Vintage Beer: A Taster's Guide to Brews That Improve over Time
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Like good wine, certain beers can be aged under the right conditions to enhance and change their flavors in interesting and delicious ways. Good candidates for cellaring are either strong, sour, or smoked beers, such as barleywines, rauchbiers, and lambics. Patrick Dawson gives a list of easy-to-follow rules that lay the groundwork for identifying these cellar-worthy beers and then delves into the mysteries behind how and why they age as they do. Beer styles known for aging well are discussed and detailed profiles of commonly available beers that fall into these categories are included. There is also a short travel guide for bars and restaurants that specialize in vintage beer gives readers a way to taste what this new craft beer frontier is all about.
first year the sweetness of the malt emerges in notes of toffee and treacle just as some of the astringent roasted flavors begin to soften. Bottles at two to three years old exhibit an excellent balance of the two, beautifully showcasing this beer’s “black chocolate” name. After about four years the leather begins to transition to a tobacco taste, a good or bad thing depending on the individual. A taste of wet paper comes up around the two-year mark and gradually increases over time. Though not
the fore and green apple and citrus lingering in the background. A distinct acidic tang contrasts with subtle oaky vanilla. The young beer’s strong malty sweetness contrasts with the acidity of the old. Taste: As in the nose, the fruity acidity is big here. There are loads of cherry, berry, and grape as well as a strong lactic sourness. Also notable is a slight acetic (vinegar) presence, but not to the point of being a detriment. The beer has a substantial malty sweetness and mild oakiness. No
German beer style is essentially the merging of the yeast/wheat character of a hefeweizen and the malty richness of a doppelbock. German beer connoisseurs recognized the cellaring potential of this beer long ago, and in 1999 the brewery decided to follow suit. Every year, 240 cases are added to the brewery’s “ice cellar” and aged for three years before being released. This brewery-aged version is great for cellaring not only because much of the waiting has already been done for you but also
and cut out light exposure. Unfortunately, they’re not cheap, running anywhere between $100 for a small dorm-size unit up to a few grand for large, fancy double-door units. The key thing to consider is the shelving. Many units are designed for horizontal wine storage, and you have to make sure that the shelving can be removed (or easily modified) to accommodate upright bottle storage. Also keep in mind that the mechanical refrigeration will dramatically dry the air out, and horizontal storage or
Beta Acids and Isomerization The active ingredient in hops is the resin lupulin, which comes from the female (cone) part of the Humulus lupus plant. Lupulin contains what are called alpha and beta acids, as well as some essential oils. As the hops are boiled, the alpha acids undergo a process called isomerization, which gives beer much of its unique hoppy bitterness. These iso-alpha acids are very susceptible to oxidation, and over time their bitterness will disappear and leave behind a stale