Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Session #73: Not Necesarily Better with Age

For this month's Session, Adam over at Pints and Pubs asks us to itemize all the beers in our cellars, set aside to age, and asks us to indulge in a bit of navel gazing to consider how our beer collections reflect our drinking preferences. 

So here goes.  In my beer cellar are:

That's it.

I expect this is going to be one of the shortest lists for the session.  It's worth noting that the overwhelming majority of beer does not improve with age, and only a tiny minority of beer drinkers cellar any beer at all.  And so my meager two bottle list is tiny by the standards of beer geekdom, well over 99% of the world's beer drinkers have put away less than three bottles to age.

Jeffers Richardson, looking very un-mad scientist-like,
explaining how he creates his world class barrel-aged beers
These statistics aside, my short three bottle list indicates that while I'm pretty fanatical about beer, cellaring beer is not something I get too excited about.  I realized this most recently during an event at Harry's Hofbrau in San Jose, where the acclaimed Firestone-Walker Barrelmeiser Jeffers Richardson spoke to a small handful of local beer enthusiasts about Fireston-Walker's Barrelworks Program.

Self-described as a brewing mad scientist, Jeffers Richardson calmly spoke about the unpredictable barrel aging process, as well as art of blending different barrel aged beers to create the wonderfully layered complex intensity beers like Parabola, Velvet Mirken, and XVI Anniversary Ale that are often further cellared by beer aficionados.  As Fireston-Walker's original brewmaster, it was clear over the course of the evening that Richardson forgets more about brewing in a week than most brewers learn in a lifetime.  He carefully, yet enthusiastically answered everyone's questions, even a couple of the dumb ones.  The evening was easily one of the more fascinating learning experiences I've ever had on beer and the samples Harry's Hofbrau graciously supplied of Richardson's highly in-demand brewing creations were every bit as intense and flavorful as the hype.

And yet, as world class as these beers are, they just aren't beers I would drink very often.  My preferences happen to lean towards the "sessionable" edge of the beer spectrum, and also think there's nothing better than a recently bottled IPA where the fresh hops sing,  something that is totally lost whenever beer is aged.  It's odd, feeling a certain indifference to beers lots of people spend considerable effort to seek out and rave about, but I guess that's just the way I am.

Sure, they are special occasion where I'd happily break out a bottle of Parabola to share with family and friends.  The thing is, special occasions only happen once in a great while.  After all, if they happened more often, then they wouldn't be special.

Jeffers Richardson, with his back to us, holding court in
San Jose's Harry's Hofbrau


  1. That may turn out to be "one of the shortest lists", but it's enough to give me beer envy over that Whiskey aged Bigfoot!

    If anything, my attempts at cellaring should have taught me that my list should look more like yours, and I should be drinking my hoppy beers as fresh as possible instead of hoarding them until they've faded. But I haven't learned...

    Thanks for contributing!

  2. While I like to keep a stockpile of beer for saving, I'm the same way. I have about a dozen bottles in my cellar/pantry and I feel like that's a good amount. I like the option of having something fun and tasty available, but it's hard to ignore the fact I just want to drink the damn things!