Sunday, February 26, 2012

How to Cellar Beer - Patience today is tomorrow's reward

After drinking a vertical tasting of Driftwood’s Barleywine (2008 – 2011) I started thinking more about cellaring some of these great ales. Of course some beers you should consume within a few months, but some just yearn to be aged. We’re talking barleywines, imperial stouts, Belgian strong ales, lambrics, old ales etc.

Step 1: Patience. Damn, that’s going to be the hard one when I can hear the little beer devil on my shoulder singing “drink me!”

Step 2: Buy at least two of each beer you want to cellar. Drink one immediately (well, if you insist) and make some tasting notes so you have a comparison later down the road.

Step 3: Especially for corked bottles, there’s a debate about storing a beer upright vs. laying it down. However, from what I’ve read, the brewers suggest vertical storage is the best method except for corked bottles - lay those puppies down. Check. 

Step 4: Put a tag on the bottle, or make a note of the date of purchase so you will know when to drink it. You’re going to want to store these bad boys for at least a year.

Step 5: Storage – first off, beer should not be exposed to light or heat. Unless you like skunky beer, heed this advice. Skunky often comes from “light struck” beer. Which means, store in a cool area and keep the tanning bed far, far away. 50 – 55˚F is the optimum temperature for most beers, but they say 55 - 60˚F is best for the barleywines, tripels and dark ales. Good rule of thumb: higher alcohol = higher temperature, lower alcohol = lower temperature.

Living in Richmond, which is at sea level, a cellar isn’t an option for us. If we start digging a hole, we’re going to drown the beer. I think it’s time to go to the dollar store and get a thermometer for our garage fridge and 53 – 55˚F seems to be a good compromise for our range of ales.

Now, how to keep me from screwing up Step 1…

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