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Beer Aging

Seems to me there is another way to divide beers:
Ready to drink in 2-6 weeks, and
Age it until you rediscover it lurking in the basement a year or so later.
What’s your preference?

I brewed an 80 Shilling last summer, thought I’d drank it all, then was making room in the basement for this year’s Scotch Ale (90 Shilling, actually), and found 3 more 6-packs!
In the process of polishing them off, I have become convinced that this beer grew up and matured into an infinitely better beer than it was last summer.

Do all beers get better with age? And is there a limit where they just level off (or even start to decline)? Could I age my Altbier for 2 or more years (assuming I can keep from drinking it before then)?

Congratulations on your discovery.
Fresher is not always better and for many beers, age will definitely have a dramaticlly positive effect. And it’s not even about letting off flavors mature out of a questionable brew as some may suggest.
There are certain stronger beers I won’t even touch (other than the inevitable tastes during racking) before 8 to 12 months or more of bulk aging.
If planning ahead and brewing often, the long wait isn’t even a big deal.

Of course, it really all boils down to what one’s own palate dictates. So there’s no definitive right or wrong about the aging question (except maybe for “Old Ale”…that one’s a no brainer).

Homebrewers tend to be an impatient lot and I suppose one’s palate can get pretty accustomed to the flavors in young beer. But the first time one stumbles upon a stash of older brews (especially the higher ABV ones) it really can lead to a kind of epiphany.

I know hop bitterness and flavor get lower with time. Malt-forward beers that have a little more hops character than optimum, ill definitely mellow into something more in line with what the flavor profile ought to be.

I made a subpar Munich Dunkel this past winter. drank about a 1/4 of the keg and threw it in my basement… Just tapped it again last week and WOW… it is 100% better!

Have you ever noticed all the “muddy looking stuff” at the bottom of an empty keg? I just cleaned 2 kegs one had an Ofest and the other was a Maibock. I had filtered both of those beers yet there was still a lot of brown gunk in the bottom of the keg. I reached in and scraped some off the bottom, yes it tasted like mud. Aged beer has to be better after that stuff sediments out!

Have you ever noticed all the “muddy looking stuff” at the bottom of an empty keg? I just cleaned 2 kegs one had an Ofest and the other was a Maibock. I had filtered both of those beers yet there was still a lot of brown gunk in the bottom of the keg. I reached in and scraped some off the bottom, yes it tasted like mud. Aged beer has to be better after that stuff sediments out!

Good point!!

I’ve had beers that I didn’t like early on, only too LOVE them weeks/months later. One was even an IPA. I made a Rye IPA last summer that had a overly bitter hop bite that I just didn’t like (and I am a hop head). But after about 2 months or so in the bottle it smoothed out and got good. My wife is a huge Hefe fan and actually prefers them after they sit around for a little bit even though Hefe’s are early drinkers.

So yeah, aging can/will change a beer. Usually for the better IMO.

Certainly difficult when you first start brewing but there is little doubt some beers benefit from some aging. Prime example for me was a Belgian Golden Strong I did pretty early into when I started brewing. I drank most of it in the first 6 months and while it was okay it didn’t do much for me, doesn’t help that I’m not a big Belgian beer fan (sours are exempt from this statement :cheers: It was like it was a totally different beer from what I remembered.

I even like my Pales and Bitters after they’ve had a few months to condition vs. when they are pretty fresh. Just seems the extra bit of time helps the flavors to come together better.

I don’t brew too often, so I’m usually close to polishing off a batch by the time my next one’s ready to drink. I did, however, manage to lose a couple bottles of the Irish Draught Ale. I enjoyed it fresh, but when I found those bottles 11 months later, I was astounded at how the beer had developed. Incredible.

I just recently discovered a maple porter that I think was at least 5 years old. I thought I was grabbing some mead and was quite shocked when the stuff coming out of the bottle was black! Anyway it was quite tasty, it had some “port” like character that was probably due to oxidation, but not to the point where it was unpleasant. This was a very strong beer (added lots of maple syrup) so it aged well.

I remember making a spruce barleywine that we affectionately referred to as the “tree beer”, which was nigh undrinkable when young (hot alcohol flavor, and way too much spruce), and aged into something truly remarkable. I think I had bottles of that that were 4 or 5 years old as well.

Dont be afraid to let things age for extended periods, you might be pleasantly surprised. Beer is a food product, and sooner or later even the strongest of beers will reach the point where they start going downhill, but you don’t know where that is until you look for it.

This is actually the one thing I miss about bottling beer (I keg now) is occasionally losing a bottle for a while and finding it again. I need to get a beer gun or something so I can bottle more effectively from my kegs.

I just kegged an Imperial Nut Brown the other day after 3 weeks in the Primary. Its REALLY sharp tasteing right now with the alcohol note. I’m pretty sure the answer to this, but does conditioning in a keg cooler go slower than conditioning at a cool room temperature? I always notice my beer getting better over time in the cooler, but wondered if leaving the keg at room temp for awhile would be faster in the long run?

Warm ages out flavors faster, but I think cool might help yeast drop quicker. So as usual, the answer is “it depends”.

Interesting topic. This place will make a brewer out of me in spite of myself.

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