Hello beer brewers and beer drinkers and beer lovers everywhere. Today I am here to talk to you about BILFs. You know, BILFS! Beers I’d Like to Slurp. And if you thought I meant MILFS, you’re really not all that far off. Because some things, including beers, really do get sexier with age.
Now that may be a bit of a vulgar introduction to a subject that is in point of fact a bit subtle. But it’s not something that beer brewers or beer drinkers talk about that often, and it deserves the talking. Can beers be aged? Should they? If so, what beers, and for how long and how?
Well let me start by saying that as a brewer, I am an impatient little bitch. I mean seriously, it bugs me that I have to wait two weeks sometimes to taste my delicious malted nectar. I want it NOW. And that may be more a component of the culture I am a product of. Because let’s be honest – we are a fast-food culture that mass produces nearly everything, INCLUDING beer. And we all know that mass-produced beer comes with a BORN ON DATE.
But should it? Can beer… expire?
Oh, most definitely. And you’ll know if you’ve got an old bottle you’re sipping from. Beer is made from grain, and grain can get stale and stale beer tastes like a mix of dirty apple cider and cardboard box and water soy sauce. No joke. Over-aged beers essentially suffer from oxidization. And that’s essentially the same chemical process that causes paint to fade and iron to rust. Yes indeed, metaphorically speaking (since we’re talking about a slightly different chemical process) beer can get RUSTY.
Now, Beer Fans, a certain beer friend of mine who is always inviting me to beer tastings, is also a bit of a beer hoarder (you should see his house – he has, no exaggeration, something like 4000 bottles in the queue, just waiting for a beer tasting. This dude needs to star in his own episode of Hoarders!) This certain friend, as a result of his Level 3 Beer Hording Mental Illness, sometimes serves us an old beer. It doesn’t happen very often. But it has happened with enough frequency that we can all now tell, nearly immediately, whether a beer has gone stale and become oxidized. Because in that moment whatever unique and joyous and original taste characteristics the beer once had, disappear and what you are left with, no matter the style of beer, almost universally tastes of cardboard, dirty apple juice, and soy sauce, and the dirt of dead yeast. So whatever else you take from this article, it’s worth noting that you can store and keep beer, if you treat it right, but it’s a tragedy to ruin a good bottle because you can’t bear to leave it on the liquor store shelf. Treat your beers (the ones you brew and the ones you buy) with respect, and you’ll be rewarded with deliciousness every time.
So if it’s so possible to get a stale bottle, how could I, in good conscience, ever recommend that any beer drinker or beer brewer to EVER age a bottle of beer? And the answer is because some beers REALLY DO get better with age, you just gotta know which ones and why you would want to age them and then you have to not be an impatient little bitch like me most of the time.
Exhibit 1: That same aforementioned Beer Hoarder, is also an avid master homebrewer and has successfully brewed one of the single best home brews I have ever sampled. This homebrew was an Imperial Saison, and I was EXPLICITLY FORBIDDEN under the threat of dishonor and humiliation in my role as NUMBER ONE SUPER BEER TASTER IN THE KNOWN UNIVERSE, if I dared to open it before it was a year old.
SO I WAITED.
AND I WAITED.
AND DAMNIT, I WAITED.
And finally one year from the day I received the bottle (probably, to be honest, slightly more than one year from the day it was actually bottled) I pried off the cork (cause it was a classy SAISON, bitches, and that’s how you bottle them if you have CLASS and STYLE like my friend the beer hoarder).
And it was like drinking sunlight, shining into the fields of a French Farmhouse, as I sat and sipped amongst the chickens and French farmers. It was one of those transcendent beer-tasting moments, where the sun goes into total eclipse and the flavors coursing across your tongue and down into your throat sing in a glorious angelic roar about all that is and was and will be excellent in your life. It was one of those beers. So tasty and memorable that it makes me shiver a little to recall it for you now. And it was over a year old when I finally got around to tasting it.
So what made that Imperial Saison so delicious over a year after the date on which it was brewed and bottled?