Small Bottle "Aging" - My Mistake

Discussion in 'Cellaring / Aging Beer' started by GRG1313, Jan 20, 2013.

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  1. GRG1313

    GRG1313 Poo-Bah (3,670) Jan 15, 2009 California
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    I am speaking for experience; and, yes...I am aware that there are exceptions. I am aware that someone may say that a beer that I've found to be over the hill "was the best bottle of beer he/she ever had!" I get it. This is my opinion based on my experience.

    I did not intentionally "age" several of the small bottles that I tasted this afternoon. I have a deep cellar and I finally took 48 small bottles out to taste - bottles that I've just not gotten around to or simply were never opened as we opened larger bottles or rarer bottles at beer tastings.

    So, today I'm going through about 48 small bottles from about 2009 to 2011 and of all different styles and breweries. The only constant is that they are all small bottles - 12 oz.

    Basic conclusion: I have ruined a lot of beer! My mistake; my error; my bad. Almost all of these bottles, from the strong ales, to the wild ales, to the fruit ales to the barleywines, porters and stouts - all of them - have NOT improved. Almost all of them, candidly, are just over the hill and not "what they were." (And, note: All of these were in a 56 degree cellar for the past year to 3 years/4 years. They were stored at optimum condition, other than being in a refrigerator/cooler which, in my opinion and based on how they tasted, likely would not have helped most of them.)

    My conclusion, for myself, is that I'm going to try to keep a lower number of bottles in my cellar. My conclusion is also that I am not going to store/age small bottles at all! Large bottles, like wine, tend to oxidize and age slower (and I'm probably ruining a lot of those too). However, the smaller bottles, to a bottle, have just not stood up to any meaningful age whatsoever. Just about everything over a year old has not improved and does not taste as good as when fresh.

    Just my opinion; just my experience. I'm sure that I'll end up keeping small bottles for a while unintentionally just because I (like most of us) buy/obtain a lot of beer and I can't drink or taste it all. However, I'm going to strive to age only those bottles that I'm sure can take it or that I really want to watch change.

    I hope at least some of you benefit from my experience and mistake. Hey, if nothing else I'm re-cycling all the glass!
    cleeze, Siggy125 and kojevergas like this.
  2. DrDemento456

    DrDemento456 Poo-Bah (3,414) May 15, 2009 Pennsylvania

    Aging beer sucks unless it's a stout or barleywine. Anything with an extreme ABV that needs to "mellow"
  3. loafinaround

    loafinaround Aspirant (296) Jul 16, 2011 New York

    I'm only aging one 4 pk of samiclaus.... obviously small bottles... basically because I've been told it's like battery fluid mixed with antifreeze when new. I do not have faith in my ability to properly cellar a beer or wine. no nice cool dark place in our home. hope it survives!
  4. Hockey_Fan

    Hockey_Fan Zealot (501) Jan 13, 2013 Maryland

    I just found a case of beer leftover from a party I had about eight years ago.
    JxExM and robwestcott like this.
  5. ESeab

    ESeab Initiate (0) Jan 3, 2013 New Jersey

    You know, I have just recently been buying to store/cellar and wondering if it's worth it. I am basically taking the stouts/barelywines only approach. Now when I see Narwhal, WnB, FBS, etc. still available I wonder, "should I get this and drink some and store the rest and see what happens later?" I guess the answer is yes since I'm sitting on over a case of various imperial stouts that I'd like to taste test against next years batch. Thanks for the info, I probably won't let anything go for over a year.
  6. brewbetter

    brewbetter Initiate (0) Jun 2, 2012 Nauru

    8-year-old macro ftw
  7. beerinmaine

    beerinmaine Initiate (0) Jun 20, 2009 Maine

    There are few absolutes in life, and this is one of them. I've had plenty of aged small bottles that were excellent - WWS, 120 min, Bigfoot, Brooklyn BCS come to mind right off.
  8. lonewolfcry

    lonewolfcry Zealot (567) Dec 7, 2007 Minnesota
    Beer Trader

    AxesandAnchors and Douberd like this.
  9. Nectar

    Nectar Initiate (0) Jan 17, 2013 New Jersey

    How are you fairly able to judge that many beers?

    Also, I would probably guess thatits not the bottle format that caused the beers to depreciate..
  10. PsilohsaiBiN

    PsilohsaiBiN Defender (614) Aug 10, 2010 New York
    Beer Trader

    I agree that aging sometimes will just happen if you forget about stuff, but I think you have to know what you're aging...if you save a shitload of beers on the fringe like 8-9%ers(especially ones that aren't bottle conditioned) and you're expecting a miracle by aging, yea, you're probably going to be disappointed. I mean there are some beers I buy purposely to age because they are just way too brash to drink right off the bat(IMO), it's part of their design.

    I have some big abv stouts, barleywines and other bottle conditioned ales that I'm not worried about. They're set aside for aging on purpose because from what I know/have tasted, they age well.
  11. Hockey_Fan

    Hockey_Fan Zealot (501) Jan 13, 2013 Maryland

    It's actually a case of Sam Adams winter sampler. The party was a holiday party.
  12. crossovert

    crossovert Initiate (0) Mar 29, 2009 Illinois

    Lol i think you wasted a bunch of money by opening that many at once.
    robwestcott, yamar68, mcrago and 2 others like this.
  13. ArrogantB

    ArrogantB Poo-Bah (3,259) Jun 9, 2006 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    1. Any 375's of gueuze?

    2. How do you know it was the bottle and not the beer? Most beers don't age well as we all know.
  14. BeerNDoggerel

    BeerNDoggerel Disciple (396) Mar 13, 2011 Illinois

    Related question about aging bottle-conditioned beers...

    Bought a bottle of Alesmith Horny Devil this week. The label directs not to refrigerate until immediately before consumption. Is this because refrigerating will damage/kill/slow down the yeast?
  15. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (3,378) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Unless you did a blind tasting in a single session of beers where the only difference was bottle size and regularly found a deficit in the beers from the smaller bottle size *after* the container was revealed it is not possible to unambiguously blame the bottle size.

    Your reported results can just as easily be attirbuted to the psychologcal effects created by your feelings associated with not having kept track of your inventory and discovering all those bottles that you unintentionally aged.
    albertq17, kscaldef, pwoody11 and 2 others like this.
  16. jb123

    jb123 Initiate (0) Dec 3, 2012 Michigan
    Beer Trader

    I've found that my local sours, like jolly pumpkin taste amazing with age...
  17. GRG1313

    GRG1313 Poo-Bah (3,670) Jan 15, 2009 California
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    A response to a few of the very good points made above:

    Many of us, myself included, frequent beer tastings, festivals, GABF and the like. It is not uncommon to taste dozens of beers. A trip to GABF will yield at least 75-150 tastings a day. It's possible. And, ones palate is not necessarily "wrecked" if one uses water, crackers, food etc and tastes in a reasonable order.

    It does not take a large quantity of beer to taste that a beer is over the hill, oxidized, bad, skunked, etc.

    Yes, I already mentioned in my post that there were exceptions;

    Yes, I wasted a lot of money. It was not in the opening the 48 bottles - it was in allowing them to get too old in the first place!

    Yes, I agree that it may not have been the bottle size; it may have been the beer itself. My experience with some of the same beers of the same age in larger bottles simply tasted better. I did have a means for comparison. However, the point made that it may not have been the size of the bottle is valid. My experience, at least with a few of the beers, showed that the size mattered. But, I admit that there are several other variables.

    No, I did not open any 375s of gueuze. (I find that those are generally just fine with a bit of age!)

    I don't think it was the psychological affect of "finding" the older small bottles. I have a very large cellar from which to draw and, believe it or not, I don't have an inventory. (That's another story - I have boxes and shelves labeled and I pretty much know what I have. I knew I had (and still have) bunches of small bottles - I just didn't realize I had so many older ones. Candidly, my expectations were much higher which is why I posted in the first place, truth be known. I was actually surprised. I expected many bottles to not be at their prime - I did not expect so many bottles to be "so" over the hill.

    I think all of the points made are worth consideration; I do not discount any of them. My post was simply my experience based on opening so many small bottles.

    I'm probably going to open another 20-30 today if I can find the time!
    ArrogantB and jmgrub like this.
  18. jbeezification

    jbeezification Initiate (0) Jun 6, 2012 Texas

    The size of the bottle literally has nothing to do with how well the beer inside of it ages.
  19. BearsOnAcid

    BearsOnAcid Savant (968) Mar 17, 2009 Washington
    Beer Trader

    3-4 years is too long for 95% of "ageable" beers out there. Doesnt matter with bottle size IMO
    Levitation, Patrick and Duff27 like this.
  20. Siggy125

    Siggy125 Devotee (460) Nov 10, 2006 California
    Beer Trader

    So many beers come out and as collectors, we must have them all. Thus, the vast accumulation. I was just thinking about this the other day as I reacquainted myself with all that I had tucked away. When the hell am I gonna drink all this shit??? Must slow down to avoid the quagmire you describe. Yeah...right
  21. lonewolfcry

    lonewolfcry Zealot (567) Dec 7, 2007 Minnesota
    Beer Trader


    If you're used to tasting large quantities of beer, then you are definitely more than qualified than me to judge multiples in a sitting.
    My ignorance on that part - I was thinking about my own palette (would be ruined after 10 for sure)

    Two more questions please:

    1. What was the percentage of the beer you're testing, is actually tasting OK? (2011 should still be fine on a good percentage, I would think)
    2. If you are finding any good beers, then what? Are you still drain pouring those, or are you stopping the test at that point to enjoy the beer (as it was intended)?

    As a collector, I would be foolish to act like this won't happen to me.
    I appreciate you posting this topic, as it has opened my eyes to look at my cellar closer to try to limit the possibility of this happening on a large scale - the way that it unfortunately got away from you.

    Thanks ~
  22. benetoh

    benetoh Initiate (183) Feb 2, 2008 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    Perhaps post a list of some of the beers you determined were really bad? Some of them just may not have been the best choices to age.

    As a previous post suggests, the style of a beer and its ABV are things to consider when letting a bottle of any size age for any amount of time. For example, most people would probably agree that unless the beer is a sour (think Rodenbach), you should not let it sit for more than 6 months unless it is over 8% abv. Some styles, such as imperial IPA's, may have the ABV's in the 9-10% range, but you should not let them sit for more than a few months. Other styles, such as imperial stouts right at 8% (like Weyerbacher Heresy), I have enjoyed out of 12 oz bottles even after 5 years and it was incredible.
  23. Jeffo

    Jeffo Poo-Bah (2,745) Sep 7, 2008 Netherlands

    There are a few exceptions, but most beer doesn't age well. The majority of people who say they're buying beer to age are really trying to rationalize their collecting (ie: hoarding) problem.

    At some point in the future, there will be piles of lousy, past-its-prime beer lingering in BA "cellars." This is probably already starting to happen. A shame really.

  24. Duff27

    Duff27 Poo-Bah (1,796) Feb 10, 2010 Illinois
    Beer Trader

    Just two thoughts:

    1. Hopefully someday people will realize aging/cellaring doesn't not improve a beer damn nearly 95% or so of the time.

    2. Invite some friends over to open those bottles up. I know I would enjoy at least trying your bottles, especially if I knew you were just taking a sip of each and drainpouring.
  25. jb123

    jb123 Initiate (0) Dec 3, 2012 Michigan
    Beer Trader

    Goose islands web site says directly you can cellar for up to five years.... Just saying
    mcrago likes this.
  26. AxesandAnchors

    AxesandAnchors Initiate (0) Nov 21, 2012 Oregon

    Refrigerator temperatures are too cold, the yeast will basically stop eating the sugars and go dormant. They won't die though because of the sealed bottle and the fact that there are still sugars to eat once you store the bottle at the proper temperature (this really depends on the yeast that was used, but should be around 54 degrees). However if the bottle experiences temperature fluctuation making it go in and out of being dormant several times I'm not sure what would happen to them, but I do know this is not good overal for your beer.
  27. AxesandAnchors

    AxesandAnchors Initiate (0) Nov 21, 2012 Oregon

    *Edit - If the bottle is stored for too long at refrigerator temperatures the yeast will not come back from being dormant, the time it takes for them to die is a bit fuzzy but the best thing you can do is store the bottle at the proper temperature as soon as you can...or just drink it ;-)
  28. EJLinneman

    EJLinneman Aspirant (225) Mar 2, 2009 New Jersey
    Beer Trader

    I guess this is the inherent risk about putting certain beers away for extended periods of time. I keep an inventory list on Google Docs so that I can keep track of what I have in the cellar. I've tried plenty of beers of different styles that are in 12oz formats that didn't become gross with age. Third Coast Old Ale, Brooklyn BCS, the large DFH beers etc.
  29. powpig2002

    powpig2002 Initiate (0) Jan 26, 2012 Florida

    target practice
    Ish1 likes this.
  30. yamar68

    yamar68 Initiate (0) Apr 1, 2011 Minnesota

    Why is this conversation happening?
  31. Thickfreakness

    Thickfreakness Initiate (0) Oct 2, 2010 New York

    I think Genny Cream Ale peaks at 4 years.
  32. Levitation

    Levitation Initiate (0) Aug 7, 2009 California

    a brewery whose main goal it is to sell you more bottles makes an unsubstantiated statement that encourages its consumers to buy more bottles... ya don't say.

    /breaking news, cigarette companies find cigarettes add 3" to your penis
  33. Profchaos20

    Profchaos20 Disciple (381) Jan 19, 2012 Pennsylvania

    I agree it would be nice if you could post some of your findings on beers that didn't improve because I believe many of us are in similar situations. I tend to only cellar things that are 8+% or so and nothing that is hop forward. Also on my part it's really not a concerted cellaring effort as much as its a lack of space in the fridge.
  34. mattfitz

    mattfitz Initiate (0) Jan 26, 2009 Connecticut

    *cough* *cough* Bullshit *cough* -- still 14 inches...Or are those centimeters? Damn, I need another 40 dog of Red Bull. Had that shit aging for like 2 weeks. Should be prime.
  35. Jwale73

    Jwale73 Poo-Bah (3,644) Aug 15, 2007 Rhode Island
    Beer Trader

    I don't have a deep cellar per se by any means, and am always curious about people's experiences in aging certain beers. Would you mind sharing the general styles you had put away? For my own part, I tend to cellar the tried and true (Chimay Blue, Old Stock, Cantillon Geueze, Bigfoot, Samiclaus), but am always curious about what will and won't hold up with time. Thanks for sharing your experience.
  36. yamar68

    yamar68 Initiate (0) Apr 1, 2011 Minnesota

    Cigarette sales have since plummeted in the female market, as cigarette companies scramble to un-find these findings.
    Diotima likes this.
  37. Nectar

    Nectar Initiate (0) Jan 17, 2013 New Jersey

    So are you opening all of these, taking a taste, and then drain pouring it?
  38. GRG1313

    GRG1313 Poo-Bah (3,670) Jan 15, 2009 California
    Premium Member Beer Trader

    I'm happy to respond more fully as I go to pull bottles out of the recycle bin. But, please, this was NOT a case of my "aging." These were simply bottles that were not intentionally aged but had gone un-consumed for longer than anticipated.

    The stouts, for the most part, all became pretty boring, similiar and non-descript. The lighter styles, as would be expected, went to hell. The few sours I opened were actually decent. The several higher alcohol beers could still be considered drinkable and "good" but much of the character was gone. Almost all of the bottles 2011 and newer were fine, but for a few of the lighter styles that should have been consumed in the first 6 months. I'll try for some details as I pull bottles.

    Off the top of my head: Old Stock 2007, 2008, 2009 were still ok but not as intense as when newer and not a flavorful. Bigfoot and Samiclaus were also fine. 2008 Goose Island Stout was wonderful (see, there were some exceptions!) Nemesis 2009 was good. Older BMF bottlings (brewery from Switzerland about which we all don't talk about too much) from 2006, 2007, 2008 were awful/gone/not even carbonated and they were in swivel top bottles. All but one, Cuvee Alex Le Rouge, which was carbonated and pretty darn good. I was disappointed a great deal in the Avery Barrel Aged Series - most of the original first bottlings (1 through 8 or 9 that I tasted this round) were pretty disappointing and "old" before their time. However, the most recent, the last couple of bottlings were really good. There is no reason to comment on many of the IPA, doubles or even triples or quads that just were not meant to be aged - they were not meant to be aged for a reason. The stronger and higher abv DFH were very good, especially 120 and World Wide Stout.

    I did not taste any Chimay. Cantillon is in a different league. I drink older Cantillon pretty regularly and I have no problem with old Cantillon, 3 Fonteniens, etc!

    The bottles I opened and about which I'm speaking were not intended to be aged! These were bottles that just "escaped" drinking for whatever reason.

    I'm not dictating any rules here! I'm just giving my experience - I'm not saying I'm right or wrong. Just observing at this point.
  39. foobula

    foobula Initiate (0) Dec 14, 2009 Illinois

    It can be substantiated though. If you've had an 8 year old Bourbon County, it has very little of the barrel left vs. a 6 year old one. I didn't have 2003 when fresh, but am quite sure it must have had some barrel flavor to it, unlike the one I had a year ago.

    I'm in favor of keeping bottles around, because I'm not one who requires my beer to be in optimal condition. I would rather sit on a few bottles of 8% and up beer (not IPA's) that are becoming more rare by the month and try them a year or three later, maybe against the fresh version.

    Also people are doing verticals of Anchor Xmas that include 30+ year old 12 oz. bottles. I'm sure the beer is past its prime after that long but it doesn't mean it was a mistake to hang onto it for the experience.
    Justin_Neff and cindyjeffsmith like this.
  40. BradtheGreat7

    BradtheGreat7 Defender (621) Jul 22, 2011 Ohio

    Interesting info. I'd have to disagree about the 12 oz bottle info personally. I understand the exceptions but for instance I age Breakfast stout every year and while it's a lot more mellow than the freshest batch, it's still an unbelievable flavor. Bigfoot is another small bottle that ages well over many years. Barleywines, stouts, and Belgian beers are the only ones you hear of people aging. Hoppy beers like pale ales, imperial pale ales, and IPAs arent worth aging. But another great beer I've aged that wasn't a barleywine or stout was DFH Palo Santo Marron. I thought it was good fresh, but ridiculously boozy. Man what nearly 2 years did for it. I've personally never had a problem or noticed any difference when aging 12 oz bottles vs 750 ml bottles. Just me though but I'll continue to age them. I know Goose Island has always encouraged aging their Sofie farmhouse ale. I actually have one thats been sitting for 8 months or so. But hey, it's just my view of things. I'm not always right for sure
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