A bottle of wine is probably the first thing that comes to mind when you read the word cellar. But have you ever wondered if you could age beer? While it’s a bit of a gamble, aging your beer can be rather interesting as it changes palate over time.
The Difference Between Fresh Beer And Aged Beer
You’ll never go wrong when you drink a fresh beer. The hoppy aroma and its bitter taste give off the familiar taste of any fresh beer. Hops, a flower used in the production of beer, are found in the majority of alcoholic beverages. It is an important ingredient in helping your beer last longer and preserves its froth.
Hops are acidic in nature that’s why beer has a bitter taste to it. If you’re served with a foamy pint with tight bubbles, know that hops also contribute to its aroma and foam quality.
However, when you age beer, hops degrade over time. Thus, it slowly loses its bitterness and aroma. Temperature, time, and light are also some factors to consider that can contribute to its taste.
There is no assurance that the beer you aged would taste phenomenal. Aging beer at home is like an experiment with no definite result unless you precisely stick by the procedures. But here are some notable changes in flavor according to several studies:
- Diminished fruity flavor
- Decreased bitter taste
- Has a bready and sweet flavor
- Has a harsh/astringent taste
- It has a cardboard-flavored component
Not all enjoy the taste of aged beer because of its reduced flavor. But if you’re adventurous and would like to discover a new taste, then why not try to age beer?
Watch this video to know more about how to age beer:
Things To Take On Board Before You Age Beer
Of course, we want to treat our beer like it’s one in the cellars. To be able to do that, you need to be knowledgeable about the factors that can contribute to the beer aging process. Knowing what beer to age and how to store it are critical components to its success.
Check The Beer Label
Are you the sort of beer drinker who checks the label before taking a swig? If you do, then you’re most likely familiar with what beers to age and what not to.
There are five pieces of information needed for brewery bottles to be given a Certificate of Label Approval (COLA). But there are only two key pieces of information you need to locate in the bottle: alcohol content and the class of the product.
Alcohol By Volume (ABV)
Check the alcohol content on the bottle label. Does it contain at least 7% of alcohol? Unlike wine, beer does not develop a more robust flavor after aging. Instead, it loses some of its distinct flavor and bitterness.
Light beers like pale lager usually contain less than 5% of alcohol. Meanwhile, old ale has a higher ABV reaching around 6-9%. Beers with an alcohol content of at least 7-9% can produce more flavor making them ideal for aging.
Sour beers are an exception when it comes to alcohol content. Some sour beers have 9% ABV while others can have as low as 2% ABV. Despite it having a low ABV, sour beers are still considered one of the ideal beer styles to age.
Sour beers contain good bacteria that add to their acidity and create a variety of flavors when aged. It can offer you a light, fruity, or even funky taste. Among beer styles, sour beers also have a better chance of making a good taste after aging.
Indian Pale Ale (IPA)
Among the most popular style, IPAs is something you shouldn’t age in a cellar. IPA is a hoppy beer and as we mentioned earlier, hops deteriorate over time.
It loses its aroma and flavor if not consumed immediately. Even though double IPAs have 7-10% VBA, it is still not considered a good beer style to brew because of its bigger hop profile.
Ideally, IPAs should be consumed three weeks after their bottling date. So go ahead and enjoy it while it’s cold and fresh.
Storage is very crucial if you’d age beer at home. You need to consider the room, temperature, humidity, and bottle positioning. But don’t fret, you don’t need to build a massive cellar to experiment with beers.
Age Beer Without A Cellar
Forget about the advanced underground technology or antiqued wood-furnished cellar. If you have a basement or a temperature-controlled fridge then, you can age a beer.
When choosing storage, avoid rooms that receive direct sunlight. Remember that ultraviolet (UV) light is the worst enemy of beer. Placing your bottles under a light can make them stale and may produce a skunk flavor.
Have you also noticed how most of the beer bottles are colored brown? Brown glass bottles can minimize the effect of UV light on the beer. However, glass bottles colored green and white are prone to light stikes that can alter the taste of your beer.
To make it simple, there are two things you need to keep in mind if you want your beer aging process to be a success: dark and cool.
Temperature and Humidity
High-end wine cellars often have a control climate system that manipulates the temperature and humidity. There are also underground built cellars to avoid rapid temperature changes. While all this sounds fancy and intimidating, you can still apply this in your own home.
The general temperature required to age beer is 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. A study showed that placing a lager beer at 86 degrees produces a cardboard taste. Meanwhile, a beer placed at 77 degrees develops a caramel flavor.
When it comes to humidity, beer develops best when placed under low humidity levels. Preferably around 50-70%. So here’s a tip: Invest in an infrared temperature gun.
A temperature gun can help you determine the room temperature and humidity so you can make necessary adjustments if needed. Not to mention that it’s fairly cheap and handy.
Wine is best stored on its side because it keeps the cork wet thus, decreasing oxygen exposure. This also explains why the cork crumbles if you leave your wine upright for an extended period. When you age a beer, however, the opposite happens.
The more oxygen get’s into the beer bottle during packaging, the more likely it will become stale. But it’s impossible to completely remove oxygen in a bottle. So, how can you prevent this from happening to your beer? The answer is to store your bottle in an upright position.
When the bottle is stored on its side, oxygen will dissipate on the half side of the bottle. Whereas, storing the bottle in an upright position centralizes the oxygen at the top.
Another reason is that it prevents the yeast ring from forming on the side of the bottle. When stored upright, the yeast will settle at the bottom of the bottle. This way it lessens the unwanted changes in the beer flavor.
When To Drink Your Aged Beer
We understand how tempting it is to check on it frequently, but don’t give in. Remember that too much bottle movement can accelerate oxidation. Of course, you don’t want it to happen to your beer! So to keep your mind at ease, create a monitoring sheet. Write down the beer name and the date that you placed them on the shelf.
There are no strict rules as to when you should open your aged beer. But normally, there are notable changes in flavor after six months. So how would you know if it aged? We recommend buying at least three bottles of the same product.
- Bottle 1: Savor the flavors of the first beer. Drink it fresh and note its characteristics. How bitter is it? Do you pick up sweet tastes? Is it sour?
- Bottle 2: Leave it on the shelf for six months while following the storing condition. Note the changes in taste after. Did the bitterness decrease? Does it have an edgy taste to it?
- Bottle 3: This is optional. But if you want to continue experimenting with the flavor then, store it for more than six months up to a year.
In the end, your taste preference will determine how long it will take to age beer. If you want to open it after three months, then go ahead. Maybe there are notable changes already. Don’t be afraid to experiment with the aging process. Some might enjoy the funky taste and some may still opt for the fresh ones.
Now that you know how to age beer without a cellar, why not give it a try? With the right storage condition, you can discover new flavors in the comforts of your home. Undergo trial and error, until you find something you prefer. Consider no loss during the process, simply information gained.