Yes, You Can Age Beer: Eight Bottles to Store for the Future
When something is described as “aging like a fine wine,” you know it’s meant to be a compliment. The corollary insult is, occasionally: “aging like a cheap beer.”
But what actually happens when fine beer is allowed to mature? Many are certainly best when freshly bottled, but others manage to evolve into something new (even revelatory) after some time in the bottle. Here are eight excellent, age-worthy brews that you can often find at a craft beer purveyor near you:
BFM (Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes) — Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien
Stylistically a Bière de Garde (French, “beer for keeping”), BFM’s Abbaye de Saint Bon-Chien is a sour ale unlike any other. Aged in an extravagant blend of former spirit and wine barrels, the liquid has a strong umami character when freshly bottled. Further aging ups an antique leather note that is truly special.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company — Bigfoot
With Bigfoot, Sierra Nevada created one of the nation’s first popular age-worthy beers. An American barley wine by style (hoppier than England's malt-forward barleywines), Bigfoot has a massive presence on the palate. If you’re feeling really ambitious, stash a few bottles each year for a multiyear vertical tasting down the road; you’ll discover that the beer’s oxidative dark fruit notes take center stage as time passes.
Brouwerij Lindemans — Gueuze Cuvée René
Some say that Belgian lambic ages in the bottle better than any other style of beer, and Lindemans Cuvée René is a readily available, classic example. This gueuze—a blend of spontaneously fermented sour ales that are barrel aged for one, two and three years—packs the funk and tart hallmarks of the style. When laid down to rest further, aged bottles deepen the beer’s mushroom-like, earthy character.
Bells Brewery — Expedition Stout
Founded in 1983, Bells is one of the Midwest’s most reliable producers, and Expedition Stout is an excellent and accessibly robust brew. To see how its deep, dark chocolate and espresso notes turn into more nuanced, lightly tart, dark fruit and tobacco flavors, simply exercise some patience with cellaring a bottle or two.
De Dolle Brouwers — Oerbier
Brewer Kris Herteleer of De Dolle is a colorful character, often seen sporting suits adorned with the cartoon characters depicted on his beer’s labels. Oerbier is in many ways the brewery’s definitive beer; ostensibly a Belgian dark strong, it ultimately tastes like nothing else out there. After a few years, the brew’s vinous fruit notes come forward on the palate.
Brasserie d’Orval — Orval
Of the six Trappist monk beer producers in Belgium, Orval is the most idiosyncratic. The brewery makes just one beer available to the public—its namesake dry, effervescent pale ale. Conditioned with wild Brettanomyces yeast, the bottles are especially suited for aging. Over time, a deeper funk character comes forward to complement the beer’s tannic apple flavor.
De Struise Brouwers — Pannepot
De Struise’s Pannepot is an authentic and successful New World homage to Old World dark Belgian Quadrupels. In fact, it often surpasses the beers that inspired it, especially if aged. When drunk fresh, it has a deep, spice-forward richness. After several years, you’ll discover an almost cola-like coolness.
Brauerei Schloss Eggenberg — Samichlaus Classic
The only lager listed here, Samichlaus is a classic big, old imported beer. Brewed annually on Dec. 6 and aged for 10 months before bottling, the “malt liquor” carries caramel-y sweetness at sipper-strength (14 percent alcohol by volume). Extending the aging process in the bottle results in a creamier, mellower finish to complement the heat.