What is cellaring beer all about? Like a fine wine, a good hearty beer with higher alcohol content and bigger “stuffing” to it will age and develop over time. It’s a great way to experience the seriousness of craft beer. At the Enoteca Drinkery and Refuge we will begin featuring by-the-bottle cellared beers that we have been preparing for you. Check out our bottled beer list here. The cost of cellaring is significant for a business, but if you start your own cellaring program you can get the beer when it’s new at the lowest price you’ll ever see it, and age it, opening bottles along the way to see how it’s developing.
What conditions do you need to cellar beer?
Ideal conditions are exactly like cellaring wine. 70% humidity and 58 degrees constant temperature, and dark. Like a cave. If you don’t have a cave handy, a root cellar is fantastic, or a corner of a basement. If none of these are available, a dark closet that doesn’t experience a lot of temperature fluxuation will be best. The most important parts of cellaring are:
1) Constant temperature. If your “cellar” temperature is 70 degrees or less, then it’s simply important to keep it as constant as possible. Above 80 degrees and you risk souring over a very very long time. Above 90 degrees and you can see souring relatively quickly. Below 70, it’s not as important what the temperature is as much as the temperature doesn’t change a lot.
2) Darkness. Most cellarable beers come in amber glass that will protect the beer from the harmful wavelengths of light, however when aiming for long term stability, keep the beer in as dark of an environment as possible. I prefer to start with a case, leave it in the case box and put that in a dark location that doesn’t see light often.
3) Humidity. Cork caged beers can potentially have transfer by osmosis, and an external humidity of 70% keeps things in balance. More humidity and stuff goes into the beer from the outside, and less humidity the beer can very slowly evaporate. Crown capped beers, and especially wax-capped crown capped beers like this one are no susceptible to humidity.
4) Time. Cellaring a beer for 2 weeks doesn’t count. I know it can be hard to stay out of the beer once you’ve brought it home, but that’s why you should order a case to begin with. That way you can drink the first 4 or so and still have 8 to last you for the next few years. Cellarable quality beers should all last at least 1 year from release. Most should last 3 years, and many will last 5 years or more. Part of the fun of the experience is seeing how each beer develops over time, and at what point the flavor is at it’s peak, the most enjoyable it will ever be, before it starts falling apart.