Winter is stout and Barleywine season, and a good chance to try some new rich, winter releases. This year, I also plan to set a few of the heavier beers aside for aging and revisit them next year (or later, if I can manage to hold off that long), and I’m finally going to build a proper beer cellar. And of course, these rather fancy beers make a good holiday gift, especially when coupled with the admonition to store them for a special occasion—perhaps next time you’re together. Start your own tradition, and you could be gifting and drinking aged beer every year! But first, make sure your recipient knows the best way to store your their beer.
Keep It Cool
For beer aging, experts recommend an area with a stable temperature of around 55 °F. Ideally, this would be a cellar or basement, but could be any room away from windows—such as a closet or cabinet. High temperatures can cause the CO2 to spontaneously release within the bottle, resulting in a foamy gush when the beer is first opened, and can also oxidize the malt flavors and reduce hop aroma. In the other extreme, very cold temperatures can decrease carbonation and damage the still-living yeast in bottle-conditioned beers.
Keep It Dark
The area should also be dark, because prolonged exposure to UV rays will cause the hop oils in beer to deteriorate, creating that familiar skunky smell. Beers can become skunked in a matter of hours, which is why most beers are sold in cans or brown bottles.
Keep it Damp
Humidity is an often forgotten cellaring enemy. If the storage area is too dry, the corks in the bottles will dry out, while too much humidity can cause black mold to creep in through the cap or cork and damage the beer. Most serious beer collectors recommend a humidity range of between 50 to 70 percent, and will keep the humidity stable with a humidifier and de-humidifier. While you may not take things that far when first setting up a cellar, any warm, damp air in your storage area is reason for concern. (Over humidity is usually more of a problem than too little humidity).
Keep It Upright
Unlike wine, beers should be stored standing upright—even those with corks. This reduces the amount of beer that is exposed to the air, slowing oxidation, and also allows the yeast to sink to the bottom. Corked beers do not need to keep their corks wet in the same way as wine, and can even be damaged by exposure to the liquid.
Best Beers to Age
As with anything that is a matter of taste, the beers you choose to age are largely up to you. However, some beer styles do typically age better than others, and are sometimes even brewed to be put away for a while. Generally, stronger beers such as barleywines and imperial stouts age best and have been the time-tested choice for years. Highly acid beers, like lambics, also improve with time. Intensely hoppy beers, though, will begin to lose their characteristic hop flavors and aroma almost immediately. So enjoy that bottle of Talon Double IPA right away!
What’s in your collection?
What beers do you have tucked away for saving? Any you’re getting ready to share? Invite us to try one in the comments below!
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