Thursday, 17 July 2008

Cellaring of Beer On the Rise

Cellaring beer was the subject of a nice article in The New York Times last month. In it, several beer enthusiasts with their own cellars are profiled, and craft beer is presented as just as worthy of long-term care and attention as wine, without a hint of condescension:

Over time, lambics become more approachable and less tart. As a general rule for other varieties of beer, bitterness and dryness from the hops fade as they age, which allows malty characteristics to come to the forefront.

“You have to know your beer,” said Mr. Sysak, a 45-year-old emergency room worker in Orange County. “Even so, they’ll surprise you. Beers you know can heighten and loosen up over time might seem to be fading one year, but will become more vibrant the next.”

Some of those profiled go to great lengths to keep their beer stored properly:

Like many collectors, Mr. Sysak operates informal cellars in different parts of his house, using a range of temperatures to control each beer’s aging.

A three-door cooler in his garage stays between 62 and 65 degrees — Mr. Sysak never turns it on — making it ideal for most beers he considers appropriate for aging: barley wines, Imperial stouts, strong ales and lambics.

As some of the lambics reach their peak, Mr. Sysak moves them to a vanity cabinet in a bathroom that fluctuates between 57 and 62 degrees, which slows the aging process.

Beers he’ll serve in the next six months, like India pale ales and lower-alcohol beers, go in cooler refrigerators that will retard aging and preserve freshness.

Another (pictured above) uses an abandoned Colorado gold mine he purchased for a cellar.

While I can't quite afford a gold mine and move too frequently to build up much of a collection, I have had "vintage" World Wide Stout, Thomas Hardy's, Bigfoot and Sierra Nevada Celebration, and enjoyed them greatly. A vertical tasting of Celebration was particularly insightful, as it was made clear how the hops balance changes with age.

1 comment:

Douglas said...

The potential for my cave is a constant 72 degrees. Not really cold or for that matter, cool. bummer.