Monday, November 28, 2011

Does Aging Really Do Anything To Beer?

I recently wrote about aging beer and threw in some guidelines for you to follow in the event you wanted to try it out, have a look here This is my second year of aging, and although none of the beer in my basement has aged very long, some have shown signs that sitting in the cold dark basement has been worth the wait. Some were purchased with the intention to age for years, others have just been set aside for that special time.

This summer, River Horse Brewery in Lambertville, NJ put out it's second edition of their pumpkin ale. Hipp-O-Lantern, as they call it, is a beer I wanted to make sure to have on hand for when Thanksgiving rolled around. I managed to hold onto 6 bottles. Quite impressive for me since my biggest challenge aging beer is rule #7 in my post, DON'T DRINK THE BEER FOR AT LEAST A YEAR! Although the Hipp-O-Lantern got pushed aside for a different beer on turkey day, tonight felt like a good night to open one up.

Here is an example of what just a short time can do to a beer. Reviewing my original review from August 11, I noticed some major flavor characteristics being more defined, and others that were at the fore front, have now taken the back seat. Here is the original review,

appearance-pours a reddish copper with no head that has a slightly cloudy body.

smell-many different spices you would expect with a pumpkin ale. cinnamon, all spice, vanilla, pumpkin, malt, and a very faint touch of sweet honey

taste-starts with a sweetness like clover honey combined with molasses and malt. then there is notes of earthy pumpkin with cloves and ends with a faint touch of hops and all spice. very nice. 

mouthfeel-smooth with low carbonation. leave a pleasant fizziness on the palate after consumption. 

overall-good imp pumpkin ale. doesnt sit heavy on the stomach and can be enjoyed through out the night. like that it features more earthiness of pumpkin rather than the sweet pumpkin pie flavor.

    Now, here is a comparative tasting the same beer today, 

Appearance-little different here except with the head. large creamy pale head that quickly fades and leaves a generous amount of lacing on the glass.

Smell-although there are subtle spice aromas, now the hops are booming. It is the dominate smell along with the sweetness, spices, and pumpkin. 

Taste-the hops are coming forward as is the malt now. even though the hops are dominate, it's a calm hop flavor. the pumpkin and spice flavors in the middle help to mellow everything out. 

Mouthfeel-it seems slightly more carbonated now which may have contributed to the large puffy head. 

Overall-big changes going on here. the aromas and flavors from the original review are still evident, but in a different order and with some stronger now than in the past. the beer tastes more complex now as well. you really need to focus in order to pick up every flavor and smell. 

    As you can see, BIG changes. Just leaving the beer to sit there and allowing all those bacteria and other goodies in the bottle to do what they want has shown huge changes. And it's only been four months! So now when someone asks you why you have around a hundred bottles of beer in your basement, you can be sure it's for good cause and try to explain it to them. Trouble is, they will still find you a little mad! 


  1. I have a few beers I kept in my basement over the year and i'm about to get ready and open a few. My fellow beer whisperer partner has done the same thing. He has a few Dogfish Head's 120 stored away to try in 5 years. He also got a batch of this years Sam Adams Utopias which he's waiting a few years before trying.

    It's funny though. Went to Philadelphia brewing company and he said fresh beer is the best, however that is their beer and that might be fine for their beer. Others, it's sometime better to store away for a while.

  2. "fresh beer in the best" probably means that if you drink it asap it will taste as the brewer intends it to taste. but aging it allows for the unnatural things to take place that the brewer no longer has control over!

  3. Hey Paul,

    Great post and great blog. it was nice talking with you on Wednesday evening at the store. Stay in touch and thanks for the review on BA! Hope you enjoy your Dark Intrigue!


    Beer Dept Manager
    Shoprite Liquors
    Westfield, NJ

    (my music blog haha)

  4. @pete, no problem on the review! all the truth. thanks for the comment, the dark intrigue was amazing. stopped in and bought another bottle since i drank a whole one by myself that night!