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Guidelines for Aging Beers

I’m guessing that this must be a commonly asked question, but I’m going to ask anyway: are there any general or well-accepted guidelines for how long to age a beer before serving?

The reason I ask is that I’m currently drinking a NB Super Alt that seems to have really improved over the past week or so. I brewed it in August (with a 2-5-2 schedule), and noticed that it seemed to have an overly strong hop presence during the first month I drank it, 9 weeks after brew day (per the schedule NB suggested). Now, however, the balance is much better at week 13 or so. On the flip side of that coin, I’m also just finishing up a NB 80/- that was great when I first started drinking it (8 weeks after brew day, as suggested in the recipe), but seems to have lost some of its character now that it is almost 16 weeks past brew day.

Is optimal aging governed by OG? For instance, the Super Alt was 1.060 whereas the 80/- was 1.047, which may be why the Alt is aging better, while the 80/- seemed to peak early. I’m just curious to know if there are general rules that apply to ales and lagers (I know lagers take longer) that I could refer to beyond the suggested schedules that come with most recipes.

I think in general stronger beers age better than smaller beers, hoppier beers tend to age better than less hoppy beers, and darker beers age better than lighter beers. Storage temperature has an effect as well. Some strong, dark beers can last a long time and taste good up to 5 or even 10 years later.

Does anyone have any thoughts on minimum aging times for the various kinds of beers?

“hoppier beers tend to age better than less hoppy beers”

Hop flavor and aroma will actually decrease with time.

[quote=“breslinp”]“hoppier beers tend to age better than less hoppy beers”

Hop flavor and aroma will actually decrease with time.[/quote]

True, but my experience is that if a hoppy brew was made with long aging in mind, the remaining hop character after such long aging can actually still be intense, but much more refined. Modeled after my favorite commercial IPA from 40+ years ago, my homebrewed IPA is routinely aged for 8-10 months (sometimes a year). Adequate hopping at brew time creates massive bitterness that survives the long aging, and dry hopping towards the end of the aging period maintains the aroma. What results is a balance that most current day commercial examples don’t seem to want to bother with.

The only way to achieve this though is to brew it often enough that there’s always some around with the right age on it. Admittedly, that’s easier said than done. The hardest part of it for me is resisting the urge to tap before they’re ready. But the wait is definitely worth it.

I will throw out a few random thoughts on the subject.

While the Professor is the appreciated voice for the aged IPA,
myself, I like to drink American IPA quite young, as in as soon as it is carbed and sometimes before.
I also make a few beers that just begin to get good at about 6 months. Baltic porter comes to mind.

True, it seems that the traditional IPA was aged.
It is entirely possible that in this hopped up new world of brewing, many folks these days miss out on what an aged IPA can be.

As far as beer in general, I do think that OG plays an important role;
as a generalization bigger beers age better.

Also in general, homebrewers can be an impatient lot. Especially when first starting out.
Allowing your beer to age and see how it changes and develops over time is one of the best things about increasing your skill and knowledge as a brewer.

There might be some general guidelines out there to style, but in the end it might really come down to what you prefer.

Cheers to the study! :cheers:

[quote=“pinnah”]…While the Professor is the appreciated voice for the aged IPA,
myself, I like to drink American IPA quite young, as in as soon as it is carbed and sometimes before.

And that is great, because the only right way to enjoy any beer is the the way you prefer to enjoy it. In the end, it’s the only style guideline that really matters.

Interesting that you mention enjoying it before being fully carbed…I’ve found that I have come to prefer it with considerably less carbonation than in the past.

I have found that malty beers benefit more from aging. Of course the higher OG rule usually applies also, the exception being when you want the young, unaged flavors (hops, yeast, etc).
Isn’t this the reason for dry hopping. Let the beer ferment, condtion a little, then add back some fresh hop flavor.
Don’t mind the ramblings…just finishing a 6month Belgian Strong Dark…

If you think about the beginnings of the style known as IPA and why they were made you would almost have to believe that traditionally they were consumed after several months. I mean they had to survive a long ocean journey from the motherland out to the colonies. There is no reason not to enjoy them as fresh as can be now since most of you probably are not brewing it so you can send to your troops away from home in the colonies…are you? :shock:

That being said, in the “historical” context it might be interesting to age a few bottles from my next IPA batch to compare them side by side with the fresh version.

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