Go ahead, look in the basement

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What’s in your basement?

Joe Sixpack asked local beer freaks to open their cellars for inspection.

* George Hummel, owner, Home Sweet Homebrew (2008 Samson St., Center City) – “Bertha. It’s a 15-year-old homebrew I made that’s completely over the top. It took five years for it just to carbonate.”

* Tom Baker, brewer, Heavyweight Brewing (Ocean County, N.J.) – A bottle of ’98 J.W. Lees.

* Jack Curtin, former Daily News scribe, free-lance beer writer – “I’m getting too old to save beers. You never know if you’ll get around to drinking them.”

* Gene Muller, president, Flying Fish Brewing (Cherry Hill, N.J.) – “Well, as a firm believer that ‘fresh beer is better’ (and also of ‘why walk down to the store if there’s beer in the basement?’) my basement collection is rather spartan: a collection of Thomas Hardy’s going back 15 years or so and a few bottles of Flying Fish Abbey Dubbel from 1997. The foil on the Thomas Hardy’s makes me think twice before opening it. I hand-waxed the Flying Fish bottles for that reason.”

* Scoats, owner, Grey Lodge Pub (6235 Frankford Ave., Frankford) – “We have some 25-ounce bottles of Sam Adams Old Fezziwig and some ’97 Victory Old Horizontal. I’ll be breaking out the Fezziwig soon. But I’m saving the O.H. for a special event.”

* Bill Covaleski, president, Victory Brewing (Downingtown) – “I have a small supply of all years of Old Horizontal and Storm King. I’d also keep Golden Monkey but it seems to evaporate and the bottles move on their own to the recycling bin. The real intrigue is the two bottles of 1992 (pre-reformulation) Goudenband, a 1987 J.W. Lees Harvest Ale, four bottles of 1997 St. Victorious that has aged wonderfully, a 1997 bottle of Fullers Vintage Ale, and a single bottle of small-batch Snow Goose [brewed before Wild Goose sold out to Frederick Brewing].”

* Tom Peters, owner, Monk’s Cafe (16th and Spruce streets, Center City) – One of every batch (30-plus) of Hair of the Dog Adam.

* Tom Kehoe, founder, Yards Brewing (5050 Umbria St., Manayunk) – Two bottles of barleywine from Christmas ’96. “It’s the only thing left over from our original brewery [on Krams Avenue].”


Like to cellar your own beer? Here’s a few guidelines:

1. Keep it cool. At most, 65 degrees. The basement floor is best.

2. Keep it constant. Beer sours when the temperatures range more than 20 degrees.

3. Keep it in a covered box. Light turns beer skunky.

4. Keep a record. Use a marker to date the bottle cap.

5. Keep drinking. Save a sixpack and sample a bottle every year.


Look for high-alcohol beers that are bottle-conditioned. The live yeast will continue to change the character of the ale over time.

Here’s my own sixpack that’s been sitting untouched for up to three years:

  1. Dogfish Head Raisin d’Etre.
  2. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale.
  3. Chimay Grande Reserve.
  4. La Fin du Monde.
  5. Flying Fish Porter.
  6. Samuel Adams Triple Bock.


Too lazy to cellar your own beer? Several area bars frequently tap cellared kegs.

Ye Olde Ale House (405 Germantown Pike, Lafayette Hill) just polished off a cask of 1999 Our Special Ale. (The 2000 is on tap now. )

Other bars that occasionally feature vintage beers include: the 700 (2nd and Fairmount, Northern Liberties), Dawson Street Pub (Cresson and Dawson streets, Manayunk) and Monk’s Cafe (16th and Spruce streets, Center City).

Or head to Belgium, to the famous Kulminator bar (32 Vleminckveld, Antwerp), where the beer list includes more than 200 vintage-dated ales.

When I visited a few years ago, I downed two of the best beers I’ve ever tasted: a 3-year-old Stille Nacht and a 10-year-old Westvleteren.


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