At our last two tastings at Bay Area brew pubs, the topic of tasting older vintages came up. Kiley, our Craft Beer Expert, mentioned that he has stored bottles of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. And Kasim of Palo Alto Brewing Company commented that his barley wine would taste even better after a few years of aging. We did research on aging beers since it was a new topic to many of us. The consensus among those who have written about it is that “it’s still in experimentation.” There are, however, recommended practices that we can share with you now:
- High alcohol beers (usually over 9% ABV) are storable and produce interesting flavors as they age. The strong alcohol flavor of stronger beers mellows over time, with the yeast adding character as it continues to ferment.
- If not high in alcohol, heavy malt will also produce good aging and a stronger sweet-syrupy flavor.
- Do your own testing. Buy a couple of bottles of a specific beer and save one of them (maybe more); then, open one every six months to taste the changes in flavor.
- Store your beers in 50-55 degrees upright, or in a cool dark closet.
Kiley recommends the following beers to start your cellar:
- Sierra Nevada Bigfoot (9.6% ABV) will sweeten as it ages. Bigfoot is a beer brewed in the barley wine style, meaning it is strong and robust with the refined intensity of wine. Under the proper conditions, it can age like a fine wine, developing new flavors and character as it matures in the bottle. Each new release or “vintage” is dated.
- Palo Alto Brewing Company Onoskelis is a 13.3% ABV English barley wine. Although it is no longer being brewed, we planned ahead so Mollie Stone’s has a hidden stash available to our customers.
- Firestone Walker Brewing Company makes five beers that can be aged up to 5 years. We carry the following in a limited supply: Parabola (13% ABV, Russian Imperial Stout), Sucaba (12.5% ABV, English barley wine) and Barrel-Aged Double DBA (12% ABV, English barley wine).
- Ommegang Three Philosophers (9.8% ABV) is a Belgian-style ale that’s sweet and spicy. It will dry out in time and smooth out.
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Remember to please drink responsibly.