (I like some beers better on tap, and others from the bottle). To me, they’re just another tool in the beer nerd’s arsenal.

But I can still point you towards something interesting and growler related for this Session. So I’d like to introduce you to the growler-filler at Victory Brewing Company:

I mentioned this thing before in a previous post about a growler of Victory’s Ranch S IPA, but damn, isn’t that thing badass? When I go to Victory, I love watching it in action. Their fancy growlers themselves are pretty cool looking too, and the way they pressurize with CO2 seems to keep it fresh longer (at least, until you pour your first!)

Alas, I don’t find myself taking advantage of it all that often. Oh well, there are worse things in the world. Like, perhaps, the fact that I have way too much great beer sitting, undrunk, in my cellar. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I should probably go drink some of that stuff…

The Beer Cellar

As I mentioned yesterday, sometimes my eyes are bigger than my liver. I tend to buy more beer than I drink, so my cellar has been growing of late, and I’ve even started intentionally buying beers to age. In yesterday’s post, I covered what kinds of beers are good for aging. Today, I’m going to list out the beers I’m currently excited to crack open… in a few years. Also some beers I wasn’t intentionally aging, but which will probably have an extra year or so on the bottle before I actually get to it.

Not to mention 3-4 cases of homebrew and a bunch of other beer that’s probably not suitable for aging. I didn’t think I had this much beer sitting around. Yes, I need to get drinking. Hopefully a lot of the above won’t be aged too long, if you know what I mean… I’d say only a handful of the above will really make it long term.

Aging Beer

At some point, it became clear to me that I was buying more beer than I was drinking. When I find myself in a liquor store with a great selection, I can’t really help myself, and so I end up with a collection of beer that is growing faster than I can drink. And those 5 gallon batches of homebrew didn’t help either!

Thus began my beer aging experiment! I don’t have a ridiculous program here, but my beer cellar has been growing. Sometimes by default – I bought too much beer, so it has to sit in my basement (or my fridge) until I can get to it. I know, that’s a good problem to have, and I’m not complaining. But I’ve even started doing some intentional aging, and my initial experiments came to fruition this past holiday season.

But this is a long process, so my experience isn’t exactly comprehensive. Being a huge nerd, I’ve read a lot about the subject and I figured it’d be worth exploring my strategy on what beers to age and when to crack them open.

  • Alcohol Content: The higher the ABV, the better the beer is suited for aging (and the longer you can age it). In my experience, super high ABV beers (i.e. beers above 12%) taste very “hot” when they’re young. As they age, they mellow out a bit. Lots of people will say that those uber-strong beers are undrinkable until they reach a certain age, though that’s not usually something I’ve found to be true. That being said, my experience with the 14% ABV Samichlaus is that the extra time in the bottle really does make the beer more palatable. My tiny sample of a 2003 Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA had clearly matured and become more complex than the fresh stuff. I’ve also tried some lower-ABV stuff (notably Anchor Christmas), which seemed to go ok, though it didn’t taste that much different to me (of course, I had no comparison in that case, so it’s difficult to tell). That being said, the general rule seems to be that beers less than 5% aren’t really suitable for long-term aging. What you want are big beers like imperial stouts, barleywines, and big Belgian beers… stuff that’ll get you truly sloshed on a single bottle, basically.
  • Bottle Conditioned Beer: Beer that has been bottled with live yeast is much more likely to change over time. The yeast is still alive and processing the beer, so the beer will continue to evolve. A lot of Belgian beers are bottle conditioned, and some American brewers have experimented with this sort of thing. Dogfish Head’s Squall was a bottle conditioned version of their 90 Minute IPA, and it was quite good! This is also why a lot of homebrewed beer gets better over time, as the yeast is still evening out the beer in the bottle. Anxious newbs like myself often post on homebrewing forums about how bad their beer turned out, but a lot of advice basically amounts to giving the beer some time (which personal experience shows is probably a good idea). I also see a lot of people noting that their best bottles of homebrew were the last few in the batch.
  • Dark Colored Beer: Everything I’ve read indicates that darker colored beers age better than pale beer. I’ve looked around for a scientific explanation for why this is so, but I haven’t really found much (other than hops, which will get its own bullet below). My guess is that dark beer contains much more flavor elements, whether that be from various forms of toasted or roasted malt, or specialty adjuncts like caramelized sugars, etc… Anyways, dark colored beer like stouts, barleywines and Belgian strong dark, quads, etc… seem to be ideal.
  • Malt, not Hops: Beers that rely mainly on malt for their flavors age much better than hoppy beers. Hop flavors and aromas break down quickly over time (and since so many pale ales rely so strongly on hops for flavor, perhaps that’s why pale beers don’t age so well). Again, Belgian beers seem to do well here, as they’re very malt-focused. As are most stouts and Scotch ales, and lots of other styles. IPAs… not so much. Anecdotal and accidentally discovered evidence seems to indicate that this is true. I had a bunch of Founders’ Centennial IPA a while back, but I let one of them sit a bit too long in the fridge. It was fine and I had no problem drinking it, but it was definitely much better when it was fresh.
  • Barrel Aged Beers: These beers take on big extra flavors when aging in the barrel, and beers aged in a barrel tend to become a bit stronger (as some water evaporates or soaks into the wood – the “angel’s share” if you will), which also helps out. With time, all that flavor starts to blend together and become more tempered with time. I haven’t experimented with this very much, but I’ve definitely had some barrel aged beers that could have used some extra time to mellow out. Then again, some beers are almost perfect right out of the barrel. I’ve got a few of those aging in my basement though, so it’s something I will certainly be experimenting with…
  • Smoke and Spice: I don’t have a ton of experience with aging these, but I’m really curious to try some of these out after a while. I know I’ve read that smoke can act as a preservative in beer, and in my experience, that smoke character is usually overpowering in a young beer. My hope would be that putting some age on a smoked beer would let that smoke mellow out, while harmonizing it with the other flavors in the beer. Spiced beers are another question mark for me. I presume the spicy aromas and flavors will fade with time, but in some cases that could be a good thing (I’m thinking that overspiced pumpkin and holiday beers might benefit from that age). I’ve got a few spiced beers squirreled away for next year, so I guess we’ll find out!
  • Wild Ales, Sours, and Lambics: These beers tend to be bottle conditioned and/or barrel aged, so it stands to reason that aging would work well with them. Apparently some of Cantillon‘s lambics will age well for over 20 years (despite being only 5-6% ABV). Beers with Brettanomyces (a wild yeast) and other bacterial bugs (like lactobacillus and pediococcus) will continue to evolve as those critters do their work in the bottle. SOur beers have never been my favorite, but there are certainly a few beers I’d like to try aging…
  • Storage Conditions: Basically, a dark, cool place. Light is the enemy of good beer (light breaks down the compounds contributed by hops, resulting in lightstruck or “skunked” beer), and high temperatures tend to speed degradation. In terms of temperature, 50 degrees F seems to be ideal, though everyone stresses the need for a constant temperature over anything else. Also worth noting is that storing beers upright is important, especially for bottle conditioned beers (as the yeast should be settled on the bottom of the bottle).
  • Maturation Waves: Martyn Cornell sez: “Experiments suggest that the maturation takes place in “waves”, so that a beer which is in fine condition at, eg 30 months may have deteriorated at 36 months, be back on form at 42 months, deteriorated again at 48 months and so on.” I have no real experience with this, but I will say that some of my homebrews seem to go like this. I’ll have one and it’s great. A few months later, I’m not so impressed. A few months after that, I’m amazed at how good it is. This one is a bit troubling, as it sorta means that I’m ruining some beers, but I guess I’m willing to take that risk…
  • Wildcard: And finally, I’ll probably age some random beers just because I want to see what happens with them over time. Or because I forgot it was sitting in the back of my fridge. Or because it’s hidden somewhere in my basement. Who knows, maybe aging a questionable beer will pay off.
  • How Long to Wait: The big question! It obviously depends on the beer, but my goal for purposefully aged beers is to buy multiples of the same beer and try them on a regular interval (once a year seems like a good idea, though the “waves” of maturation gives me pause for some beers). In other cases, it will be a bit more haphazard.

Aging beer is not a new practice, but it is something that seems to be gaining popularity these days, and lots of people are experimenting and learning. I’d hope for some more scholarly efforts in this area, but I’m having fun trying this stuff out myself. Tomorrow, I’ll post the current contents of my cellar, along with some comments on why I want to age them and when I’m planning on cracking them open…