I tried this beer a few weeks back, giving a good year and a half to cellar, which was a “bit” longer then my original prediction of a six months cellaring time. To be fair the beer’s label did say to cellar for six months, so this extra time was more for my personal experimentation. Lets see how my experiment with extra cellaring time has treated the beer.
The beer poured a golden color, with a very-light haze to its body. A tiny constant stream of bubbles cascaded up the tulip glass, giving the beer a thin white covering of tight bubbles. I noticed light hints of both yeast and “funk-sour” aromas, but nothing too intense or off putting. In the mouth the beer felt a bit syrupy on the tongue. The light “funk-sour” aroma came through in the taste, and so did a pronounced white grape flavoring, giving the beer a certain wine aspect. The beer ran smooth but light.
Not a bad outcome, but nothing to hold out for. I’ll have to try this experiment again, but actually follow the “directions”.
I wanted to mention that Jason over at The Brew Basement has started posting again, after a slight hiatus. If you enjoy reading about the cellaring of beer, and how a beer’s character changes over time, you definitely have to check his site out.
Original Post 8/12/2007:
Actually Ommegang Brewery‘s latest beer “Ommegeddon” should be hitting local craft brew store shelves in the coming weeks, if it has not already arrived. I learned my local craft brew store was going to be stocking it this past weekend, the first in the area to do so, and since I’ve enjoyed past Ommegang beers, I made sure to pick up some bottles. While giving the beer’s label a quick read, I happen to notice a nice little tidbit of information: “Cellar 6 months for maximum enjoyment of Brettanomyces funkiness. Cellar up to two years.” (Hence the post’s title.)
I will admit I am a cellaring novice, having only my first sampling of a cellared beer a couple of months ago. The sampling, which was put on by Drinkcraftbeer, was between a recently brewed Stone Imperial Russian Stout and one which had been cellared a year and three months. Though it was only a sample, and I was not taking notes, I do remember the cellared beer having a fuller body and less alcohol burn. I found the difference so impressive I decided to pick up two bottles of the Imperial Stout and give cellaring a shot myself.
Since I wanted to make sure I was properly cellaring my beer, I searched around the internet looking for some tips. Though there are numerous resources available, I found an article, written a few months ago in the The International Herald Tribune, which provided an excellent summary of all the points of cellaring, from what to do to the possible end results.
The first step to cellaring is choosing the correct beer to cellar. No, placing a 30 pack of Bud Light in your cellar will not magically change it into an amazing beer. Beers that cellar well are big in malt, body and alcohol (eight percent or higher), are non-pasteurized, because pasteurization would kill the beer’s yeast, and a plus would be yeast still visible in the bottle (means there is a bunch of yeast to continue the fermentation process, and the yeast will add its own flavor once dead). Beers which you should not cellar, along with macro-lagers, are wheat beers, German weisses, and American pale ales. Your favorite hop bomb beer is not a good candidate for cellaring either, because the hops break down to “an unpleasant tea like flavor” (which sounds like the next macro-brewer product… “Tea Beer”). One beer style which is an exception to the rules (there is always one) is the Lambic (dry and sour with five to six percent alcohol), which is made for aging and goes by the adage “The older, the better.”
Now that you have picked the beer you want to cellar, make sure to purchase two so you can taste what the beer is like before cellaring, you need to store it properly. That “proper place” is dark and cool, which tends to be the cellar for most people (I bet you found that shocking). There should be no light in the area and the place should have a consistent temperature of ideally between 50 and 55 degrees (and definitely no more then 68 degrees). I personally store the bottles standing up, because standing works better for the space I have and I agreed with the points brought up in this beer advocate post, but the debate of storing bottles standing vs on the side still rages.
Beer, check. Storage space, check. Now comes the hardest part, overcoming the temptation to drink the beer while it ages. How long before you can cave to the temptation? Well, some beers can age for a year or two, before their flavors peak and start to fade, while others can age for decades (a British barley wine is capable of this according to the article). Since aging depends on ingredients, brewing process, and bottle size, the time period of aging can be variable. Search around and read what other people are cellaring and for how long, and go from there.
So you’ve overcome temptation for X amount of months or years, what is in store for you at the end? As long as the beer has not spoiled due to air penetration or an infected cork/cap (yes, unfortunately this could happen, and you would not know about it until after the cellaring) “… the tastes will evolve from brash to refined, as the alcohol flavor fades away. The beer’s aroma changes and the bitterness melts away, replaced by drier, sweeter flavors.” Besides that general description, I don’t know what is in store for you. This makes cellaring such a unique way to experiment with beer, the end result is such an unknown.
I typically do not review beers on sevenpack, but Ommegedon spurred on this cellaring article, so I am going to make an exception. The beer, poured into a tulip glass, gives a good finger or two of head, consisting of small tight bulbs. The head recedes at a medium pace, leaving fare stickage on the glass and a ring of bubbles along the glass wall. The beer is a cloudy honey color with very little debris, which happens to remain at the bottom of the bottle. Hints of citrus (lemon), spice (pepper), and grass (dried hay) greet the nose but all are subtle. The drink is smooth with a slight sourness up front, and a bread/yeast taste at the back. No immense flavors jump out at me but the beer is very drinkable and refreshing.
My guess on what will happen after six months of cellaring is the brettanomyces yeast, which there is quite a bit of at the bottom of the bottle, will continue to work its “funky” magic, and the beer’s sour characteristic will increase (as sour as Brise-BonBon, I am not sure). This however, will be balanced by an increase in the bread/yeast finish, as the brettanomyces dies. I enjoyed the beer before cellaring, so I’m looking forward to what will happen with the cellaring. After six months I will post a follow up review and we shall find out what really happens.
If you decide to try cellaring this or some other beer, definitely post a comment or trackback to this post, because we would enjoy hearing what you are trying out. Questions or comments on cellaring are also welcome. drink well.