Stonch has a very good post today about how he finally came to love Rochfort 10 - he gave it a couple of years in the cellar. Result?
Gone is the excessive carbonation and the oppressive aroma of fiery alcohol. Instead, the beer's smoother and more enjoyable. In fact, it's positively easy drinking. There's a lovely, stouty roastiness at the back of my mouth and a creamy rush along the way. Spice dominates the long aftertaste, but doesn't smack me up as I take my first sip.
Makes you want to have one, doesn't it. I've been cellaring beer for a few years now and the Jeff formerly known as Stonch has it exactly right - strong beer improves with age. The four years that this Moinette Brune spent in the bottle from 2004 to 2008 were good years. But that was something of a fluke as it was sort of hidden down there. Aging beer really is worth planning around and making the investment...which is really not so much an investment as recognition that beer is not, in fact, going out of style. You will drink beer in 2012 - why not ensure it is better beer?
The main trick, as with most forms of storing, is ensuring you have enough put away that it's not physically possible for you to turn right around and pop it all in one fell swoop. But what is enough? That needs a bit more thought:
- "It's healthier, honey!": I have around 180 third pint or "nip" portions of +/-10% beer and am adding more all the time. It's probably half of my beer buying now. Whether it's a half case of Thomas Hardy when it's out or a couple of 750 ml special releases, I bury them at the back of the cold room with the port and tokay, putting plenty of lighter shorter term brew in the way. It would be insane to start to work on that much booze now. And part of a healthy diet is not trying.
- "It's a project, honey!": I like to create a few small projects. I have three years of Fuller's Vintage Ale and will gather a few more. Makes for a nice vertical that I can plan a get together around in a few years. An English cheese course after prime rib roast maybe with nuts. Four of these may mean a total investment of thirty bucks spaced over 36 or 48 months. Pennies a day and much the same as a decent middling port that would serve the same role.
- "It's an experiment, honey!": I also have stuck away a few beers just to see what happens to them. I had a Burton Bridge porter back in 2000 or 2001 that was extremely tangy and I am seeing if I can replicate the effect by buying one a year for putting away. Opening them all as a vertical will show the arc of the souring. Maybe it will suck but they all won't and, again, science asks us to take such risks.
- "Yes, I do just love all the storage space, honey!": We bought a house for a lot of reasons, one of which was the mid-1960s suburban dream got me was a sort of cold room, a space under the front steps, a hollowed out block of concrete. A little insulation and a fan and, whammo, it stays chilly in there. Is there space in your life like that? That's here you put the beer to sleep.
It's not all good once you get cellaring. Sometimes you are reminded of the need to cellar in unhappy circumstances. Popping that Pannepot Grand Reserve 2005 the other day was clearly infanticide once I had the first sip. It had years to go before that. And you will start to think like that. You will think of beers as something not to down like an idiot undergrad fool and not even to sip and savour like a connoisseur - you will want to store them in the dark like all those 1970s Marvel comics you all still have in plastic bags...ok, I still have. Is that so bad?