Some beers can stay in the cellar a long time

AT FIRST, THE expiration date on bottles of Boon Mariage Parfait looks like a typo: Best before 29-06-2027.

That’s not some Y2K mistake. The superb gueuze, a blend of Belgian lambics, is good till June 29, 2027.

Assuming you can wait that long.

In an age when Budweiser has set the freshness standard with its famous “born-on” date (good for 110 days), some brewers are bottling specialties that will be perfectly fine for consumption five, 10, even 20 years from now.

Rochefort 10, the classic Belgian Trappist ale, is suitable for at least seven years. Bottles of Avery Mephistopheles (Colorado), an imperial stout whose annual vintage reaches up to 17 percent alcohol, advise that

they’re perfectly drinkable for 10-plus years.

This month, I spotted a magazine ad for Quelque Chose (Canada), a blend of kriek and brown ale, that announced it was “Best Before July 2025. “

Almost all beer is best when it’s fresh. Oxygen infiltration, sunlight exposure and extreme temperatures damage flavor.

But beer isn’t completely without its defenses: Hops and alcohol are preservatives. As a general rule, the more hops and the higher the alcohol, the longer the beer lives.

Additionally, unfiltered, bottle-conditioned styles – with living yeast cells that continue their fermentation work – can last many years, too.

So pilsner, pale ale, wheat beer and amber lager – drink ’em right down. But barleywine, Russian imperial stout, double India pale ale and funky gueuze are great candidates for the cellar.

Where you store your beer is important.

“A word to the wise,” said Greg Koch, whose Stone Brewery in California produces the very cellarable Vertical Epic series. “A closet in the middle of the house that’s kept closed with blankets or towels over your beers does not a cellar make. The best way to ensure a beer for long-term aging is to keep it cool or cold. Period. “

Your basement is a good candidate, but no matter where you put it, here’s a good rule of thumb: storage temperature should equal serving temperature, so keep it between 45 and 60 degrees.

As for those corked bottles, don’t worry about laying them on their sides to preserve the cork’s integrity.

Most experts agree improved cork quality makes that unnecessary; meanwhile, standing them up puts the sediment at the bottom, where it belongs.

None of which explains why anyone would buy a beer and not drink it till 2027.

“Because it’s fun,” said Danny Williams, a beer aficionado who bought a former Colorado gold mine – yes, a gold mine – to store his collection of more than 3,000 bottles.

The mine keeps them at a constant temperature of 55 degrees, and an underground stream provides high humidity.

“We did a tasting not long ago where I pulled out 28 bottles of different imperial stouts,” Williams said. “It was really fun to see how a 10-year-old bottle would smooth out over time and turn into something completely different. “

I find that barleywine, especially, evolves into a whole ‘nother thing. The wonderfully spicy Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale (California), for example, becomes a mellow, sherrylike sipper after about a year in storage.

Other beers simply require a bit of maturity. For my taste, Deschutes The Abyss (Oregon) needs to wait at a year before it loses its youthful cloying grip and emerges as a complex stout with a whirl of subtle flavors.

But beware: Even with long expiration dates, beer eventually goes bad.

“When you have a bottle that you’ve been saving for years, and you finally open it and discover it’s past its prime,” Williams said, “it’s really, really sad. “

Here’s a sixpack of other ales that age well:

_ Hair of the Dog Adam (Oregon). The brewery says it has bottles of this dark old ale from its first batch in 1994, “still aging, still changing and tasting great.”

_ Thomas Hardy’s Ale (England). Each bottle is numbered and dated, and – at 11.7 percent alcohol – this barleywine will cellar, according to its importer, “at least 26 years, and counting. ” I can’t confirm that, but last week I enjoyed a very lively 19-year-old bottle that was maturing nicely.

_ Dogfish Head World Wide Stout (Delaware). “Brewed with a ridiculous amount of barley,” this exceptionally dark ale now tips the scales at 18 percent alcohol. With age, it will remind you of a fine port wine.

_ Chimay Grande Reserve (Belgium). After even 10 years in a dark space, the strong dark ale emerges from the blue-labeled bottle alive with carbonation and spirited flavors of dried fruit.

_ Weyerbacher Merry Monks (Easton, Pa.). This Belgian-style tripel loses a bit of sweetness after a couple of seasons in the dark, but it holds onto its flavor of peaches and honey.

_ Rodenbach Grand Cru (Belgium). Its low pH makes this tart ale near indestructible as it develops flavors of Madeira and caramel.

The brewery recently reported it had discovered a crate from 1967, and the beer was completely stable.


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