Food Loves Beer Editors
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Food Loves Beer Editors
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This writer sips her way around the Square Mile.
LONDON'S BUBBLING CRAFT BEER SCENE
Stop into any pub in London, and you can generally find a well-pulled pint—and some nibbles to go with it. But for true beer aficionados in London, there are a few don’t miss places serving up beer brewed right in the capital.
In order to truly appreciate the variety that is beer in London, it’s best to start at the beginning, or as close to the beginning as you can get. I had the opportunity to visit Fuller’s, a brewery in Chiswick that has been in operation since the 16th century. John Fuller, Henry Turner, and John Smith took possession in 1845 and it remains an independent family owned brewery to this day. Fuller’s are some of the most common beers to find on tap in London’s pubs – case in point, Fuller’s nickname, London’s brewery, and its star ale, London Pride. As such, it’s an interesting place to get to know the flavors that Londoners are used to drinking – all the better to adequately judge the rest!
Fuller’s brews several different beers, but their core line is made up of three: Chiswick Bitter (3.5% ABV), London Pride (4.1% ABV) and ESB or Extra Special Bitter (5.5% ABV), a name coined by Fuller’s that has since become a globally recognized beer style. All three beers start with the same base of malt mix, though they are later fermented and hopped differently. This shared base, however, is part of what creates brand loyalty with Fuller’s: if you like one of the three principal beers, chances are, you’ll like them all.
The London Pride takes its name from Saxifraga x urbium, a flower that grew on sites bombed during the London Blitz and was therefore given the name of London Pride. After a naming contest was held, the same name was then bestowed on this malty, amber ale with a biscuity sweetness. Similar flavors are found in the dry-hopped Chiswick Bitter, which, as its name indicates, does add a good level of bitterness to this ale. The bitter is still quite light and fresh, with very flowery hop flavors and a touch of citrus. My favorite of the three was the ESB, which adds lovely yeast aromas and a hint of orange to the mix. I’m not alone in my preference: ESB has won Beer of Britain three times.
Aside from these three beers, Fuller’s also offers several others for different palates. Honeydew (5% ABV) is a beer brewed with organic honey from Brazil—in fact, Honeydew is the best-selling organic beer in the UK. I adored the deep, rich aromas, and as someone who does not love sweet beers, I found the honey flavors to be very present without being overwhelming or cloying.
The London Porter (5.4% ABV) got its name thanks to being the favorite drink of 19th century London street porters. London water is said to be perfect for making porter, and this one proves the point, with classic chocolatey aromas and a rich, creamy mouth feel.
I tried a few spring and summer brews, including, Oliver’s Island (3.8% ABV), brewed with Cara Gold malt. This new permanent brew offers quite a bit of citrus flavor though the recipe has changed since the original launch, as testers said that the orange promised was not quite present enough. In its current incarnation, Oliver’s Island is bright and just a bit sweet, perfect as an alternative to Pim’s. My favorite of the seasonal beers was the Spring Sprinter (4% ABV), a surprisingly earthy beer with a light, citrusy flavor and a clean finish. The coup de coeur with this one was the grassy, vegetal note to the nose, which is very distinctive and makes this ale very drinkable especially in hot weather.
Modern London Brewed Beers
With these flavors under my belt, I set out to discover some of London's more modern breweries. One of my first stops was Brew Wharf, a centrally located restaurant and pub not far from London Bridge. Brew Wharf offers local beers both on tap and by the bottle as well as an extensive menu encompassing traditional British pub food and more modern international fare.
Here, I sampled several beers from London-based Meantime Brewing Company in Greenwich. The Yakima Red (4.1% ABV) is a malty pale ale with a light bitterness on the finish stemming from the use of five different Yakima Valley hops. The amalgam of British brewing and malt and American hops creates a very interesting brew that combines the sweeter, maltier aromas preferred by Brits with some of the stronger, more bitter flavors of American brews. The fruitiness of the hops in this beer makes it an intriguing match for charcuterie or other rich pork dishes.
The Union Lager (4.9% ABV) was my personal favorite, with a malty, caramel flavor more reminiscent of ale than the Vienna-style lager it is. A crisp bitterness that balances these richer aromas, creating a complex beer that paired perfectly with the house burger.
But while enjoying a few brews at a table is all well and good, true beer fans will want to devote a Saturday afternoon in London to a beer crawl along the Bermondsey Beer Mile, encompassing several bottle shops and breweries.
Kernel was meant to be our first stop, but it was unfortunately closed when we visited. That being said, I was able to pick up a bottle of the Citra Summit Pale Ale (5.5% ABV) to try at home. This fresh, citrusy ale has a cloudy aspect and a nice white head. I found the tropical fruit flavors surprising yet welcome in a style that is currently being done to death—the Kernel’s version is well worth a try.
At Brew By Numbers, we opted for two distinctive brews: the first was a saison brewed with hibiscus and chamomile – 01/09 (5.6% ABV) with a rustic nose typical of a saison and floral aromas that, while hardly distinguishable as hibiscus and chamomile, added to the earthiness of this beer. My favorite at Brew By Numbers, however, was the Black IPA – 15/01 (6.1% ABV)—I fell so hard for it I took home a bottle. The dark color of the beer makes the citrus aromas surprising, but this IPA is principally characterized by its woody aromas, moderate bitterness and light notes of chocolate. This beer is a definite winner for lovers of both dark beers and IPAs and would match perfectly with the smoky flavors of barbecued brisket or pulled pork.
Our next stop was The Bottle Shop, where I sampled an intriguing collaboration between Bullfinch, Weird Beard and Marble--a grapefruit IPA called You Taste Better When You Are Scared (6.5% ABV). This bright beer obviously has a good amount of citrus, but I also enjoyed the surprising spiciness and maltiness here. It doesn’t have the same kick of bitterness that I would expect from an IPA; nearly all of the bitterness seems citrusy in origin, but it’s a refreshing change, and as a collaboration, a great way to get to know new breweries.
We finished our tour at Four Pure, as many seem to do, given that this address also offers indoor seating and Ping-Pong tables. Here, I also picked up a few cans to take home with me, namely the straightforward pale ale (5%), which offers a nice floral hint and subtly bitter kick.
Food Loves Beer in London
As for pairing beer with food, London is doing things right… with a bit of help from Brooklyn. New beer bar Fourteenth Colonie brings a Brooklyn vibe to Clerkenwell, with help from Colonie NYC and an American chef. It has an American-inspired menu and a beer list that boasts brews hailing from London and the UK, as well as some international ones. The helpful staff was able to steer us in the right direction all night long.
We adored the Siren Undercurrent (4.5% ABV) a pale ale with a vague, oaty sweetness that almost gave it the qualities of a wheat beer, with bright, effervescent bubbles and a light bitterness on the end of the palate that’s more citrusy than hoppy. The oats offer a creaminess to the finish that lends the beer some substance. It paired perfectly with the two crostini that we tried: goat cheese and lemon and white bean and tomato.
The Wild Beer Ninkasi Celebration Ale (9% ABV) was an entirely novel experience. This floral, hoppy beer undergoes a second fermentation with Champagne yeast and apples and takes on a Champagne effervescence and a sweet, cider quality. The malty flavors take the back seat here, but it’s an excellent beer for pre-dinner drinks, standing in perfectly for Champagne or other sparkling wines as an accompaniment to a cheese and charcuterie board.
The Pressure Drop Pale Fire (4.8% ABV) is a London-brewed pale ale. One can only assume that the pale fire name comes from the pleasing yet nearly burning bitterness at the end of the palate—the bitterness is perfectly controlled, accompanied by very floral hops. This flavorful brew is a winner for both pale ale and IPA fans. It was a nice match for the fried hush puppies on the menu, and the egg-topped burger offered a rich counterpart to the bitterness as well.
The Green Flash Double Stout (8.8%), while not an English beer at all, nearly took top place for me when it was paired with the sticky date cake. The buttery aromas of this beer, while of course evocative of chocolate, also have a prune cake air about them, making the combo of this stout and the chef’s cake a show-stopping finish to any meal.
But the Buxton Nth Cloud (8.2% ABV) was the winner for me. I hesitated before ordering the high-alcohol beer, but after reassurance from our waiter, I went for it and had no regrets. With a honey-like sweetness and soft, velvety bubbles, it belies its high alcohol nature. Very fruity hops add a punch of bitterness – this beer keeps you guessing and delivers massive flavor. I loved it paired with the house-made buttermilk fried chicken.
Of course, London’s beer scene is ever evolving. I’m looking forward to discovering even more of what it has to offer on my next journey!
Here’s a look at what May has in store for us.
Food Loves Beer Editors
12 BEER-LOVING THINGS TO DO IN MAY
April showers may bring May flowers, but the month has something else to offer, too, and those beautiful blooms have nothing on all the great craft beer and food events going on around the country.
Here are 12 notable happenings. Bookmark them and keep them handy so that no matter where you are you'll always be ready to get your beer tasting on.
2ND ANNUAL FIVE BORO CRAFT BEER FEST
Sample over 100 craft beers from over 30 breweries and food from local restaurants on Friday, May 1 at Studio Square NYC in Long Island City, NY.
THE HOP SHOP OPENING
If you're in New York head to Brooklyn for the Friday May 1 grand opening of The Hop Shop, a new craft beer bar offering 14 taps and over 100 bottles and cans.
BACON AND BEER CLASSIC
Entertain your love for bacon and beer with craft brew samples and mouth-watering bacon-inspired treats on Saturday, May 2 at Safeco Field in Seattle, WA.
QUEENS BEER WEEK
Enjoy the great brews Queens has to offer from Friday, May 8 through Sunday, May 17 at various bars and breweries throughout the borough of Queens, NY.
18TH ANNUAL GREAT PETALUMA CHILI COOK-OFF SALSA AND BEER TASTING
Sample chili and salsa and pair it with beer from 15 Bay Area and West Coast microbreweries on Saturday, May 9 at Herzog Hall in Behrens Park on the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds in Petaluma, CA.
BEER, BOURBON & BBQ FESTIVAL
Taste over 60 beers and 40 bourbons while munching on delicious barbecue specialties on Saturday, May 9 at Symphony Park at Southpark Mall in Charlotte, NC.
AMERICAN BEER CLASSIC
Enjoy samples from a lineup of over 200 unique brews, plus classic ballpark food for purchase on May 9 at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL.
AMERICAN CRAFT BEER WEEK
Kick-off the summer craft beer season with a nationwide celebration of America's craft brewing industry from May 11 to May 17.
5TH ANNUAL AMER-CAN CANNED BEER FESTIVAL
Celebrate the canned craft beer revolution with over 250 local and national beers, plus food and live entertainment on May 16 at Scottsdale Civic Center in Scottsdale, AZ.
BEER BACON MUSIC
Can't have enough beer and bacon? Then this event is for you. Taste your share of more than 50 different beers from over 60 breweries, plus an all-you-can-eat bacon bar and other food for purchase on May 16 in Frederick, MD.
NYC CRAFT BEER FESTIVAL SUMMER SEASONAL
Want amazing views with your beer tasting? This festival offers fine beers, artisanal food and VIP events at one of New York City's scenic piers, South Street Seaport from Thursday, May 28 to Saturday May 30.
WISCONSIN BEER AND CHEESE CRUISE
Enjoy the sights of Chicago along with a variety of Wisconsin beers, artisan cheeses and sausages while cruising aboard the Mystic Blue on May 30, 2015.
Hopefully, these ideas are enough to get you started on a beer and food filled month of May! What food and beer-loving things are you planning to do this May?
This festival featured unlimited cider from over 50 different brands!
Food Loves Beer Editors
EDIBLE MANHATTAN GOOD CIDER FESTIVAL
We had the opportunity to attend Edible Manhattan's first ever Good Cider Festival on Wednesday March 18, 2015. We were beyond happy to have received the invitation because cider, especially hard cider, has a warm spot in our hearts. We’ve even made a batch or two. Okay, making cider is something of an annual tradition. So it’s safe to say we really love good cider, and this event exceeded our expectations and then some.
The evening’s festivities took place at the stunning Three Sixty° in Tribeca. It's one of our favorite venues because of its panoramic rooftop views of the Hudson River and downtown NYC.
We met the makers and learned everything we ever wanted to know about cider. Of course, what we loved most was the chance to taste some ciders (from a selection of over 50 leading local and national brands) and pair them with delectable culinary treats from the local restaurants and food vendors that were on site.
If all of this wonderfulness wasn’t enough, Edible's Good Cider Festival was for a good cause. The event benefited the New York Cider Association. There were far too many great cider choices (and food choices) to list them all here, but cider lovers, allow us to whet your appetite with a few highlights from the evening.
Yes. We were awestruck by the awesomeness of Awestruck's Lavender Hops, a unique, bittersweet cider infused with a secret blend of hops and sweet lavender. We liked it so much we brought home a bottle to enjoy, and we have some recipes in mind so stay tuned for those.
Delicious doesn't even begin to describe the Long Island Duck Confit on NY Cheddar Thyme Biscuit from Dekalb Restaurant. This heavenly bite begged to be savored again (and again).
We sampled three sparkling ciders from Bellwether: the Brut Bottle-Conditioned Lord Scudamore, the Semi-Dry Liberty Spy, and the Semi-Sweet Cherry Street, a lightly sparkling blend of apple and tart cherry.
Jimmy’s No. 43's Cider Braised Bacon and Brussels Sprouts proved once again that bacon makes Brussels sprouts better, as does cider!
Doc’s Draft Hard Cider is always a favorite and their "Dry Hopped" variation doesn't disappoint. The citrus and floral hop character (provided by Centennial and Chinook hops) is apparent from the first sip of this otherwise traditional cider.
We really enjoyed Maeve’s Hudson Valley Cider, a sparkling craft cider with pronounced floral and light citrus notes.
Nine Pin Ciderworks Belgian Hard Cider also piqued our interest. Fermented with Belgian Abbey Ale yeast, it’s no wonder this farmhouse cider with tropical fruit notes reminded us of a fine Belgian ale.
We're pretty sure that this Braised Beef Cheek with Roasted Peppers and Celery Purée from Paulaner NYC defines succulent and there's probably a picture of it right above that definition in the dictionary.
Yummy vanilla bean panna cotta with caramel-cider reduction & crunchy granola from Grace’s Marketplace was the ideal dessert to complement cider.
South Hill Pommeau is fabulous and we fell madly in love with it. Aged for months, Pommeau is a blend of Apple Spirits (Eau de Vie) with unfermented and unfiltered apple cider. It has notes of apple, honey, and cloves and is perfect as an aperitif or digestif.
Looking for beers to try in the Limousin region? Here are a few ideas.
5 FRENCH BEERS TO TRY IN LIMOGES
France is usually far better known for its wine than its beer, but the Limousin region may be one of a handful of exceptions. Thanks to the great quality of the water in this region, artisanal beer has been brewed here as early as the 18th century. In Limoges, the region’s capital, the first brewery dates to 1765, and between 1895 and 1970, over 50 breweries could be found in the Limousin region.
One of the region’s most famous breweries, Mapataud, remained a leader in the local industry until the 1950s, when more northern regions stole the local brewing thunder.
While many of these historic breweries have since disappeared, a renewed interest in brewing in France in general and in the region, in particular, has brought beer brewing in the Limousin back into the spotlight; today, there are 14 breweries in the region. With this in mind, here are the top 5 beers to try in Limoges and the Limousin region.
5. Michard Ambrée
Three of the beers on this list come from Limoges’ premier modern brewer, Michard, in operation since 1996. Michard operates both a brewpub in the city center and a brewery a bit outside the center, where one can still sample homemade flammekeuche – eastern French flatbreads a bit similar to a pizza–, as well as house-smoked salmon alongside the beers. The brewpub in the center not only has a more extensive menu, but also offers beer-based cocktails.
I was treated to a tour of the newer brewery, where brewing has increased by five times from the old days though you can still find the old brewing equipment on display at the brewpub. At the new brewery, Mr. Michard works with his daughter Julie, a former optician who has devoted herself to the family trade, and together they craft local products using live yeasts from two original sources chosen specifically by Mr. Michard himself. Four different beers, as well as a whiskey, are made on the premises.
Ambrée is often my favorite French beer style. In fact, when Julie, my guide, asked me to guess which one I would like most before tasting, I guessed the ambrée. While it was quite delicious, I was wrong about my top choice – more to follow on that in a moment! The Michard ambrée is a 5.5% ABV brown ale with a light, malty sweetness and a touch of hop bitterness on the end. It’s not quite as long on the palate as many that I’m used to, but it’s rich in flavor and very drinkable over a long period of time, even with lighter flavored foods. I find it lovely paired with the house flammekeuche.
4. Michard Brune
Perhaps the most surprising beer on this list was the brune, also from Michard. This dark beer pours like a stout but is closer to a Belgian-style ale. It offers a rich, chocolate aroma, and a cherry-like flavor. At only 6% ABV, it isn’t at all heavy. The richness of the beer only kicks in on the back of the palate, making it very drinkable.
Julie suggested adding a touch of something sweet, like grenadine, to create a beer cocktail that’s the perfect winter aperitif. Alternatively, it would pair quite nicely with a glazed duck magret.
3. Maquisarde Ambrée
Yet another ambrée to make the list – Maquisarde is an organic variety made by La Ferme Brasserie des Monts et Barrages. This young brewery, founded in 2009, has been selling artisanal beer made with home-grown products since 2010. Nicolas Brillou is at the head of this venture, which produces about 500 liters a week in several different styles: a light blonde in the pils style, a bitter amber beer and a light blanche, along with several seasonal beers like chestnut ambrée or apple blanche, the ingredients for which are all grown on-site.
The maquis referred to in the beer’s title is a reference both to the maquis shrubland that makes up this part of France and to the French Resistance movement that called themselves the Maquisards.
This amber’s light, yeasty, malty aroma and delicate, soft effervescence are extremely pleasing. There is a light head that dissipates almost immediately, but the flavor lasts, making this a really nice beer for an aperitif. I would also serve it with roast pork and potatoes.
2. Michard Blonde
I am continuously surprised by the pils-style blondes produced in France. This light, 4.5% ABV beer made, once again, by the Michard brewery, has a lovely, balanced flavor right off the bat. There is a certain richness that comes from this balance: a touch of malty sweetness, the distinctive, hay-like flavor that stems from the house variety of yeast and just a hint of hoppy bitterness.
This beer is the one that, for me, pairs the best with Michard’s food offerings of flammekeuche, but I would also pair it with a burger in classic pub fashion.
1. Lepère Defrance Blonde
Lepère Defrance, based in Saint-Yrieix-la-Perche, produces a variety of artisanal beverages, from homemade sodas to four different beers in different styles. The blonde is dubbed “la délicieuse” or the delicious by the company, and I tend to agree.
This beer boasts fine, almost Champagne-like bubbles and an herbal, citrusy hop aroma. Its long-lasting hoppy flavor is composed of citrus on the front of the palate with a slightly bitter finish. The beer has a mild malty warmth as well which, for me, creates the perfect balance. This flavorful beer pairs perfectly with a burger, but if you’d rather stick with regional specialties, it’s also a nice match for the rich, garlicky flavor of Limousin grillons (a sort of pork pâté indigenous to the region).
The 2015 NYC Craft Beer Festival offered spring in a tasting glass.
Food Loves Beer Editors
SIPPING SENSATIONAL SPRING SEASONALS
Spring is so close you can almost taste it. So what better way to welcome in the warm, revitalizing season than with a wonderful weekend of craft beer? The weather wasn't exactly cooperating, but neither rain nor cold could prevent hordes of people from lining up outside the Lexington Avenue Armory last Friday and Saturday to attend the NYC Craft Beer Festival Spring event.
Held in three two and a half hour sessions over the course of two days, the Festival presented tastings of some of America’s best craft brews. From beer to cider to mead, there was something pouring to satisfy everyone’s taste. We sipped quite a few remarkable samplings, including Downeast’s Original and Unoriginal Cider. Here are some other favorites that made our especially notable list:
Almanac Golden Gate Gose
Almanac Golden Gate Gose is based on a somewhat obscure wheat beer style from Germany that has salt and coriander as ingredients. They add locally grown lemon verbena as well, and the result is a refreshingly light and tart beer.
Anderson Valley Spring Hornin’
This Spring IPA is clean and dry, with pronounced floral and herbal hops.
Atlantic Brewing Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale
A welcome reminder of the warmer months to come, Bar Harbor Blueberry Ale balances a delicate blueberry flavor with light malt and crisp hops.
Boulevard Spring Belle
Boulevard Brewing Co. just arrived in the NYC market, and we’re glad they’re here! Spring Belle is a saison brewed with the addition of rose petals, chamomile, and elderflower, lending a beautiful floral layer which marries nicely with the traditional Belgian flavors of the style.
Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale
This is a saison for those who appreciate a well-made farmhouse ale. It’s slightly funky with bitter citrus flavors and a dry finish.
Braven White IPA
The first brew from Brooklyn newcomer Braven Brewing Co. is White IPA, which blends the spice of a wit beer with the bold hoppiness of an American IPA.
Full Sail Session Beers
Never ones to disappoint, Full Sail offered samples of their immensely popular Session IPA and Session Lager.
Greenport Spring Turning Rye Saison
Spring Turning Rye Saison from Greenport Harbor Brewing has all the flavors we love in a saison, with the added spicy dryness of rye malt.
Kuka Golden Ale
Brewed with maca root and agave, Andean Brewing’s take on a Belgian-style golden ale balances a fruity sweetness with fine carbonation and a clean finish.
Lakefront Extended Play
An "India-style" session ale, Extended Play has the bold, citrusy hop profile of an American IPA and an ABV of just 4.2%.
One of the several spring saisons at the event, Ommegang Glimmerglass is fruity and floral with classic Belgian yeast flavors and a clean, dry finish.
The newest offering from Sixpoint is a Belgian-inspired pale ale that’s big and strong and blends the fruit and spice flavors of Belgian yeast with bold American hops.
Southern Tier Right-O-Way IPA
The newest year-round offering from Southern Tier is Right-O-Way IPA, a session ale with pronounced citrus flavors and balanced hop bitterness.
Stone Delicious IPA
We happen to think that all Stone IPAs are delicious, but this lemony hop bomb has the added benefit of being gluten-reduced.
All of those spectacular seasonal beers were easily paired with fabulous fare because there were plenty of dishes for purchase served up by food vendors like Dos Toros, Jessy’s Pastries, and Rosamunde Sausage Grill. We really loved the Mac & Cheese Empanadas from Jessy's Pastries and we also enjoyed Tipsy Scoop's Hard Honey and Cinnamon Ice Cream (made with Downeast Hard Honey cider) for dessert. Yum!
There were also retail vendors on hand such as The Bacon Jams, Cheeky Monkey Foods, Cabot Creamery and our friends at Potlicker Kitchen to name a few.
We’re sure you won’t want to miss the next seasonal tasting so stay tuned to Hand Crafted Tasting Co. and our Datebook page for dates and details.
Were you at this beer festival? Share your experience and your favorite beers in comments!
Begin your cellaring journey with this introduction to aging beer.
Food Loves Beer Editors
6 TIPS TO GET YOUR BEER CELLAR STARTED
With an overwhelming number of breweries worldwide producing beers suitable for aging, there is no better time than now to start your own collection. The thirst for great beer spans the globe, and regardless of where you live you can find an extraordinary array of cellar-worthy brews. Here are a few tips to guide you through the process of choosing, storing, and most importantly enjoying these fine ales.
1. Choosing the right beers.
The first, and most obvious step is to know which beer styles are most suitable for cellaring. Alcohol content alone isn’t enough of an indicator, since beers such as double (or imperial) IPAs are meant to be drunk young, even though their ABV is in the 8%+ range. Here are a few words to look for on the label that will help you pick the right beers to begin your collection:
Barleywine and Wheatwine: With few exceptions, these ales will hold up for between 5-10+ years when stored properly.
Barrel Aged: This ancient method of storing beer has seen a huge resurgence in recent years, and a wide variety of styles now see the inside of the barrel at some point. These beers are typically high in alcohol and have usually been aged in oak for six months to a year prior to bottling, preparing them to develop in the cellar for several years.
Imperial Stout: Created in England for the enjoyment of the Russian aristocracy in the mid-1800s, these strong, rich, malty beers can easily take 5-10 years in the cellar.
Sours, Geuze, Brett (or Brettanomyces) and Spontaneously Fermented Ales: The combination of wild yeasts and bacteria work together to create beers with exceptional longevity. It is not uncommon for these beers to be cellared for 15-20 years.
2. Buy a few beers at a time.
It’s best to keep it simple when you begin your collection, so don’t give in to the urge to buy everything at once. Choose two different brands or styles at first, and buy multiple bottles of each. Determine what your budget is for monthly or quarterly additions and stick to it, no matter how tempting it may be to spend a
week’s pay on desirable bottles.
3. Choose the right storage for the best results.
Light and heat are the enemies of all beer, and are particularly important to control for long-term storage. This is perhaps the most daunting aspect of cellaring for the beginning collector, but acceptable storage conditions are easier to create than most people realize. If you live in a house find a corner of your basement away from the boiler and hot water heater. If you live in an apartment or don’t have a basement, an interior closet works just as well. Get empty cardboard case boxes from your beer store. Keep small bottles in six-pack carriers within a master carton or filing cabinet and 750 ml bottles in partitioned boxes, and most importantly, always store bottles upright, even if they have a cork. An added layer of insulation can be achieved by covering your stash with a thick furniture blanket.
4. Catalog your cellar.
Your collection will be useless if you don’t know what you have. Create a simple Excel or similar spreadsheet to catalog your purchases. Ours includes columns for ABV, Quantity, Name, Style, Brewery, Format Size, and Year. Putting the ABV in the first column allows you to use Excel’s “sort” function to arrange the beers by either ascending or descending strength and gives a rough idea at a glance of which beers to cellar longest.
5. Keep tasting notes.
Within a month after each purchase taste a bottle with a friend or two. Everybody’s palate is different, so it’s good to have another perspective. Regardless of the style, we love a tulip glass or snifter for this. Note the color, clarity, and carbonation first. Next, gently swirl the beer with your other hand covering the glass then place the glass close to your nose and inhale. Record what you smell in the order that you experience each aroma. Do you get a blast of hops, or does the beer’s yeast character hit you first? With maltier beers look for hints of caramel, dark chocolate, and fruit, along with any dark roast aromas. Now taste the beer and make similar observations. This part is actually a lot more fun than it sounds and is crucial to understanding how each beer has changed once you make future tastings of the same beer. Keep all the tasting notes together in a safe place for future reference. We store a tasting notebook along side our beers so that there’s never a question where it is.
6. Be patient.
This might seem obvious, but it’s really the hardest part for some people. Trust us- your friends and family will be impressed with your collection, but don’t give in to the temptation to open anything before its time. How many bottles you have of each beer and their potential years of aging should determine your tasting schedule. If you only have two or three bottles of something that has a ten-year potential, we recommend waiting 3-5 years before the second sampling.
Do you have a beer cellar? What beers are you collecting?