Editor’s note: This is a piece I wrote way back in 2012, but I think it is still largely relevant.Consider these things when storing (cellaring) your beer.
I was pleased to stumble across the video I’ve embedded below featuring the guys from Hop Cast talking to Pete Crowley of Haymarket Pub & Brewery about the virtues – or lack thereof – of cellaring beer in the bottle. This video was created after a rather lengthy tasting session of hard-to-find stouts, but there are some very good insights breaking through the slightly slurred speech. Namely, the fact that most beers aren’t meant to be cellared.
I’ve been beating this drum for some time now. Beer aficionados love to “collect” rare beers and amass an impressive cellar. This, in itself, is perfectly fine but as one of the Hop Cast guys says, “beers are not baseball cards.” The vast majority of craft beers you’ll find – rare or otherwise – are meant to be enjoyed fresh. Aging a beer for the sake of aging it, seldom improves its character. As Pete mentioned, there is a qualitative difference between aging something and staling it. If we’re going to be brutally honest about it, of the 120+ recognized beer styles, only a handful are truly appropriate for cellaring. Unless you’re cellaring a bottle-conditioned Belgian ale, old ale, barleywine or the occasional high gravity bock, all you’re really doing is staling your beer. Great point, Pete!
Notice a common theme in the beer styles I’ve listed in the previous paragraph? They’re all typically high ABV beers and they’re all malt-forward styles. This leads me to the final addendum I’d like to make regarding the practice of cellaring beer. For the love of all that’s good, please stop cellaring hoppy beers! Again, brewers brew their beers to be consumed, not admired on a shelf. This is particularly true of hoppy IPAs and the like. Hops don’t age well and the characteristics that make hoppy beers so appealing is, at best, dulled with age. At worst, it’s morphed into an oxidized, vegetal mess. This is true almost without exception with hoppy beers. So, unless your brewing a Belgian gueuze, time is the enemy of hops. Live it, love it, learn it.
I hope everyone enjoys the video and reconsiders the merits of cellaring beer. Of course it’s cool to show your friends what you’ve got, but are the beers you so admire getting worse with every day on the shelf? It’s something to consider.