Spring is here, and with it comes warm weather and crispy, crushable beers. Of course, that doesn’t mean you need to forget about your favourite big, boozy brews. Now is the perfect time to start setting some bottles aside to age in your cellar. To help you get started, we’ve put together a handy little guide all about cellar-ageing. And we’ve got some perfect beers to start your collection with, like Winey Bastard, Kentucky Bastard and Cuvee.
Why Age Beers?
It is largely accepted that wine gets better with age. A 2012 Pinot Noir is going to be much more valuable than a 2017 bottle of the same wine. As the liquid ages in the bottle, bitter tannins will soften, releasing great vinous aromas. The wine will also oxidize slightly, gaining leathery and earthy notes that many people look for.
Similarly, some beers will benefit from time in the cellar. Big Imperial Stouts and barley wines can be boozy and ‘hot’ right out of the tanks, and might need a couple years to mellow out. Barrel-aged beers can develop more oak character with time, while Brett-fermented beers can become increasingly funky. Bars such as Toronto’s The Only Café boast multiple vintages of our Kentucky Bastard, offering the opportunity to try different ages side-by-side (known as a vertical tasting.) However, not every beer will benefit from ageing, and most craft beers deserve to be consumed as fresh as possible.
How To Age Beer
- Do not age a hop-forward beer such as an IPA or Imperial IPA. Hop oils will dissipate and fade first, and you’ll be left with a sweet but somewhat flat-tasting beer. Hoppy beers should be consumed as fresh as possible to ensure maximum hop flavour and aroma.
- Darker, higher-alcohol beers are your best bets for ageing. The malt characters are what will develop the most over time, so darker stouts and porters are going to be the top candidates. Alcohol acts as a preservative, so these beers will stay good longer, and the alcohol character will mellow with time.
- Heat, light and oxygen are a beer’s worst enemies. Store your ageing beers in a cool, dark place, preferably a cold cellar or wine fridge. Alternatively, a cardboard box in the back of your closet can work just fine, so long as it doesn’t get too hot in there.
- Wax seals help prevent oxidation, which can create off-flavours. Many brewers seal their bottles to encourage ageing, such as our Cuvée, Kentucky Bastard and Winey Bastard. If you have a beer that you’d like to age but isn’t already sealed, carefully melt candle wax around the entire cap to create a tighter seal. Try not to burn yourself!
- Unlike wine, beer should be stored upright. Laying a beer on its side exposes more of the surface area to air in the bottle, creating further opportunities for oxidation.
- When purchasing a beer you want to age, buy two or three. One to drink right away, one to age for a year, and one to age even longer. Take notes when you taste each one, and compare them to see how the beer has evolved over time.
- Open an aged bottle carefully, and over a sink. Yeast that remained in the bottle will continue to ferment any residual sugars, which can lead to some gushers if you’re not careful. Have a glass handy to catch that delicious overflowing liquid!
- Lastly: enjoy! Beer is supposed to be fun, and while ageing and cellaring can bring an incredible new dimension to your favourite brews, it should never become a chore!
Our Winey Bastard is a great choice to start your cellar. A big, boozy imperial stout aged in Pinot Noir barrels with a hint of Brett yeast, this beer will grow in complexity and smoothness over time. Grab it now at the LCBO, our Bottle Shop or Online and get cellaring today!