Cellaring Temperature, Widgets and Big Beer Conversion

Ask the Beer Geek by | Jun 2007 | Issue #6

Illustration by Demian Johnston

I bought my first Duvel Belgian Ale today and I want to store it and age it a little. Now, I live in warm Israel, where room temperature is usually around 77°F. I’d like to store it in a dark closet, and when I check the temperature, it was around 68°F. Is that too hot? Or should I put it in the refrigerator where the temperature is around 41°F? Or perhaps I should do something completely different? And until that solution comes, where should I put it? Alon—Israel

Alon, it’s too hot. If you’re just planning to “age it a little,” and given your environment, I’d recommend keeping it in the fridge. On a side-note, Duvel is aged a bit at the brewery before it’s released (they call it bottle-conditioning), and is best consumed (in my opinion) as soon as possible, as the hops will be more pronounced. You’ll also want to decant it slowly into an appropriate glass, ensuring that you leave the yeast sediment in the bottle.

Yesterday I bought Boddingtons Pub Ale from Lidl in Finland. There was some strange plastic thing inside of the can. It’s so big that it doesn’t come out from the hole of the deck. I want to know what it could be. Would it be wise to return the can to Lidl or contact someone? Could somebody friendly answer me. Ulla—Finland

No need to fret, Ulla! It’s called a “widget” (a round plastic sphere), which, when the pressure in the can changes upon opening, releases nitrogen gas, agitates the dissolved CO2 in the beer and recreates that creamy pub-draught style head and mouthfeel found in nitro beers like Guinness Draught and Boddington’s. The reason why it’s not big enough to come out of the can is so you don’t choke to death and/or file a law suit against InBev. Enjoy the cream of Manchester!

I was hoping that you could answer a question for me. I work in a restaurant where we use beer to cook. We order it in kegs and then transfer small amounts, as needed, into a plastic dispenser until it is needed. If that small amount is not used, we then save it and use it the next day. My question is, what is the shelf life of the beer that we have transferred to the plastic container? And what is the shelf life of the beer that is still in the keg? Thank you! Dena—California

For beer in the keg: it really depends on the beer style, ABV, storage conditions and temperatures, gas mixture, time elapsed since the beer was packaged, cleanliness of the bar lines, etc.—but the general rule of thumb for many bars is 30 days. If a keg of beer hasn’t sold in 30 days, it’s obviously not moving, not making money and is subject to possible spoilage. As for that beer you pulled from the keg for cooking: Like all of your ingredients, fresh is always best; but if kept in an airtight container in the fridge, it should be fine for 2-3 days—similar to many opened growler beers. Since you are cooking with it, you won’t need to worry about it going flat; but you do need to consider oxidation, which may taint the final flavors of your dishes.

What’s the best way to introduce my Bud swillin’ buddies to the joys of real beer? My first thought was to give them each a Stone RIS and watch their reaction as they realize they’ve wasted their youth and cash on yellow water. But then I thought, if I start them out with outstanding brews, they’re bound to be disappointed when they start to sample other, good-but-not-outstanding, beers. Is there a good “beginner” beer I can start them out with first instead of the cream of the crop? Dave—New York

You’ve kind of answered your own question, Dave; but you’re on the right path. Your Bud buddies are accustomed to consistency and balance, so don’t overwhelm them. Try introducing them to an Amber Ale, Kölsch, German or Czech Pilsner—“lighter” styles known for their clean balance and drinkability. Also have their precious Bud on-hand for comparison’s sake. If they like what they taste, there’s hope, and you can start working their palates towards other styles of beer. Good luck.