Aging beer is a bit of beer geek activity that most people don’t bother with. You’re not going to age a lager from the local dépanneur but some of the bigger craft beers on the market start to receive nice nuanced changes in flavour over time. I enjoy experimenting on my homebrews to see how aging adds character and mellows out flaws in my beer. Aging normally mellows off flavours and hop flavours while enhancing malt flavours. Hard and fast, you want to age big alcoholic malty beers and not your IPA. Dogfish Head has a good article with a few tips for aging beer.
Beer won’t spoil.
Beer isn’t milk and it won’t go bad. The flavour just changes. You might not like the change in flavours (and it might change for the worst depending on style and aging conditions) but you don’t have to worry about getting sick off it. I wouldn’t open an old bottle of Molson Ex that has been in and out of the fridge though.
Oxidation is to beer as the Joker is to Batman, archenemies. Oxidation will turn your beer tasting like last weeks edition of the newspaper. Light and heat speed up oxidation, so store beer in a cool, dark place. Keep the bottles upright in your basement or in a refrigerator set between 10°C and 13°C.
High-alcohol beers tend to age better.
Lie mentioned above, typically larger beers age better. Dogfish Head recommends beers that are 10% ABV and higher and have big dark malt profiles. Higher ABV beers will begin to mellow out and produce a velvety finish after aging.
Don’t underestimate fresh.
Some beers just don’t work with aging. IPA’s and fruit beers notably. Those flavours begin to fade into the background and lose their main characteristic. That being said, there are no rules so experimenting helps. Dogfish Head recommends their 120 Minute IPA which begins to develop sweet sherry and marmalade notes.
A little experimentation goes a long way.
Like mentioned above, you will need to experiment. Taste is subjective and your mileage will vary depending on a factor of conditions. Best thing to do is buy a few bottles and drink one fresh. Store the rest and pull them out at six month intervals. If you don’t like the direction aging takes your beer you can stop or if if you do you can age another six months. Part of the fun of drinking craft beer is that there isn’t no stringent rules to be followed. Go crazy with it and find out what you like.
While already making the compromise of drinking Guinness in a can… in North America… there are a few things you can do to make the experience better. Forget the 45 degree angle and just place the can upside down into the glass. You will get a creamier head and body allowing the gasses to escape the liquid. Just make sure the can is clean before you go dipping it into your beer. Check out the video below for some gratuitous close ups of Guinness head.