Long Term Beer Storage
Knowing that most beer is designed to be drank fresh, and understanding that different styles of beer have different shelf lives, we now come full circle to the idea that some beer actually benefits from aging. Some brews can be excessively alcoholic, and often strong malt and roast flavors can overpower the more subtle underlying elements of a beer’s flavor. Over time the sharpness of alcohol and intense malts fade, allowing other aspects of the beers to work together in a more harmonious fashion.
The alcohol and roast of a Russian Imperial Stout can subside to reveal estery yeast notes that remind the palate of port wine. Beer also oxidizes over time as it reacts with oxygen, a staling process that can actually add sherry-like or chocolatey notes to a beer, turning a bracingly bitter barleywine into something more romantic to the tongue.
But what beers can we cellar? In general, let the tongue be your guide. A basic guideline that is cited with regularity is the 8% ABV minimum for consideration of cellar aging. A healthy dose of alpha acids in the form of early addition bittering hops doesn’t hurt either (meaning bitter beer ages well). A good beer can become a great beer with a little age on it, but then again, sometimes a great beer won’t get any better. The tongue and trial and error shall be our guide. Try it. Find out. While many hardcore beer geeks seek out rare beers like Kate the Great Russian Imperial Stout, it is easier to find a few bottles of Stone Russian Imperial Stout and let them sit for a few years. The results can be quite surprising.