Cellaring Craft Beer – Aging vs. Hoarding

The classic debate is about to unfold: cellaring/aging craft beer vs. hoarding craft beer. After polling you, the faithful readers, on whether or not you age your beers, I found the results to be as expected.

cellaring beer results

Those of you who said ‘other’ said the following things:

  • No, but I keep thinking I should look into it. 1
  • Yes, I cellar my more rare barleywines, imperial stouts and exclusive sours. Typically save to share with others at appropriate time. I store upright in my dark cool basement. You must know what to cellar and how to cellar before doing so. 1
  • Just started! 1

What spawned my curiosity wasn’t that I think you should or shouldn’t cellar, but rather the idea of hoarding beer. To me, hoarding beer isn’t about creating a cellar or aging beers to see how they differ later, but rather gathering them just to say you have them. To show to friends that you snagged it and they didn’t. While we all delight in the child-like giddiness of getting our hands on something we’ve been coveting for ages, for a select few there is no intention of enjoying the product. Much like the collector of comic books sealed in their original plastic, these beer hoarders will show you their beer, but never share it with you.

It reminds me of this video that floated around a year or so back:

Now, as a beer trader myself I’m not knockin it, but it brings up a good point. Are you even going to drink that beer? It’s almost like when the Stanley Cup gets passed around amongst the winning hockey team. It spends it’s time with this family and that one, gets showed off, and then it’s on to the next. Why are you treating beer like that? DRINK IT! Or, give it to me and I’ll drink it.

Now that I’m done ranting, let me share with you my tips on cellaring beer. Personally, I like to cellar/save beers that I’ve had before for a few months or maybe even a year or so just to see how the nuances of the flavors change over time. I’ve got a 2006 World Wide Stout quietly minding its own business that’ I’m saving for a special occasion, I saved my good friends’ wedding beer to enjoy on their first wedding anniversary, and I’ve got a 6 pack of Naked Elf just chillin in the basement just to see what it’s like a year later. The first two I will not be sharing with you, but the Naked Elf I will gladly. Planning to age some beers of your own? Here are a few tips:

  1. Craft beers over 7% ABV age best. Especially those with more intense flavors like barrel-aged beers, smoked beers, fruit flavors etc. Think stouts and barleywines. Do not think IPAs – you’ll end up with a malt bomb in most cases.
  2. Keep them in the dark! UV rays are harmful to beers so a basement, garage, or even closet is ideal.
  3. The warmer the room the faster it will age. Store it like any other beer: around 50-70 degrees at most. Remember when I said basement? Yeah, go with that location.
  4. Set it and forget it. Don’t move them around as it agitates the beer.
  5. Store them upright, with a few exceptions. I’ve learned a lot about wine recently and its similarities to beer. Wine should be stored on its side for the same reason as your sours – keeping bacteria out because the cork is dry. This is an often debated topic and some say there’s no need to do this, but I’m sticking with it.

To age or not to age? That really is the question. It is of course your choice, but try not to be too douchey about it.

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