5 Things You Should Know About Aging Beer

It seems I like my beer the same way I like my men – tall, dark, and a little bit older.

old chub
Who doesn’t love Old Chub?

Everything gets better with age does it not? Well, I guess bananas don’t, but that’s besides the point. Aging your beer can allow it a little more time to mature and develop a more refined flavor. If you’re going to age your beer, it’s important to know that not all beers will age well. Also, not everyone will want to age their beers, some like them young and fresh off of the line. Don’t worry, I’m still talking about beer…I think. Luckily, Dogfish Head did a lot of the leg work for us regarding aging beer and offer some great analogies since I can’t seem to stop thinking about Mr. Clooney while writing this post. Here are my favorite 3 tips from Dogfish, but feel free to real the entire post which is linked below.

1. A little experimentation goes a long way.
Taste, of course, is subjective, and the things that happen inside a bottle of beer are more alchemy than exact science. If you’re curious about how a beer ages, buy a few bottles, drink one fresh, and stash the rest. Try another six months down the road.

Do you like the direction the beer is taking? Are the flavors you liked the first time around becoming more pronounced, or are they fading away? If you’re happy with the evolution, try another in six months and ask yourself the same questions. If you’re not happy, grab a few friends and finish off the bunch.

2. Don’t underestimate fresh.
Depending on the beer you age, you’ll notice some flavors fading into the background and others becoming more pronounced. Several things influence those changes, but the main driver is oxygen.

“There’s always very slow oxidation,” says Rebecca. “If you’re a really good brewer and you’ve worked hard to get the oxygen out, then your beer will age very gracefully and slowly. If you haven’t spent the time and the effort to get the oxygen out at the time of packaging, then you lose those beautiful flavors very rapidly.”

Hops – whether bitter, floral or citrusy – fade with time, so IPAs and other hop-forward beers aren’t great candidates for aging. That said, Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA only gets better with age. A year or two on the holy grail for hopheads brings out deliciously sweet sherry and marmalade notes. (See – we told you there are no hard-and-fast rules!)

Seasonals, which often take advantage of freshly harvested ingredients, and fruit beers are usually best young, as well.

“Beers like Black & Blue, Red & White and Festina Peche have these incredible fruit additions,” Rebecca says, “and we want those bright notes to come forward.”

3. High-alcohol beers tend to age better.
While there are exceptions, we recommend aging beers that clock in at 10% ABV and up.

“Typically,” says Rebecca, “there’s some protection in high-alcohol beers and in beers that have big, dark malt like Palo Santo and World Wide Stout. Often, those beers are so flavorful and complex that some amount of age starts to take off the sharper edges and you get a real velvety finish.”

Even lower-alcohol beers with a malt-heavy profile will age better. A year-old Indian Brown Ale, for example, will fare better than a year-old 60 Minute IPA.

“They’re very similar in alcohol,” says Dogfish Quality Control Technician Ryan Mazur. “But the darker, roastier beers have a little more defense in terms of shelf life.”

I can’t wait to drink my 2006 World Wide Stout! Read more here: 5 things you should know about aging beer | Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales.

3 Comments on 5 Things You Should Know About Aging Beer

  1. I remember reading that DFH post when it was posted and loving it. I don’t have the space for aging, let alone the patience to hold onto a bottle long enough to age it. One day I’ll give it a shot, when I can have a beer cellar of sorts.

    With that said, I do have a bottle of Stone Imperial Russian that has been sitting in my fiancees fridge for 3 months

    • The 2006 WWS that I have was aged by Dogfish Head for me. I purchased it pre-aged last year at the brewpub. We age things by putting them in our beer fridge too. I’m pretty excited about the year old 120 minute in there too.

  2. I, like Hipster Brewfus, wish I had the patience to age beer. I tend to only buy one bottle if I am buying singles and that gives me nothing to age. The only thing I have hung on to for a while is a 3 year old Westvleteran 12. Can’t wait to crack that open, but I’m waiting for a special occasion.

    I will disagree with you about bananas though, if you use the aged bananas in banana bread or muffins, they work great! 🙂

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