The Art of Ageing Beer
Although a historic art the I first came across aging beers was in Antwerp. Hidden in a side street is a bar called the Kulminator, nothing special on the outside but it was getting known as a mecca for beer. They had 2 beer menus, 1 thin but a good selection of regular beer. Whereas the aged/old beers had a large book. It was a bit like playing Russian roulette with beer, yet 15 years later I still remember the 25-year-old Hardys we had. It was like drinking a Christmas cake.
Want to try?
Here are a few simple tips and guidelines.
Golden Rule; Strength, anything stronger than 7% ABV can be aged for a few years.
Temperature; You really want somewhere that does not fluctuate in temperature. Ideally anything below 10° is good. My under stairs cupboard is never above 12°
Light; as with wine you do not want light getting in.
Storage; if they have Corks you can lay these down, but if they have bottle caps it’s better for them to stand in a bottle box.
What to age?
Ciders- Anything that has been barrel aged already is ideal and naturally fermented.
Barley wines – is a beer traditionally aged. Hardy’s ale is sold with this is mind. Locally try, Lacons Audit, or Humpty Dumptys, Christmas Crack.
Christmas beers – Christmas beers tend to have spices added. Cinnamon and cloves are always a dominating flavour but it mellows over time allowing others to come through. So I find these are better after a year.
Sour / Lambic / some Barrel-aged / Gueuze – these tend to have wild yeast and even if lower in ABV they will age as the yeast will continue to eat the sugars.
Orval – this Trappist beer has Brettanomyces yeast added at the bottling stage. This means it is a beer that will change over time, my personal favourites are 18months and 5 years old.
Hoppy beers, the hops essential oils fade after 6months and in some cases the flavour becomes cheesy.
Kettle sours, these beers have had lactic acid added to them, I tend to find they get sharper and unbalanced
Beers lower than 6% normally don’t do well, they may become cardboardy, oxidised or musty.
(A perfect excuse to spend more) Buy more than 1. If the budget allows buy 4, this lets you,
- sample 1 and make some notes before you store it.
- a year later you can taste the next one, see how it is doing, is it tasting oxidised? do you think it could last longer? will it improve?
- 2 years after this, try again
- In some cases, you will then try it again in 5 years and wish you had brought more.
I age most of my beers for about 5 years, but in my cupboard I have beers that are 30 years old. These are treats for special occasions or just when you need a hug in a glass.