The skeleton in my closet is that there’s beer in my closet. This is a relatively new development. Before this year, I never thought about aging beer. I just thought about drinking it.
Some dedicated beer hunters have hundreds of bottles stashed in old fridges, in garages or in basements. Anywhere a few bottles of that special beer from brewery XYZ can be stored. Computerized spreadsheets inventory collections so that the owner can sort by brewery, year or style. You can even find these lists on peoples blogs and websites. (Including my own, how geeky is that).
So, I thought it was time to go over some “Cellaring 101”.
First there are two things you need to have ready before “investing” in your very own beer cellar. First, you need a dark place. Be it a rarely used closet (like me) or the more traditional refrigerator. Excessive light will skunk a beer (which is why most beers are in brown bottles, to block the sun’s rays). Second, the temperature needs to be cool. Excessive heat will also damage your beer. You don’t want to buy some rare beers today that you will have to pour down the drain years from now.
In choosing what to put into storage, you need to look at beers that A) You like. Don’t cellar beer that you can’t abide. It may mean that you have less to choose from but you want beers that you can’t wait to open. B) You want beers that change or add flavors over time. Not beers that need to be drunk fresh. For example, regular pale ale probably should not be aged. Its hoppy notes and crisp bright flavors will both fade with age. Whereas a big alcohol heavy porter aged in whiskey barrels will reveal different flavors as the years pass.
Here are some choice specific picks to get your cellar started (based partially on what is in my closet):
The Bruery – Coton or Papier or any of their Christmas beers.
Sierra Nevada – XXX Anniversary beers. Right now the Porter and Helles Bock are available
Stone Brewing – Their 14th Anniversary beer is coming out soon.
Chimay – Grande Reserve (the blue bottle)
Firestone Walker – One of their Anniversary brews or Parabola (if you can find it)
Deschutes – Jubel 2010. This beer tells you not to open before 2011.
Here are some other more general what to get tips:
Christmas beers generally age well because they are hearty and crafted to warm you up. You can start with Anchor Brewing’s special Christmas / New Year’s ale but try out others. Most breweries across the country have winter seasonals.
The other hint is to buy special releases. Especially, special releases that are one-offs. Beers just brewed that year for a charity or other event. They are generally brewed in small batches so the rarity factor will add some cache to your collection.
Lastly, when you are on vacation, buy some bottles there. Visiting relatives in Washington State, grab some Elysian. In Cleveland for a reunion, pick up some Hoppin’ Frog. It is a great way to remember your holiday and is a much better investment than a T-shirt.
Once you have picked out a beer to add. You should buy two. Have one now and write down your review of it. Then tape that review to the beer in your cellar or put it into your spreadsheet so that when you open it later, you can compare and contrast.
This week’s beer is a special charity beer called Reunion. This year’s version is a Belgian style Scotch Ale. It is collaboration between Berkeley’s Bison Brewing and Georgia’s Terrapin Beer Co. You can learn more about the cause HERE.
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.
July 2, 2010 at 9:13 AM
Look for beers that have names with imperial or double in their names. In general Russian Imperial stouts, barrel aged beers, Old Ales and barleywines are also good to cellar
June 22, 2010 at 6:16 AM
Great post man I can’t wait to make my own cellar at home. Can you recommend more type of beers that taste better when age if you find more? Thanks.
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June 17, 2010 at 11:44 AM
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