Aging Beer

I was doing some reading on the Internet, looking into Christmas Ales for the upcoming season. On Anchor Steam Ale’s website I came across an article that mentioned how their Christmas Ale is made differently every year. They also mentioned how it is common for people to hold onto a few bottles and store them so that they can enjoy them, to my amazement, years later and compare Anchor Steam Christmas Alethem to current brews.

Naturally, I looked into aging beers and what has to be done. What conditions are they to be stored in? Can all beers be aged? Why age a beer? After doing some investigating I found out that beers should be aged like wine; in a cool dark place with an ideal temperature between 50-55 degrees F according to Garrett Oliver, brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery. Not all beers are meant to be aged. Stay away from aging lighter beers like Heineken or Sierra Nevada Pale Ales, for example. The ideal candidates for aging are your more robust and fuller brown beers with alcohol contents of 8% or higher. Aging your beer changes the taste by replacing the alcohol and bitter tastes with fruitier and smoother tastes and less bitterness.

The best way to determine the amount of time a beer should be aged is by experimenting. A few general guidelines are the larger sized bottles will take longer to age properly than will smaller bottles and darker colored beers will take longer to age than lighter colored beers. Try aging a few bottles of a particular beer. After a year, pull one out, try it, and make a note to compare it in another year to one that has been aged for two years.

On aged beer, Dominique Denis, the brewmaster for Chimay commented, “It’s an alternative to cognac after meals, with a cigar or chocolate.”


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