photo Originally posted: 9/13


Aging beer, or cellaring beer, is so 2008. But determining the best beers to age is 2011.


A beer sophisticate we know tells us, “Lots of people I know are laying down beer  designed for aging. The results can be amazing.”


Not that we needed convincing, but he provided Exhibit A (he’s a lawyer): Stone Vertical Epic, whose website articulates:


These bottle-conditioned ales are specifically designed to be aged until sometime after December 12th, 2012. Provided you can wait that long. At that time, enjoy them in a “vertical” tasting. Each one unique to its year of release.


Beer sure has changed. But that’s neither here nor there. Today’s quest is to find which brews age best.


Three vertical experts at share their collective wisdom, and we think it provides a good briefing on what to look for.


“The ones that age best will be beers that are bottle conditioned and NOT pasteurized, and have a hefty alcohol content and hopping rate; all of these factors contribute to the preservative qualities and continued maturation in bottle (if they are held at reasonably cool temperatures). Beers like Sierra Nevada’s BIGFOOT, Thomas Hardy’s Ale, Gales Prize Old Ale, J.W. Lee’s Harvest, and Chimay are good candidates for cellaring.”


“The ones that I think don’t hold up as well are those below 8% or so, with some Belgians and lambics as an exception.”


“I’ve tried aging a pretty wide variety of beers, and it’s very hard to predict with certainty which will improve and which won’t, and how much time it takes to see an improvement. Recently, a bunch of fellow beer geeks and I got together and opened a bunch of bottles we’d all been sitting on, and the results were sometimes surprising.


The conventional wisdom is that high alcohol beers age well. This is sometimes true, but not always. For example, the North Coast Old Stock from 2004 was so oxidized it was undrinkable. Also violating this rule are sour beers, which can be as low as 4% but still improve due to the action of the wild yeast in the bottle.


Also, while floral hop character diminishes with age, hop bitterness does not. And double IPAs can age quite well, and essentially turn into barleywines after a year or more in the bottle – a transformation I personally enjoy a lot. I’ve had some outstanding aged DIPAs, that with age reveal a delicious maltiness.


A big factor is how you store the beers, too. If they’re kept too warm, that isn’t good for aging.”


News to us. And maybe you, too.