As of late, I’ve found myself giving consideration to aging. Not in the sort of approaching death, morbid way, but (naturally) thinking about what it does to my beer.
I know I’m not the only one who’s been in this mindset, given recent posts over at Queen City Drinks, DivineBrew and Drink. Blog. Repeat. However, it was this piece by The Street that caught my eye when they suggested something rather blasphemous to the beer community: age a Pliny the Younger. Say whaaaaa?
I’m not going to get into the science of this, but beers I’ve had the best luck with have had one of more of these characteristics:
- Sour (as in lambic/wild sour, not “bitter beer face” sour)
- High ABV
- Bottle conditioned (most of the time it will say on the bottle)
… and I absolutely agree with these notes. They’re all important to the aging process, along with a most ideal temperature of about 50(ish) degrees. But dare I follow the lead of Dogfish Head and suggest that “a little experimentation goes a long way?” This is why I’ve chosen to see where aging my two remaining bottles of Hopslam takes me. Perhaps fittingly enough, I started with a quick search to see if any other beer fans were as foolish as me. Turns out I’m not alone, although perhaps still crazy. What I’m hoping for is that as the hops mellow and things settle, I’ll find it to become a rather sweet barleywine-like beer. Fingers crossed for something unique…
Sure, our parents said we should never play with our food, but I don’t have mother dearest hovering over my beer glass. Why not play with our beer?
There is most certainly a financial risk involved – it’s something Brett at DivineBrew knows well when he lost almost a couple dozen of beers. But if it’s for experimentation’s sake, we don’t have to necessarily have to waste that nice $10 (or more) bottle to feed our aging fancy. (Nor should we see just how well that Miller Light from 2005 has held up) I suppose what I’m getting at is that while there are certainly established, well-grounded rules to the aging process, isn’t there some fun in playing resident anarchist with them? How else can we learn and just maybe … have some good beer?
I’ll admit it’s easy for me to play with this theory with my homebrews. For example, I brewed a Belgian saison when the weather really first started to get warm here in North Carolina around March. I’ve got four bottles left of the batch I’ve let sit around and while I use “aging” lightly in this case, it’s been fun to see just how the flavor has dramatically changed since then. At first, the beer was rather bitter and earthy in its flavor, but now as things have mellowed it has a great hidden spiciness and the bitterness has dissipated greatly. I plan on holding on to at least one bottle to see what it will taste like in March 2013 or maybe even beyond.
So yes, I’m sure we’re all aware of the general science of beer and I’m sure we’re all aware of how we should play nice with aging, but the rules were meant to be broken, right?
What do you think? Do you age beer? What are your rules? Question mark?