It’s the age old question. From age to age, from east to west, we’ve been asking for ages…

To age, or not to age?

…that is the question.

I hope you read that in a Shakespearean accent (which I’m pretty sure is just a British accent…)

To Age, or Not to Age?
A very dark picture of me, at Sanford’s Restaurant in Astoria, drinking a 5 year old Dogfish Head World Wide Stout.

Anyway, I was asked recently about aging beer, and why should or shouldn’t we?

To Age, or Not to Age?
A room full of Barrels at Funky Buddha Brewery in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

As far back as the 18th and 19th Century, in Britain, Brewers were aging Beer to save for their distinguished guests. For day-to-day drinking, they would serve “Mild Ales”, which meant that they were fresh. But for special guests, they sold “Stock Ales”, which were stored for months, or even years before serving.

Nowadays, beer drinkers (including myself) are going wild for fresh IPAs. Whereas 5 years ago, IPAs were still considered pretty fresh for about 90 days, with the recent trend of juicy, New England-style IPAs, the name of the game is now the fresher the better. Fresh off the canning line? Gimme Gimme, that thing called love (aka IPA). 2 months off the canning line? Yesterday’s Jam (this is a reference you will only get if you watch The IT Crowd). Bye, Bye, Bye (I think that’s a reference with more mass appeal, no?) This is the mindset of the new consumer of IPAs.

From what I understand, and in chatting with other reputable breweries IN THE BIZ, popular breweries making these hazy brews, like Other Half, Trillium, and Tree House, purveyors of the most highly sought after IPAs in America, are developing method to make these beers have a bit longer of a shelf life.

To Age, or Not to Age?
Sand City Soup Du Jour with Galaxy Hops.

Characteristics from the hops (citrus, grass, pine) are the first things to fall off as a Beer sits on the shelf. Because this new style of IPAs prides itself on being juicy, they seriously lean on them hops for their product to be successful.

To Age, or Not to Age?
LIC Beer Project Cannons, a double IPA with notes of strawberry and citrus.

One method already put into practice is canning instead of bottling. Oxygen and light are two major factors in aging Beer. Oxygen can seep in the bottle underneath the cap, causing oxydization. The reason all those green bottled beers *ahemheinekinbecksstella* taste like skunk butt is because they’re both oxydized and light struck, which creates a reaction of sulfer compounds in hops, changing the flavor of the beer from crisp, light, and grassy, to stinky, wet skunk butt mess… Sorry for getting graphic.

To Age, or Not to Age?
Other Half Brewing collaboration with Stigbergets Bryggeri, a brewery in Sweden.

Canning instead of bottling nearly eliminates both the oxygen issue and light issue, so these hazy, New England-style IPAs can taste fresher longer.

Stay tuned for the next article in our series on aging! We’ll talk about how to age Beer, barrel aged beers, and more!

As always, you can head over to www.benedictbeerblog.com for more fun adventures!

Until next time,

Cheers!