Are verticals really worth it?

Discussion in 'Cellaring / Aging Beer' started by Junior, Apr 30, 2018.

  1. Junior

    Junior Disciple (334) May 23, 2015 Michigan

    Is it really worth it to keep a vertical? I get the premise but beers can change so much over time does it mean much to compare a recent release to one released 2,3, or 4 (or more) years earlier.

    The 2015 may have gotten better or it might be worse. Whichever it was it might be the opposite for the 2016.

    Maybe you will be able to find the ‘sweet spot’ for a given beer. At the end of the day wouldn’t you be better off finding a beer that you like relatively fresh and drinking that.

    Am I missing something?
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  2. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (2,110) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
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    I think you're correct, but many still believe that beer gets better with aging. Aging impacts different ingredients in different ways. If one flavor is muted by aging it will likely enhance others, and if one taste intensifies it mutes others. Sometimes the changes are favorable to individual tastes, but typically any changes that happen with aging make the beer not as intended by the brewer.

    I like what 6-12 months aging does for Prairie Pirate Bomb and Pirate Noir, but don't like what it does to KBS and BA Fidy. I've had year-old FBS gain a green pepper taste. And lighter beers such as Lagers just get dumped when too old. To each their own - but doubt I'll ever get into verticals. Most beers are better fresh, tasting as intended by the brewer who knows a hell of a lot more than I do about their beer.
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  3. zid

    zid Savant (918) Feb 15, 2010 New York

    I feel like you've answered your own question. "Worth it" is in the eye of the beholder and going to be case-by-case though.
  4. JohnnyChicago

    JohnnyChicago Crusader (795) Sep 3, 2010 Illinois

    They’re worth it if you don’t take it too seriously. Old heads buying cases of Bigfoot or anchor Christmas are a good example. It’s fun and it really doesn't cost too much money. Imagine trying to maintain a vertical library of a good whiskey or ...shudder... a fine wine?
    Beer is cheap and you can cheaply see the effects of aging on a consistent product with a vertical.
  5. MNAle

    MNAle Meyvn (1,034) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    What about those brewers who hold vertical tastings themselves? :sunglasses:
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  6. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (2,110) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
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    ...or encourages folks to age them such as the label on BCBS. Good point. I suppose it increases sales though, getting folks to stash some each year. And if the beer sucks after a few years it likely won't impact sales much.
  7. SammyJaxxxx

    SammyJaxxxx Poo-Bah (2,227) Feb 23, 2012 New Jersey
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    It depends on the beer
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  8. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,034) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
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    It's worth it if your interest in beer goes beyond merely drinking it. Just like hanging around here reading other's thoughts on beer is worth it.
    bl00, DovGibor, Dan411 and 3 others like this.
  9. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (250) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico

    I tend to drink a helluva lot of beer fresh so when I get down to my last bottle or can of said year/style, I do tend to save it for a rainy day. A rainy day being an eventual fridge cleansing vertical. I basically set it and forget it. Ie I forget about them.

    Now I've saved some bottles for 5 plus years only for it to not really be worth it. Like once a month I wondered how it was aging. Heck some aren't quite worth aging more than a couple months. I've never had a vertical where the oldest beer just blew the others away.

    To answer your question. No I don't think verticals are worth it if you are building up a collection. But if you can save a few bottles, it is a fun experience. I hope that makes sense.

    I have a bottle left of 15/16/17 kbs for an eventual night of vertical drinking. I have two years worth of ba 1050 and regular 1050. I'm not really building up any expectations. I think that's key.
  10. Lahey

    Lahey Disciple (387) Nov 12, 2016 Michigan

    I had some 2014 ten fidy on tap last year that was pretty good, hope yours works out for you.
  11. MNAle

    MNAle Meyvn (1,034) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    Are verticals worth it? Well, I don't really do "verticals" (meaning tasting several years of a cellar beer side by side).

    However, as a matter of curiosity, I did start a "cellar" of certain beers. Of those I have sampled so far, some have been really good, some good, but probably not worth the trouble, and one that apparently declined (if memory serves). None, though, became gawd-awful, and some I haven't tried yet.

    My motivation is experimental curiosity, so even those that declined were a success! :wink:
    bl00 likes this.
  12. TheGent

    TheGent Meyvn (1,395) Jun 29, 2010 New Jersey
    Premium Trader

    All of your points about variability are absolutely true.

    I have not done a ton of verticals, but my reasons are that they’re educational, helped me understand the sweet spot for certain beers, it’s just fun to experiment, I’m a hoarder and I like collecting things.

    The only verticals I’m currently intentionally
    building are Tilquin Gueuze and Orval.

    Some happen by accident too.
  13. Mothergoose03

    Mothergoose03 Poo-Bah (2,259) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    I've only done a few verticals, and they have only been for two year*s worth (if that counts as a vertical). I learned what I needed to know about aging those specific beers from those experiments. To me, that's all a vertical is - an educational experience.
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  14. TrojanRB

    TrojanRB Meyvn (1,203) Jul 27, 2013 California
    Premium Trader

    I do a lot of verticals (both beer and wine).

    The goal isn’t to find the “sweet spot”

    The joy is in seeing how things change, evolve, mature over time.

    Older isn’t always better. But it’s usually interesting.
  15. donspublic

    donspublic Poo-Bah (1,609) Aug 4, 2014 Texas
    Premium Trader

    Lucked out on a Big Foot vertical earlier this year, they had 2012 thru 2018. It was great. The best thing is to just see how the beer changes and what "you" perceive the sweet spot to be. Everyone likes things different, and attending one of these just reinforces that. I really enjoyed that tasting and it sent me on a tear to buy every barley wine I could get my hands on
  16. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Champion (835) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

    IMO very few beers improve when aged. The ones that do improve peak between1 and 2 years,
  17. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (2,110) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Premium Trader

    If a brewer were meticulous about their consistency, a vertical could demonstrate the effects of aging. Unfortunately many beers aren't that consistent even across batches in one year.
  18. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (2,110) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
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    I've found that BA Fidy does not age well, starting to fall off at 6 months. I bought 10+ cans of 2015, and only recently finished them off. When fresh, BA Fidy really smacks you in the face - in the nicest possible way. Aging didn't do my 2015 examples any favor. The coffee fell off fast, but even the bourbon seemed less intense later on.
    Lahey likes this.
  19. Harrison8

    Harrison8 Poo-Bah (2,894) Dec 6, 2015 Missouri
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    You're missing the part about having fun with beer.

    Verticals are fun just to see how aging and beers vary year to year. It's not a clinical-sterile scientific process with all compounding variables removed. It's just a fun chance to drink and compare lots of good beer made across a span of years.
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  20. Harrison8

    Harrison8 Poo-Bah (2,894) Dec 6, 2015 Missouri
    Premium Trader

    Well that's not very encouraging. From this year and last I probably have 8 or so stovepipes of BA Ten Fidy sitting downstairs. I did pull out one from last year and was still pretty astounded by it, but that particular can lived in the back of the fridge since its purchase.

    Overall, I'm finding I really need to tone things down and stop aging so many beers. :astonished:
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  21. von_kaiser

    von_kaiser Defender (653) Feb 19, 2014 Connecticut

    never really did a complete vertical but got 2 in the works...bcbs & abyss (5 yr of ea.)...i'll see how it goes and report back.
    bl00 likes this.
  22. BeastOfTheNortheast

    BeastOfTheNortheast Aspirant (283) Dec 26, 2009 Pennsylvania

    I have just started experimenting with aging. I will say I had a 2012 Tröegs Mad Elf (actually had a couple) in 2014? at a wedding and it was great. Also had the a crowler of 2015 Tröegs Mad Elf this past December and once again I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed aged Mad Elf vs. fresh Mad Elf.
  23. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (2,110) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Premium Trader

    I've unintentionally aged a lot of BA stout and other dark beers. Last year I really got into trying new beers, so much so that I ignored my cellar except to add to it when I ran across annual releases of favorites. Last few months I've been drinking it down, non-BA and non-stout first. Drinking a lot of 2016 now. Nothing has gone bad, but some of the two year old BA stouts just don't seems as bold as they did fresh. So yeah, I'm in the middle of a big aged beer tasting.
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  24. MostlyNorwegian

    MostlyNorwegian Devotee (499) Feb 5, 2013 Illinois

    If you have space, and the patience it takes to forget about the bottles for a couple years. Try it out.
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  25. surfcaster

    surfcaster Crusader (743) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina
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    "worth it?" -- not sure how to quantify but keeping some 6 pack holders of Bigfoot is pretty easy to do.

    Fun--you bet. 10 yrs of Bigfoot is just great to share.
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  26. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,653) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Yes, verticals can be useful.

    For example, I've done a Vertical with Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout in which we had a blind pour of a sample of each of three successive years bottlings and did a side by side comparison (with lots of water and unsalted crackers to clean the palate between samples, and without finishing a sample in the first round so that it could be returned to after the others had been sampled). It was interesting to see how the flavors softened and seemed to become a bit more complex. (But the water and unsalted crackers were critical in helping to cleanse the palate between samplings.)

    Some years back I was part of a tasting with some friends where we had two side by side vertical tastings going on in the same evening. Weyerbacher makes an English style Barleywine called Blithering Idiot. When they age that same beer in Bourbon barrels it's called Insanity. This time we began with samples of the most recent year of each beer, then moved to samples of the two beers with 1 year of bottle age, then moved to samples of the two beers with 2 years of bottle age. (All done with water and unsalted crackers between each sample.)

    We all agreed that it was very helpful for all of us at learning to sort out how a beer seems to change both with age and with the Bourbon barrel aging, especially since none of us had any firm preconceived notions about what to expect from each of the six beers except for the two from the most recent year but none of those ideas had been based on a direct side-by-side comparison between Blithering Idiot and Insanity.
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  27. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (872) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
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    For specific beers that are known to age well? . . . yes.

    For other beers that are a crapshoot? . . . probably not.

    For those crapshoot beers, though, a three year vertical should be sufficient to see how things progress.
    Mothergoose03 likes this.
  28. TheGent

    TheGent Meyvn (1,395) Jun 29, 2010 New Jersey
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    It’s too broad a brush to say that the beers that improve with age peak between 1 and 2 years. I’ve had plenty of beers that have “improved” after being aged for more than 1-2 years. I put “improved” in quotes because It is a subjective notion.

    I’ve had plenty of beers that I’ve aged that have not improved, or that would have been much better had I aged them only for 1-2 years.
    maximum12 likes this.
  29. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (872) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
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    I would certainly agree with the notion that most beers don't improve with age. This is especially the case with non-sour barrel aged beers. Oxygen exposure while in the barrel is the reason why they tend to fall off rather quickly, as compared to their non-barrel aged counterparts.

    Not to say that oxygen exposure is bad, but it certainly depends upon the amount in question. A small amount can result in a wonderful sherry-like character developing over the years. Larger amounts can result in a beer quickly coming apart at the seems and/or a glass full of cardboard. Some people like sherry. Some don't. That's the only subjective part of the equation. Everybody who is serious about beer should know that oxidation to the point of cardboard is less than a positive thing.
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  30. TheGent

    TheGent Meyvn (1,395) Jun 29, 2010 New Jersey
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    Oxidation is not the only subjective part of the equation. I believe there are other changes to flavor that could occur over time.

    On that same topic, you hit the nail on the head with the sherry flavor. It is desirable to me and exactly the reason why I age DFH 120 for 7 - 8 years
  31. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (872) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
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    If a beer is not aged on lees, oxidation is, very literally, the only type of reaction happening. Oxidation-reduction reactions happen to all of the compounds in the beer, so the more different and varied compounds that are present, the more different and varied end products possible.
  32. MNAle

    MNAle Meyvn (1,034) Sep 6, 2011 Minnesota

    I presently have just over 100 beers in my so-called "cellar"*.

    Approximately 80 are barrel aged. I have started consuming the 2016 KBSs, and they are still good sippers, but significantly different from the 2018. I think some (even most?) of that difference was in the '16 KBS when fresh, though. No cardboard.

    About 1/3 are BA Imperial Stouts. About 1/5 are BA Wee Heavies. The non-BAs are smoked porters, a few RISs, and English barley wines.

    The oldest are 2014. I have consumed a couple of those 2014 beers in the past few months (one of the smoked porters, and the other was a BA wee heavy) and they were quite good.

    OTOH, I also had one of the 2016 BA barleywines and, while still good, it seemed to have lost a bit and a bit harsher from what I remember it being when fresh. (Still no cardboard, though!)

    * A stack of cardboard boxes in the basement.
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  33. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (872) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
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    My issue with a lot of the barrel aged beers that I've had is oxidation. Maybe not to the level of papery/cardboard, but this character, when it is not well incorporated, is very off-putting to me. Many times it is present in "fresh" barrel aged beers and I find that when those beers are aged for any period of time, they completely fall apart from a flavor profile standpoint.
  34. maximum12

    maximum12 Poo-Bah (3,893) Jan 21, 2008 Minnesota

    Perhaps you're really sensitive to oxidation? I've had plenty of aged (up to ten years) barrel aged beers & with the rare exception, haven't noticed a massive increase in oxidation. I, on the other hand, am overly sensitive to aged hops - to my palate, old Bigfoot is bloody awful.

    Two cases in point are The Abyss & The Perfect Storm. These are two beers I believe improve markedly with age. We did an Abyss vertical not long ago all the way back to 2008 & while the flavors were finally really faded, I didn't get any oxidation.
  35. Yabu

    Yabu Aspirant (211) Feb 4, 2015 California

    what breweries of BA beers, do you find oxidation ? The big ones like Goose Island or the Bruery?

    As for verticals, I've only done one. '12 - '15 BCBS. Loved it, but otherwise my interest in verticals has faded. I've been clearing out my cellar of vintage BA Old Rasputin, and I found an oxidized XVI. First time I had an issue with North Coast Brewing, or any BA that bad.
  36. EvenMoreJesus

    EvenMoreJesus Champion (872) Jun 8, 2017 Pennsylvania
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    FWIW, I'm not talking about the beer falling apart or over the top cardboard character. I'm talking about the trans-2-nonenal "sherry" characteristic. In some beers even a touch of that character is too much for me.

    Never got it from a GI beer but have had it from plenty of beers from The Bruery. I get it from a lot of BA beers, from local to nationally distributed ones. Some breweries do a better job than others.
    maximum12 likes this.
  37. zid

    zid Savant (918) Feb 15, 2010 New York

    Did you drink any or just put them all away? If the former, any favorites?
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  38. donspublic

    donspublic Poo-Bah (1,609) Aug 4, 2014 Texas
    Premium Trader

    Since I am on the outskirts of Houston, BW are not a big thing, I was able to pick up a couple of Olde GnarlyWine, took one this weekend to wedding, but it got moved into a different ice chest, so I forgot about it. I have had the following on tap (no reviews, was with friends and fam)
    Real Ale: Sisyphus (smooth and hoppy 2016 vintage)
    Houston Brewery Holler: 20" Blades one of their first barrel aged beers, good barrel character, didn't hammer the base beer
    Houston Brewery Holler: Shot Caller from the same brewery, don't think the malt bill was the same as the above beer, this one was lighter on the palate.
    Champion: Canis Lupulus, this is a BA barley wine, which I thought didn't posses the booziness most barrels bring, but shit it had this burnt sugar thing going on that had me addicted. It is still on tap locally and since you brought this up, going to go back and try to grab another one. Really liked the complexity this one brought to the table.
    And as always, I have Bigfoot hanging around, but now I am stashing some away to do my on vertical in a few years. Was going to do the same with Sisyphus, but I haven't found anyone that has it in stock
    zid likes this.
  39. Lahey

    Lahey Disciple (387) Nov 12, 2016 Michigan

    What I tried wasn't the BBA version. I have not yet seen that in stores. I see the base beer, but it's always sitting dusty due to the big price tag. I suppose that's why we don't get an allotment of the good stuff... I'd probably just drink the BBA stuff, wouldn't have enough to age it.
    bbtkd likes this.
  40. Junior

    Junior Disciple (334) May 23, 2015 Michigan

    You are probably right. I've only done a few two year verticals. In all cases I preferred the fresher version. To me they are not worth it. I was hoping to get some feedback from those that find them beneficial.

    Sounds like most that do verticals do it mostly for the enjoyment of special beers. I appreciate all of the feedback.

    zid likes this.