To Cellar or Not to Cellar

Photo by Alex Vakulin

Photo by Alex Vakulin

First and foremost, there’s something you should understand: There’s no guarantee that any beer will age well. There are dozens of factors that affect a beer’s flavor, from storage temperature to light exposure to the type of bottle caps or corks used, and some beer styles just do not improve with age. Know that when a beer is released from the brewery, it’s ready to drink. We wait about a month between bottling and release to make sure carbonation and flavors are at their best, and the majority of our brews that would be good candidates for cellaring have already spent months aging in barrels, so they don’t need more time to taste awesome.

However! Beers can change in interesting ways with age, and if you’d like to squirrel away a few bottles for future tasting, there are a couple important things to keep in mind:

ABV

Lower alcohol beers tend to be more fragile, so those sessionable brews are best enjoyed fresh. There’s no clear line between ageable and un-ageable ABVs, but it’s a decent bet that anything under 6% isn’t going to get much better. This is part of the reason we don’t bottle Sweet Henrietta -- though “stout” may scream “age me,” at 3.6% ABV it’s best fresh. Meanwhile, our barrel aged Dubbels and Quadrupels should hold up beautifully over time. 

Hops

Hop character fades pretty quickly, so you should re-think saving any double IPAs. However, in some styles, fading hop character gives more subtle flavors a chance to shine. Belgian tripels and hoppier Trappist styles are a good example of this, and can taste like a completely different beer with time. In a good way.

Photo by Alex Vakulin

Photo by Alex Vakulin

Sours

It’s important to note that “sour” doesn’t always mean “ageable.” Lighter sour styles like goses and Berliner weisses are delicate, and lose their tart, crisp, refreshing character with time, becoming more subdued. The more complex sours, on the other hand, can evolve in interesting ways. Look for sours with brettanomyces or pediococcus in the mix if you're looking something to stash in your cellar. 

Storage

Storage conditions also play a big part in a beer’s age-ability. Though it’s convenient to toss a couple bottles in the back of the fridge for a while, a beer will only change with age if it’s warm enough for the yeast to continue fermenting -- between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for cellaring. Also keep in mind that light is damaging. Light makes hoppy brews skunky (which means they literally smell like skunk), and even beers that aren’t particularly hoppy will pick up some skunkiness if exposed to too much light too often. Your best bet is to look for a nice cool, dark spot in a closet, garage, or wine fridge if you’re fancy. Also, since most beers are capped instead of corked, you don't need to store bottles on their side, like wine. Store those beer bottles upright to minimize yeast sediment and keep too much of the beer from being exposed to air inside the bottle. 

With a little care, that beer you loved when it was first on tap in our tasting room might taste even better a year from now.