Cellaring beer is not a very common activity. No one, for example, would tell you to age a six-pack of Pabst in your basement. But Stone Brewing would like you to know that occasionally beer is best left to the cellar, and is pushing the concept with its new Enjoy After series.
Not all beer can be cellared. In fact, most beers should be enjoyed as soon as possible. Anheuser-Busch made a huge campaign of “born on” dates more than a decade ago in an attempt to ensure freshness. Craft breweries, especially those that make hoppy beers, have also been scrambling to educate consumers about the proper time frames for maintaining beers’ integrity: Hops deteriorate over time, so drinking beers closer to the brewing date means drinkers get more of the intended flavor.
In fact, Stone Brewing is a top proponent of the concept of drinking beer in a timely fashion. They even have a page on the Importance of Fresh Beer on their website. Along those lines, in 2012, they launched Enjoy By IPA, a beer that has a consume-by date prominently printed front and center on the label.
Now, in contrast to that concept, Stone has presented Enjoy After 10.31.15 Brett IPA, a beer intended for enjoyment after a specified date.
What makes these two IPAs different? The Brett IPA is bottle-conditioned with Brettanomyces, a wild yeast used for creating sour beers. Added right before the bottles are sealed, this yeast will continue to change the character of the brew, sometimes for a year or longer. So while Enjoy After ales are available now, the drink date is October 31 of next year!
Having active yeast in the bottle is just one reason beers can work in the cellar. Beers with less hop character can also age well, assuming the alcohol content is high enough to preserve them (Stone suggests anything over 8 percent).
The truth is, determining which beers will age well can be tricky—it is in no way an exaggeration to say that it is an inexact science. But that’s why Stone’s Enjoy After 10.31.15 Brett IPA is a great place to start. If you’re new to aging beers, here’s a chance to get your cellar going, educate yourself and experiment from there.