The best kept secret in ageing beer
Where do you age yours?
A while ago, we told you about our efforts to age beer, placing the precious cargo into wooden barrels to absorb all kinds of wonderful flavours. However, that's only half the story. Once we hand over the bottle-shaped baton, the process will still continue; beers that benefit from ageing will be grateful for time given, whether it's at our place or yours! When a Paradox or Abstrakt slips free from the timber embrace, the complex flavour profiles will still develop, after all. Beer ageing is what the cool cats do – it helps soften and round out harsh flavours, whilst letting others mature over time.
If you've managed to collect a few special bottles, where's the best place to leave them for a few months? The garage? Before you take the 'big key' from the rack and head out, there’s one thing you need to be aware of first: the number one enemy of the beer ageing process. Not spoiling bacteria. Not temperature. No, the worst enemy of all is pure and simple temptation. Ageing beer at the back of the garage is a big mistake; every time you get into the Mondeo and flick the lights on, there your prizes will be, revealed suddenly in the washed-out glare of the full beam.
That image, the lineup of glorious treasures, will lodge inexorably in the brain. Next time you're hunting about for something to kill the pain of Alan Shearer on a Saturday night, before you know it you'll be halfway down the garden path, big key gripped in one Dorito-dust covered hand. No, to age beer successfully, you need a hidey-hole, somewhere out of sight which will also be out of mind. A cupboard won’t do – it’s too accessible, the urge to delve inside with the opener will be a buzzing constant. And it's that urge that you need to remove in order to have a triumphant beer cellar.
So, where’s the best place to leave your precious cargo? How about…
In with the Christmas decorations
This, really, is the ultimate ageing place. The tattered cardboard box with ‘XMAS DECS’ scrawled on the side, tinsel gamely flopping out of the top. This is a box that says ‘avoid at all costs until the second week of December’. When you’re up in the attic in July, searching for those tennis rackets that should be up there, unless Judy has moved them again, your eyes will alight on that box, and then instantly move on, with a shudder. Not yet, Noddy Holder. Not yet.
Dig for victory
Aside from temptation, the second-biggest enemy of ageing beer are indeed light and temperature. What better way to render these constant than by burying bottles in the garden? You don’t need to concrete the whole thing over afterwards, though – unless a) you have the willpower of a bulldog puppy, or b) you’d quite like a patio. They might even make an attractive feature, crown caps peeking out of the earth here and there. Alternatively, for perfect temperature control – why not lower them into the garden pond?
In the salad crisper
If, like many people, the plastic bin at the bottom of your fridge is where root vegetables go to die, why not take the opportunity to spruce things up with the Cilit Bang and use it to age your beers? Get rid of the parchemented onion skin and broccoli sludge, and instead use it as a custom-made, bottle-sized beer bin. Pile a load of bacon on top, blocking the drawer from view, and there you go. That whole five-a-day thing is only a guideline, anyhow.
Employ eight-legged guardians
One of the cheapest, and undoubtedly most effective, ways of ageing beer successfully is to just leave some in the darkest, furtherest corner of the cellar and let nature do its work. Over time, the multi-eyed, eight-legged dreamshredders will move in, claiming the territory as their own, draping your beloved treasure with silken terrortraps. Fancy uncorking the ’12 Kernel Double Black? Just imagine all those eyes watching your approach, eight sets of knees tensing up, ready to spring at your crouched, whimpering body…
At the brewery
"Oh, hi – is that Bowman? Hi buddy – yeah, just calling about the Age and Collect service? Cheers. So, can you put aside half a dozen Jura’s and four each of the AB's 15 and 16 for me? Sweet as. Anything else you’ve got coming up? Whatever, just slide a few over to my zone, I’ll pick 'em up at the AGM – either this one or next. Love the beard, by the way. Magic. The name? It’s Seymour. Seymour Butt…hello? Hello?”
Beer. Where do you age yours?