As beer culture has grown and developed over the years, the concept of the "beer cellar” has become incredibly popular with craft enthusiasts. As it turns out, wines aren’t the only beverage that can improve and develop with age. A little time can help take the edge off a strong bourbon barrel aged ale or allow a bottle conditioned wild ale to blossom into a tart juggernaut of funk.
When selecting a beer for cellaring, there are many factors that you’ll want to take into account. Style and alcohol percentage are two of the most important conditions to consider. A Belgian strong ale such as St. Bernardus ABT 12 or a sour ale such as Tilquin Gueuze are much more ideal candidates for aging than, say, an American IPA. Beers that are heavily hopped typically don’t hold up well as the hops in the beer will gradually deteriorate over time, but there are certainly some exceptions. Beers with higher alcohol content and heavier malt base, as well as beers that have already seen time in whiskey or wine barrels, are much better suited for holding back.
You must also be very mindful of how your beer is stored. Beer is best kept in a cool, dark space that doesn’t see much light or fluctuations in temperature. Light and heat will both accelerate the aging process in very negative ways. A cellar or unused closet are both ideal locations to stash your brews away. Unlike with wine, beer should typically be stored upright, this way any yeast esters found in a bottle conditioned beer can settle on the bottom of the bottle. Once your bottles are put away and inplace, try to avoid moving or disturbing them.
I would also recommend always buying at least two bottles of any beer you plan to cellar; one to be enjoyed now, and one to drink after you age it. This will allow you to better discern the differences between the unaged and aged beer. It doesn’t hurt to jot down some notes and initial impressions each time you enjoy the beer. It’s always nice to have a record of your experience.
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