You’ve bought just bought your beer, transported it safely as if it was a new-born back home and then you shove it straight in the fridge…
Well, hold your horses people! We’re here to step in and tell you how to store your beer properly so that it retains it’s perfect balance of carbonation, aroma and taste.
Your average beer has a shelf life of 3-6 months before it starts to spoil, but we aren’t talking about your average run of the mill beer here, we’re talking about the beers that are begging to be left for a while to mature just to build upon their sumptuous flavours and aromas. Vintage beers, barleywines, imperial stouts, lambics, and old ales are just a few examples of the beers that (if you can hold off opening them) age beautifully just like a fine wine. In general any beer that’s over 7% ABV or with strong flavours is worth a try.
If you want to try your hand at cellaring the first thing you need to do is determine a location for the storage of the beer, it should be an environment with no heat, no light and preferably a constant temperature. We understand that it’s near impossible to perfectly regulate the temperature without a second fridge or a cool basement but a dark closet that can be kept roughly at room temperature will work just fine! (And in all honesty the use of a fridge in the long-term is not recommended as fridges are designed to keep food dry which can lead to the dehydration of the cork in a beer.)
Whilst a roughly constant temperature is ideal, different beers can be stored at different temperatures, strong beers like barleywines and dark ales can be stored between 12°c and 15°c, whereas your lighter beers like lagers and pilsners should be stored closer to the 8°c mark. The higher the alcohol content in the beer the higher the temperature you can store it at.
Once you’ve established an appropriate environment for your beer to be stored in it’s time to answer the age-old question, to lie the bottles down or to not lie the bottles down? Ultimately it shouldn’t matter too much, however there are a multitude of reasons why, in our opinion, standing the bottles upright is the way to go;
– Corks it turns out are the perfect bottle stoppers (who’d have thought?), modern corks in particular as they are infused with a material called suberin. This waxy substance not only makes the cork almost impermeable by water or gases that could enter the beer when it’s being stored, but it also stops the cork from drying out. This means that lying the beer on its side to stop the cork from ‘drying out’ is wholly unnecessary. Furthermore the inside of every bottle of beer has it’s own level of humidity and so the cork won’t dry out anyway, that’s before mentioning the fact that the cork itself is impermeable! The best thing to do if you are worried about shrinkage of the cork is to chat to the brewery you bought the beer from. Agglomerated corks tend to last for 1-3 years and plastic based corks last even longer but even they will lose elasticity eventually. Ask the brewer and see what they say!
– The long storage of beer can often create yeast ring or watermark on the inside of the bottle, a perk of keeping your bottles stood upright is that the yeast will compact at the bottom of the bottle, making it easier to discard if you wish not to drink the sediment.
– Upright storage means less of the beers surface area is left exposed. Less exposed beer means less oxidation.
– Lastly long exposure to any cork can have a definite impact on the flavours within your beer and last time we checked a musty/mouldy character is a complexity you do not want!
That’s it, we’ve covered the where and the how to store your beer now all you need to do apply some patience and willpower in ensuring that you don’t crack into that bottle too soon! One way to help you resist temptation is to buy two bottles of the same beer, not only will this allow you to succumb to your desire by tasting the first bottle but it’ll allow you to compare and contrast an un-aged bottle with a matured one and help you to understand how the maturing process has developed the beers flavours, aromas and carbonation. You can even start your own diary and make notes of the changes between the two, it encourages you to try different ageing techniques, after all it’s all trial and error and part of the fun!
One final note before we leave you, when you do finally succumb to cracking open that bottle stick to one rule, the temperature that you stored the beer at = the temperature you serve the beer at.