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Cellaring Beer. Just Say No?

Discussion in 'Cellaring / Aging Beer' started by brureview, Sep 28, 2013.


How do you cellar your beer?

  1. Refrigeration with Temperature control

  2. No Refrigeration

  3. Below 55°F

  4. At 70°F or below

Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. In the editorial of Beer Advocate Magazine #80;" Generally speaking, cellaring beer is a waste of time, money, and beer. There. We said it. Someone had to."

    Provocative point- and well worth considering.

    I have had excellent results cellaring some beers: quads, a Saison with brett, a very high ABV Imperial Stout, a high ABV Stingo, and Barleywines.

    Imperial stouts and tripels in general do seem to cellar well for me- even at 10% ABV. It was recommended by a lager brewer to drink his brewery's beers fresh- even the high ABV beers.

    In my opinion- don't be obsessed about cellaring beer- although it's worth trying for some styles.
  2. To each his own
  3. kzoobrew

    kzoobrew Champion (850) Michigan May 8, 2006

    It is my opinion that the overwhelming majority of beers, even cellarable styles, do not improve with age. I wholeheartedly agree cellaring is generally a waste of time, money and beer. There is value to learning through trial and error, I have been there. Stick with a small amount of proven beers if you are going to cellar beer. I would rather have a several cases of Expedition Stout and Third Coast Old Ale than a cellar full of a wide variety wait and see beers.
  4. To say that cellaring is a waste of time and pointless is the same as saying that all RIS', barleywines, etc should always be cellared. Both statements are dumb on account of being too black and white.

    I would wholeheartedly support the notion that cellaring beer is unnecessary. A beer should be ready to drink upon its release. If it's not, it's not a good beer. That being said, a beer will continue to develop, and depending on the style this could provide a different drinking experience that some will consider better. But if the beer is unsuitable to cellar, its 'developing' will be simply degradation.
  5. Good analysis. If a beer is good- it will be enjoyed fresh. A cellared beer will "provide a different drinking experience". Sometimes that experience will improve the taste, and other times a fresher tasting is better.
    sjjn likes this.
  6. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Advocate (605) Colorado Jan 20, 2012

    Here's the thing, there are so many one off beers that a person may want to save for a special occasion I feel that a person needs to have an idea on how to preserve these beers. Sometimes aging the beer to see how it changes is the last reason to keep a cellar.
  7. Conventional wisdom may mislead us into thinking that it is better to cellar a beer than
    drink it fresh. Cellaring isn't a sure bet for a better beer down the road, and it shouldn't deter us from
    drinking beer fresh.
    EyePeeAyBryan, claaark13 and jedwards like this.
  8. Yeah good point, I'd say at least half of my cellar is just beers I couldn't resist buying that I haven't had the chance to drink yet. I prioritize by the 'cellarability' of the beer, ie IPA's always get drank first and low ABV beers will generally get pulled out while the bigger stouts and ales will wait.
    FEUO and brureview like this.
  9. ggfunk

    ggfunk Savant (280) Oregon Mar 29, 2010

    I "cellar" because I want to enjoy a particular beer later when it won't be available for purchase.

    Or is that hoarding?
  10. I also prioritize half of my cellar. Lagers are drunk first- even IPLs. Followed by IPAs, brown ales, porters. I let the higher ABV beers sit awhile until I get a chance to drink them.
  11. "Generally speaking, cellaring beer is a waste of time, money, and beer. There. We said it. Someone had to."

    As someone with over five hundred beers in my cellar and years of cellaring under my belt, I wholeheartedly agree with this statement. In general, cellaring beer does little good. That said, certain styles and certain brewers have demonstrated that their offerings can benefit from time in a proper cellar. Lambics from the top producers, for example, change over time and can show remarkable development. Cellaring of many other beer styles, however, does little good (in my opinion). This concept isn't unique to the beer world. In the wine world, people don't bother cellaring certain styles for any extended periods of time (e.g., Pinot Grigio) while others evolve gracefully (e.g., Bordeaux, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, etc).
  12. Buy doubles of everything, drink one and store one -- you're welcome. OK, don't store most of them. But the point is that unlike wine, I wouldn't buy anything I wouldn't want to drink right away. The lambics and a few others, I feel do get better, and they're all great brewery fresh. What a world...
    brureview likes this.
  13. Do Parabola and Firestone Anniversary age well?
  14. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Advocate (605) Colorado Jan 20, 2012

    I do the same damn thing. I need to become more of a beer drinker and less of a beer hoarder. I knew I had a problem when I noticed I had six bottles of parabola, two from the last three years and I had only had the beer on tap four years ago.
    lump532 likes this.
  15. CowsandBeer

    CowsandBeer Savant (390) Nebraska Sep 24, 2012

    Quickly learning this too. Bummer, man.
  16. SFACRKnight

    SFACRKnight Advocate (605) Colorado Jan 20, 2012

    Just read your post. I have IV and three years of parabola I would gladly trade away. Its just laying around collecting dust anyway. ;)
  17. Well Black Butte has a BEST AFTER date so hell yeah I am cellaring it. Even though it sits there in the basement begging me to drink it...
  18. bobcatjones

    bobcatjones Zealot (80) Colorado Sep 19, 2013

    If you like oxidized attributes in your beer then cellar away. I always like to drink it how the brewer intended it to be- fresh. Certain bottles will KEEP well, but I typically dont find that they AGE well. Oxidized malt and hop aromas are inevitable and not my favorite. For me, cellaring can be a fruitless endeavour. Having said that, to each his own and if your taste buds dig those attributes then keep on rocking in the free world. I believe that beer is for drinking- not for looking at!
    PatrickInAustinTx and brureview like this.
  19. maximum12

    maximum12 Champion (775) Minnesota Jan 21, 2008

    This debate has been going on forever. There are really two answers.

    If you want to age stuff, & enjoy it, then age away. There are certainly beers that get better with age, & there are certainly those that fade, even quickly.

    Second is don't trust over-generalizations. Those claiming that most beers should/should not be aged may have that experience with their own palate, but there are plenty of people who'll swear up-and-down on the other side of the fence.

    If you have the money, space, & inclination, do it. If you don't have all three of these things, don't.
    Fluteswell and claaark13 like this.
  20. IKR

    IKR Savant (320) California May 25, 2010

    It absolutely makes no sense without a proper temperature controlled storage area. For a while I was one of those justifying my sub-par storage and going about oxidizing and cooking good beer. FWIW, when I do it now, it's in a dedicated secondary refrigerator at 52F.
  21. Todd

    Todd Founder (1,625) Colorado Aug 23, 1996 Staff Member

    Some context for the thread ...

    There's obviously more to the Beer Smack under discussion than the opening line. We also share some positive thoughts, refer to this forum, our beer cellaring article and some very basic tips for those interested in exploring aging beer.
  22. claaark13

    claaark13 Advocate (680) Indiana Nov 29, 2007

    I think this is the most valuable statement to make when it comes to cellaring beer. Particularly with non-barrel-aged styles, where one can find how the original beer style itself can change over time.
    brureview and jedwards like this.
  23. We don't age Firestone Walker anymore. I think in every instance, it was better fresh.

    As for the general debate, while our cellar started with lots of cool rare beers, as our experimentation progresses, we're focusing more on best bang for the cellaring buck (i.e., Speedway Stout, Rochefort, Black Chocolate Stout, etc.).
    brureview likes this.
  24. Good to know. So perhaps my cellared FWs will be not as good as fresh-:(
    In your experience, can a cellared beer get infected? I recently tasted a cellared imperial
    stout which tasted slightly "off"- it wasn't as smooth, and not rich in chocolate -I woke up with a bad headache and upset stomache.
    I read online that it was probably viral.
  25. ThirstyFace

    ThirstyFace Initiate (0) New York Jan 11, 2013

    I cellar when I buy something, try it, don't enjoy, hoping some time will fix it. Other times it sits because I can't seem to find a day when I want to consume 22'ounces of robust stout.
  26. maximum12

    maximum12 Champion (775) Minnesota Jan 21, 2008

    A beer in a cellar can't "get" infected, but if it's already infected, time & warmer temps will bring out the bugs & it'll get funkier (worse, in my book) with age.

    Some of the older FW Anniversary beers aged well for a couple years, but the last two have been much more ready to drink (IMHO) right away, especially the XVI, no reason to age that beauty! Parabola is the only Firestone beer that maintains & might even improve with age (again IMHO).
    brureview likes this.
  27. Does cellaring imply a long time- a year or more? I "cellared" a bottle of Collaboration #3 Stingo from Pretty Things- Boulevard for 4 months. It was far superior to the beer fresh on tap. This year I had two bottles of Logsdon Farms Seizeon Bretta- one cellared for 5 months and the other tasted fresh. The cellared one was far superior, although it had a different enjoy by date- so the batch may have been different.

    If I had cellared these beers for a year, they may not have been as good. Some beers may only need a moderate time to age.
  28. I don't think we've done enough cellaring to have much of an informed opinion about that, but we haven't had much of a problem with it. The only thing I can think of off the top of my head was a particularly unpleasant 1 year old Daniel Boone.

    I'm sure there are tons of opinions on this one. I think the broadest definition of cellaring is 'aging with the purpose of aging.' A lot of the participants on the cellaring forums don't have a proper temp-controlled cellar (we have a non-temp-controlled cellar, for example), but I think that generally works just fine. Generally one year is a good cellaring goal post, but for sure beers will age and change in meaningful ways in less time than that.

    I agree with you that it's risky to plan on aging everything for a long time (i.e. several years or more).
  29. "Improving" is subjective.
    jedwards and brureview like this.
  30. jedwards

    jedwards Savant (330) California Feb 3, 2009

    Some previous thoughts from me on cellaring terminology/timelines: http://beeradvocate.com/community/threads/do-people-save-store-beer-like-wine.109990/#post-1622033

    I think a point that gets lost in these discussions is that palate variation is real, and if anything the particular flavors that develop in longer-term beer aging are extremely polarizing. I've had bottles that some at the table couldn't get enough of and some couldn't even finish due to oxidative flavors. I know a guy who genuinely prefers Pliny with 6 months on it. The soy sauce flavor that develops in aged dark beer is so appealing to me that I get thirsty for beer when I smell a bottle of actual soy sauce!
  31. BrettHead

    BrettHead Advocate (535) Nebraska Sep 18, 2010

    To me it isn't cellaring unless we are talking 2+ years at a bare minimum. Anything less is just waiting to drink it when you get around to it/holding it for a "special" occasion.

    Just my own opinion.
    Prince_Casual and Rasputin like this.
  32. Amen.
    EyePeeAyBryan and jedwards like this.
  33. cavedave

    cavedave Poobah (1,015) New York Mar 12, 2009

    Cellared beers aren't always bad. Some beer is designed to be aged. I brewed a batch of Old Stoners Barley Wine four years ago that is just starting to come into its own. I expect it will keep improving into a gem the original taste could not have predicted. It is hard to know with commercial varieties which are the ones that will do better. It also is hard to know, without cellaring your own beers, if you will like a beer with age that others think is marvelous. All these are reasons to cellar with a bit of care IMHO, and this was expressed in the mag article as well.
  34. gshak

    gshak Advocate (500) Texas Feb 20, 2011

    There is no holy grail of cellaring. I've put a fresh Parabola at 4.25-4.5, whereas one that has aged about 6-12 months at refrigerator temp would easily go north of 4.5. That said, I much preferred their DDBA fresher than aged. With Sucaba, I think its sweet spot was around 3-6 months of age. The FW 14 was sublime at 1 year of age, and at 2 years, it was still one of the best strong ales I've ever had, although it would rank a touch below the 1 year old one. I'm having a 2011 Deschutes Abyss as I'm typing this, and I honestly think it's drinking fantastic. I've also enjoyed it super fresh, and I thought it was less than stellar at 12-18 months of age. Their Black Butte XXIII and XXIV I thought were ok fresh, but at 12 months I really think they came into their own. Cellaring has as much to do with a beer's development as does one's own palate. So, to sum it all up - it depends. At any rate, if I were a betting man, I'd say your FW beers are still good, so drink up!
    brureview likes this.
  35. StubFaceJoe

    StubFaceJoe Initiate (0) Colorado Nov 24, 2011

    What happens when cellaring "too cold"? Is this just refrigerating for a long time. As in below 45. Thats how we control bad bugs in food so does it mess up the process for aging beer?
  36. sometimes there's not enough room in the fridge for IPAs AND sours AND stouts AND all the other beers I enjoy. Soooo, out of necessity, I have to put the beer I won't be drinking tonight or tomorrow somewhere. and what better place to store beer for future consumption than in my basement in an old cedar trunk!
  37. I'm not sure anyone said once a beer came out it wasn't mean to be consumed immediately. Same goes with wine. Just some aspects of beers, such as alcohol harshness and sour notes, can mellow to create more of a pleasant tasting experience overall. Your best bet to know if cellaring it worth your time is to buy a 4/6 pack or 2. Drink one beer fresh, then age and try a bottle in 6 month increments to see if you can tell cellaring's done anything. By all means do what you want mate! Just my 2 cents!
    I'm gonna get my cellar going in the the next few weeks to a month! I only have 3 2013 Sierra Nevada Bigfoots (bought in March). Thought fresh was nice, and then thought in September the next bottle was far more soft and drinkable on the palate.
  38. That's what I do - if it's sold in singles, 3 is my magic number most of the time, or 4-6 if it's one I am especially excited about!
  39. On two separate occasions ive done a 5 year vert of a 10% plus ABV stout. Both times I had the oldest bottles as my top two selections.

    It's all subjective, but i believe some merit. It's alot of fun also to pull out old beers to see what time has done. Adds a little juice to a tasting if you bring out 3 bottles from 2010.
  40. lowbit

    lowbit Initiate (0) Wisconsin Jul 24, 2013

    My $0.02: Cellaring mellows certain flavors/aspects. So if a beer is too "hot" (alcohol-forward) or has too sharp a coffee or hop taste for your palette, then cellaring will presumably improve the beer (for you).

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