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haresfur

Aging beer

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You might be interested in a happy discovery I recently made.

I stopped brewing beer quite a while ago – I didn't seem to have time and wasn't drinking enough to get good at it (the former excuse still holds but I'm not sure the later still does). My last batch, christened by my DB as “Trash the Kitchen Imperial Stout” (never let your Imp. boil over) was a disaster in other ways, too. In a mis-guided attempt to sweeten up the recipe, I added too much molasses, not knowing that the molasses flavor results from unformentable chemicals. This resulted in a vile, highly alcoholic watered down blackstrap.

So about 8 years later, I found some liter bottles with ceramic caps and a 12 pack of 12 oz bottles of the stuff left in a basement cupboard. I cautiously slipped some from a liter bottle to a beer afficionado who said, “High abv but drinkable.”

Sure enough, after almost a decade, the alcohol had kept the beer preserved but the molasses had mellowed away.

But wait, there's more. We opened one of the 12 oz bottles with a regular cap and the beer hadn't gotten any worse but there was still an overly strong smack of molasses. My theory is that the cap sealed too well and you needed the little bit of oxidation through the rubber gasket on the ceramic cap to take out the unformentables.

Is there a moral here? Maybe that brewing chemistry is way more complex than I understand or that beer-gods are benevolent if you are patient.


It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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Certain kinds of beer can be aged, and can really improve with time. The higher ABV beers tend to fit this mold, along with lambics. This is why my apartment has a whole closet of beer to be drank at a later date -- whether it be a year from how or 10 (the lambics in particular are waiting for a while).

On New Year's Eve, my boyfriend opened a bottle of Bass Kings Ale from 1902 that he had acquired, and though it was a bit much for me (and for most people), I was certainly impressed with how it held up all that time. You would have never guessed it had survived for 100+ years.


"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."

- Gareth Blackstock (Lenny Henry), Chef!

eG Ethics Signatory

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Certain kinds of beer can be aged, and can really improve with time. The higher ABV beers tend to fit this mold, along with lambics. This is why my apartment has a whole closet of beer to be drank at a later date -- whether it be a year from how or 10 (the lambics in particular are waiting for a while).

hmmmm

... my boyfriend ...

bummer.

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Out of all of the beers that I have ever made, and there have been alot, my favorite was a "found beer" that turned up in a cooler corner in a small bar in New Orleans, in a 1/2 keg, buried under a bunch of other stuff. It had never been moved or touched. It just happily sat in the back of a small walk-in, being ignored because it was no longer on tap. The owner of the place called to tell me that he had found it and asked if I wanted it back. I actually told him that I would come pick it up, but it was probably done for, in terms of decency and taste. I got over there about 3 in the afternoon, about the time he opened up, and we drug it up to the front and put it on tap, just to see what the deal was with the stuff.

Well, 7 hours later (or so, the memory is a little hazy, both from that night and from age on the brewer), we decided that it was potentially the best beer that we had ever had.

It had started out as a very chocolaty porter, with a little higher abv than fits the style, and not much of a hoppy character (just nicely bittered) but closer to a porter than anything else. What had happened to it over that year was that the chocolate had become totally infused, smooth as silk, and the hopping had actually become more pronounced (we used British grown Fuggles and Kent Goldings). The stuff was amazing. The next day I packed up the remainder and hauled it back across the lake where, for a couple of months, we doled it out to very, very well behaved tourists as a reward for not being annoying and to ourselves. It was amazing.

But, generally, my taste in beer runs closer to the fermenter the better. I like it fresh, as a general rule. It makes a difference. For those of you who hate those "big beers", you should have some of that stuff, unpasteurized, straight off the line. Budweiser, in it's intial state, is a subtle and amazing taste treat. Sadly, that same beer (or anyone's beer, I don't mean just AB), just a few weeks later, becomes lackluster and dull, most of the time anyway.


Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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Having a beer that's alive can make a big difference as to its potential for beneficial aging. Also, like many things that age well, it helps if it's got some outsized characteristics (e.g., serious hop bitterness) that can benefit from the mellowing that comes with age.


--

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Certain kinds of beer can be aged, and can really improve with time. The higher ABV beers tend to fit this mold, along with lambics. This is why my apartment has a whole closet of beer to be drank at a later date -- whether it be a year from how or 10 (the lambics in particular are waiting for a while).

hmmmm

... my boyfriend ...

bummer.

Well the "aficionado" I referred to is my 22 yr old niece. ... what's your annual income? :raz:

I knew some beer aged well, what I found most interesting was the difference between the two bottles. I suppose this could tie back to the screw cap vs. cork controversy for wine. I wonder what it would have been like if I had started with a really good beer.


It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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Well the "aficionado" I referred to is my 22 yr old niece.  ... what's your annual income?  :raz:

I knew some beer aged well, what I found most interesting was the difference between the two bottles.  I suppose this could tie back to the screw cap vs. cork controversy for wine.  I wonder what it would have been like if I had started with a really good beer.

My annual income isn't the one being used to support this beer habit, and it wouldn't be able to. My boyfriend (a flash programmer) is much more of a "collector" in general, so he does a good job of setting up trades and such, since he tries to rate and drink as many things as possible. I wouldn't do such a good job of seeking things out. I just like to drink good beer, as I like to eat good food. :biggrin:

BTW, he mentioned why the liter bottle probably aged better. It actually has nothing to do with how it's capped (at least not in your example). Apparently larger bottles age better than small ones. He's not sure why, but he said that it might be that there is less oxidation; there's a smaller percent of beer actually exposed to the air in the bottle.


"I know it's the bugs, that's what cheese is. Gone off milk with bugs and mould - that's why it tastes so good. Cows and bugs together have a good deal going down."

- Gareth Blackstock (Lenny Henry), Chef!

eG Ethics Signatory

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He's not sure why, but he said that it might be that there is less oxidation; there's a smaller percent of beer actually exposed to the air in the bottle.

I'd think this would be at least part of the answer, not 100% sure though.

In terms of beer aging, it's often quite beneficial. Anything with high numbers in ABV, IBUs, or SRMs (color) should be somewhat well suited to aging.

However, there are times to drink beers relatively fresh that fall into those categories. For me, any beer that is depending on big hop flavor isn't one to be aging for toooo long. Hop character definitely starts to drop out.

Where as flavors from grain in a barley wine or a russian imperial stout really start to meld together, hop flavor seems to drop out in a lot of cases. (For me) So for IPA's/hoppy pales or whatever concoction someone comes up with, I'll drink at least most of it relatively fresh. I can put away a bottle or 2 for aging, but I generally try to drink the hoppy stuff quick.

It's a burden. :laugh:

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There are two liquor stores in NJ that have "vintage areas"

1. Buy Rite - South Plainfield 901 Oak Tree Road S. Plainfield, NJ 07080 908 561-0051

2. Super Saver Liquors 888 Route 22 East Somerville, NJ 08876 908-722-6700

They not only have an unbelievable selection, but they have older bottles too.

Bring a lot of money. (It's worth it!)

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Ten years ago I brewed a Wee Heavy which turned out to really be Way To Friggan Heavy, and in a naive and misguided adventure ended up bottling some in 375 ml wine bottles and others in grolsch style bottles. I let them age for a couple months and popped one open to discover a liquid that tasted about as good as paint thinner. I was really, really bummed.

Fast forward five years, and somehow through all my moves, I managed to drag this beer along with me. A friend came over from out of town, and we decided 'what the hey, let's see what has happened to it'. To my surprise, five years aging in the grolsch bottle mellowed it out completely, and to this day it is still one of the best batches I've ever made. Unfortunately the ones bottled in the wine bottles tasted really, really nasty.

With that being said, I made an all grain Wee heavy two months ago, ~8.5%, and it already tastes *amazing*. I guess sometimes they are just done when they're done.


Please delete my account from eGullet

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My mate and I drank some old brews he had found in a box the other night (old = about a year or a bit over). Some had changed quite dramatically, some hadn't. The ginger beer had not changed, the chocolate porter had developed substantialy more chocolate characteristics, almost a cocoa taste (chocolate was from the malt only) and the honey porter had seemed to meld the flavours together much more cohesively. These were all beers with live cultures. Well, they were live a year ago anyhow.


"Alternatively, marry a good man or woman, have plenty of children, and train them to do it while you drink a glass of wine and grow a moustache." -Moby Pomerance

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I have found this myself.

I have brewed high alcohol beers with flavours like phenolic antiseptics that taste like nectar after about 18 months.

I have tasted true Czech pilsners straight out of the conditioning tank and they are perfect when fresh.

Bottle conditioned beers in the 4-5% range are normally at their best when the yeast becomes dormant i.e. 4-6 weeks depending on beer type and temperature.

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