July 24, 2015 – Everyone knows most wine improves with age. But so does beer. We first heard about it via NPR and more recently saw more about it in the Denver Post.
It’s not a new thing. Back in 1970, beer enthusiast Bill Sysak was stashing beer in his basement. That in itself is interesting since he lives in Southern California and houses don’t have basements. But we digress. He discovered some of the beers developed new, interesting flavors so he stashed some more and now has thousands of bottles, some as old as 60 years which he bought from collectors.
Not all beers age well. Light pilsners, pale ales, IPAs and most other styles with low or moderate alcohol levels will only deteriorate. Things to look for when considering aging is alcohol content of at least 8%. Smoky-flavored beers, as well as those affected by souring yeasts or bacteria, can also do well in the cellar. Caramel flavors develop from residual sugars that didn’t ferment during brewing.
Besides selecting the right beer to age, there are other challenges. It is important not to expose the beer to light or changing temperatures, and unlike wine, bottles need to be stored upright. Even if you think you have a good knowledge of styles of beer and special characteristics, aging beer in bottles is not the same as aging in a barrel, another popular trend. So it might be a good idea to read Patrick Dawson’s book “Vintage Beer” which was released last March. Bill Sysak, the guy with thousands of bottles in his basement, wrote the forward and since he works for Stone Brewing Company of Escondido, CA as its “craft beer ambassador” he knows whereof he speaks.