What’s in the cellar and why?
Beer is supposed to be drunk as fresh as possible right? Well not exactly, in most instances yes certainly but with a few styles ageing and cellaring a beer can actually be incredibly interesting and beneficial for the beer.
We will start with an example of our own, below you will see 8 kegs of our „Cherry Pie“ Kirsch-Dubbel collaboration brew with our friends at Ratsherrn. These are in the cellar at the Bergschloss ageing for at least a year each in order for us to monitor the changes in flavour profile the beer will undergo during time. So why would we do that, what’s the benefit?
The first place to start is with the original beer itself, the Cherry Pie was loaded up with and cool aged on sour cherries so had a huge cherry juice like flavour to begin with. We feel that with 7.5% alcohol it is more than capable of standing up for itself over time so we have decided to age it. More than just surviving though as the beer ages a lot of the more prominent notes in the beer, particularly the cherry will mellow out and the specialist biscuit malts will begin to shine. The style of the beer is important, being a cherry dubbel this is a beer style that historically ages well for at least 2 years and different characteristics such as the the belgian yeast will develop and emerge over time.
Belgian Beers have a great and rich history of ageing and cellaring, you will notice on a lot of Belgian beers that the drink by date is normally somewhere between 2 years and 20 years and that is not counting the ageing that has taken place before it was bottled. In the 2 to 5 year bracket you will find Belgian Ales, Dubbels, Tripels and Quads. In the 10 – 20 year bracket you will find lambics and sours, these beers are blended beers made of varying quantities „young“ and „old“ beer, The „young“ beer by the way is always at least a year old anyway! These sours age particularly well due to a yeast strain called Brettanomyces that eats residual sugar over time thus changing the flavour of the beer dramatically. Even on a month by month basis you can track the work of this busy little yeast strain.
It’s not only Belgian beers that might be worth keeping hold of though, any non-hoppy beer with a high alcohol level should in theory be able to be aged for at least a year without necessarily becoming worse. The best candidates for stashing away however are the really big beers, Imperial Stouts, Barley Wines and Strong Ales are all prime candidates for tucking away and forgetting about for a little while.
One other beer style that lends itself to a little time that concerns us in particular is the Berliner Weisse and again it’s that ravenous little devil Brett, as Brettanomyces is known to its friends (and enemies!) that is doing the work in the bottle. There is a story that some Berliners would buy bottles of Berliner Weisse and bury them in the garden for up to 2 years before drinking them!
This is not to say that all of the beer styles mentioned here should not be drunk fresh or will improve with age, its just to say they will change. Two of our favourite things about beer are that everyone’s tastes are different and everyone’s opinion is valid. Secondly that it is a live product that changes and develops over time.
One important thing to remember is that light and fluctuating temperatures are a beer’s worst enemy therefore make sure to store your beers in a cool dark place. So next time you are in your local bottle shop maybe have a look at the barley wines or the belgian beers or the stouts and think, maybe I will buy that today and save it for a special occasion.
This is our first time ageing one of our beers and we are super excited to taste the development with you, keep an eye out for releases of the aged Cherry Pie on draught at the Bergschloss!