Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Beer Cellar (in Draft)

Of all the things to look forward to in renovating an old house, the fact I'm now the owner of a couple of 200-year-old vaulted cellars has me disproportionately pleased. They aren't even that big, but they feeeel nice. Even with the scary iron hooks in the ceiling! Some time towards the end of this year, I hope, the cellar pictured below will be dedicated to beer, but in fairness, it'll be low down on a very long list of things to do.
Slightly odd perspective, but you get the idea.

But I might as well start planning, right? I'm not a well organised beer geek or collector. I buy at random, when I get the chance, and occasionally buy or brew a few beers that would benefit from being set aside for a while, or at least I'd like to see how they develop after a year or so. Quite often, I end up ageing something that wasn't meant to be kept past the short best before date, but that's down to lazy cellarmanship and losing bottles at the back of a shelf. Things I've kept in the past have included my own barley wines and imperial stouts, the likes of Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, BrewDog Paradox, Tokyo* (bought 6 bottles over a year ago and still haven't tried it! Idiot...), random Belgian stuff, random US stuff, no German stuff (well, I now have two Ambrosia). Never really planned for ageing, apart from my own brews, and I know I should, because Adrian Tierney-Jones says so!

So, at the risk of sounding elitist, what would you buy now, to keep for a year, two years, five years or more? What's out there now that is worth grabbing a few bottles of and keeping them, just to see how they mellow and mature? I've plenty of time.

I'll pre-empt one suggestion, as I've just ordered a few bottles of Orval, and should probably order more :)


Tiny Clanger said...

Boon Oude Kriek is spectacular at 10 years.

I still have some Rogue XS Imperial Stout from when Sainsburys overstocked some years back and sold them all off at 86p/bottle - they took two or three years to come into form.

Wish I had a cellar like that. The cupboard under the stairs isn't nearly as impressive...

ZakAvery said...

Nice cellar!

I think that bottle format is an important factor in good cellaring - I had a Big Chouffe (magnum) that was spectacular, about 5 years from the bottling date. Smaller bottles (with a few exceptions) age differently. I'm assured it's to do with 'yeast dynamics'.

As Tiny Clamger implies, lambic beers tend to be very rewarding.

Barry M said...

TC, Zak that's a great idea. Might be nice to get a few of the same decent lambics every year. Would make for a fantastic vertical tasting session in a few years time.

That was a great deal on the XS, TC, and a good excuse to stock up!

Interesting thought, Zak. Not sure how dynamic the yeast is after a few years though. But if you put effort into keeping beers for a while, it makes sense to do it with large bottles so you can share.

I wonder is there a business in cellaring bottles for others. There's another scary cellar in the barn :D

(I hope this isn't seen as some kind of bragging, as the house will probably beggar me)

Any more suggestions of specifics to age?

Anonymous said...

Rochefort 10 is supposed to age nicely, and at least in the past, Orval was supposed to change significantly up to 5 years. Definitely drive up and buy some cantillon!

Barry M said...

Actually, i have a couple of those. At least they're relatively easy to get here (still have to order on-line though). I guess any of the heavier Trappists will age well. Well, maybe not any, but worth a try :) Orval is on the way.

Cantillon... I'll have to wait till my next business trip to Brussels.

Mark said...

Wow, that sure beats the bottom of my wardrobe! Can you somehow drill upwards and install a beer tap in the room above?!

Buy a case of Fuller's Vintage if you can get them. I love how they age and they are the only beers (with few exceptions) which I actually buy to not drink for a few years, the other 'aged' beers are purely because I haven't got around to drinking them yet!

Barry M said...

Mark, you see that dark square (or part of - you can see the corner of it) in the top middle? That's a hole that goes up into what will be the kitchen, although currently tiled over. It was a chute for dropping spuds or something down into the cellar. I've already been considering beer lines going up there :D

Fuller's Vintage. I had a bottle during the year (given to me by the landlord of a pub I like in Muenster). How much would a case set me back? Might be hard to find over here, but'll look :)

Adrian Tierney-Jones said...

Lambics are great left for at least a year but it’s not always foolproof, a recent bottle of Iris which had been in the cellar for 18 montsh was a letdown, yes to Fullers and lots of it, just keep buying the Orvals, I also find US barley wines reward one with age, I’ve got Sierra Nevada’s special black barley wine taking on the appearance of Rip Van Winkle at the moment.

Barry M said...

Thanks Adrian, good to know. I'll choose lambics carefully, but then again, that's probably part of the fun, find what does and doesn't age well.

I've a fondness for Bigfoot and Old Foghorn (prefer the former), so will actively seek out more US barley wines. Have a few Flying Dog beers that will probably age well, but they never last long.

Check on the Orval. Will order more :D

Mark (Halite) said...

Great looking cellar!

For beers, how about some Dogfish 120 minute IPA, Gonzo Imperial Porter and from a little closer to home some Porterhouse Celebration Stout.

Barry M said...

Yeah, good thinking. The Flying Dog stuff is easy to get here (thanks to Bier & Co), in fact, I have some gracing the shelves right now (dying to try that Dog Schwarz). As it happens, I have a 120 minute a friend brought back for me, but otherwise getting that kind of thing here is bloody difficult. Might not last long, either :) I haven't tried the new PH Celebration (there is a new one, right?). The first one was lovely (thanks to TBN for a bottle).

Mark (Halite) said...

Not sure if there is a new PH Celebration (2010), my bottles are from 2009.

Barry M said...

Ah good, so there is a "new" one. Initially it was a one-off for their 10th birthday in 2006. I thought I'd read it was becoming a regular (or maybe seasonal?). Lovely beer. That'll be one to get a few of next time I'm back over.

Russ said...

The best beer I've ever cellared is somewhat off the radar: Bell's Third Coast Old Ale. Another obvious choice here in Chicago is Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. I'm guessing those would be hard to come by on your side of the pond, but there's a 90% chance we'll be in your neck of the woods at the end of May so I may be able to hook you up. :-)

On a side note, I prefer aging beers that come in 12-oz. (355 mL) bottles since you can try one bottle right away, another in a few months, etc. and you don't have to commit to drinking, say, 750 mL in one sitting.

Barry M said...

Goose beers can be got ov this side, just not in Germany :D Know any details of where you might be visiting? Sure pop me a mail, would be good to hook up if you're in the area (even without Bourbon County :D).

I take your point about the large bottles. I've a few larger format bottles of barley wines, imperial stouts and the like, and really, I'm waiting a long time for a chance to share properly, so they get cellared by default