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Old 10-08-2009, 02:01 PM   #1
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Default Aging beer...why?

In simply and scientific terms, what is the benefit to aging the beer in the fermenter or bottle?

I'm not talking about weeks, I'm thinking months or perhaps a year. I've read, aging helps the CO2 disolve into the beer and allows chemical reactions take place that wouldn't otherwise with a shorter process. That I can understand, but what takes place at the three, six or one year time-line.

Additionally, I'm a product of main stream beer marketing and it appears every damn beer out there now has a 'born on date', so you'll know it's fresh. I realize they heat pastorize and add the alcohol after, but why are they preaching fresh and everything I've read tells you aging is good and that some beers can benefit from up to a three year aging.

I'm considering marking some beers for long term storage and test the results my self, but I thought I could understand the logic of aging with some sage advice.

Toby

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Old 10-08-2009, 02:10 PM   #2
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i'm no sage, but long term aging IMHO is really only appropriate for certain styles such as sour beers and big beers (belgian numbers, old ale, barleywine, etc.). this helps the high level of alcohol to mellow out and all of the flavor compounds to properly merge. i don't know the chemical details on what exactly happens, we just know that those type of beers are best with some age behind them. if you age them in the fermenter, you will still have to age them a bit more in the bottle to get adequate carbonation, which seems to take longer with bigger beers. you can
age in bottle or fermenter, i don't think it makes a huge difference (i could be wrong though).

main stream beers are more prone to oxidation i think, that's why freshness is important. not sure what you mean about adding alcohol after, i don't think that's true. i'm sure the 'freshness' thing is also partially a marketing thing for BMC.

but with hoppy beers, and hefeweizens, and a few other styles, freshness is important. i'm sure they can age fine, but hoppiness will fade with time and i'm not sure what happens to hefes, but everyone always preaches drinking them young...

anyway, the best way to learn about this is to do like you suggested and age some beers to see what is happening to flavors.

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Old 10-08-2009, 02:25 PM   #3
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"not sure what you mean about adding alcohol after"

I was thinking that pastorizing the beer killed a lot of chemical processes that otherwise are ongoing in a HB.

Toby

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Old 10-08-2009, 02:25 PM   #4
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There is a huge difference in the beer you are talking about. The asnwer is, "it depends". You won't ever hear anyone talk about an aged Budweiser, although my friend did find a Budweiser in his dad's beer fridge from 1995 last year. You might hear someone talk about a finely aged Barleywine or RIS, much the same as they would talk about wine. I'm not sure exactly what happens either.

Born on date for BMC is purely marketing. I had a friend who swears by the born on date, and claims he can taste a difference in month old Bud. Like android said, you might see a "drink by" date on some beer, especially IPAs and lighter beers since they aren't styles you need to age. Past a certain point, the flavor will change in a way the brewer never intended.

There are styles where you won't see born on, or freshness dates. These tend to be higher alcohol beers. A lot of Belgain beer takes is well suited to aging too. I've noticed recently some Belgians, lambics or gueuze have a date on the cork. Right now, its typically 2007 or 2006.

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Old 10-08-2009, 02:32 PM   #5
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Flavors blend, alcohols break down, intensities mellow. The actual chemical pathways for these thing can be read about in boooks like Brewing Priocipals and Science. Some, of the pathways are web published and interesting reads.

Sometimes, it's a touch of oxidation taht pulls the beer toghether to give it that "fine aged" character. Too much going on to simplify it. Some of the aging is yeast derived, some is simple natural degredation of compounds over time.

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Old 10-08-2009, 02:40 PM   #6
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The dated cork is one of the reasons I want to know why aging some beers is important or improves them. To frame the question better, I realize certain beers improve with age.

After hearing about Chimay from multiple people, I bought a $9 bottle. I assumed the Monks must be aging it for a year or two and that may be the reason everyone was telling me to try it. I popped the cork and it had a "02/09" stamped on it. Not very old, when you assume it took ninety to a hundred and twenty days to get here.

Toby

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Old 10-08-2009, 03:24 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Toby2 View Post
The dated cork is one of the reasons I want to know why aging some beers is important or improves them. To frame the question better, I realize certain beers improve with age.

After hearing about Chimay from multiple people, I bought a $9 bottle. I assumed the Monks must be aging it for a year or two and that may be the reason everyone was telling me to try it. I popped the cork and it had a "02/09" stamped on it. Not very old, when you assume it took ninety to a hundred and twenty days to get here.

Toby
Yes but, how long did they bulk age the batch? i have honestly not looked into the brewing practices at Chimay. I'd expect some aging is done prior to bottling. In bulk tanks to control consistency to a degree.
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Old 10-08-2009, 03:32 PM   #8
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For bigger beers you need to age in bulk, as stated above you get a more consistant taste. You could age your beer for a year, keg, force carb and drink in 3 days. They "born on date" is garbage, its a marketing thing, the same as "triple hops brewed". Basically Chimay may bulk age for a year, but bottle it just to carb. So the beer you drank may be over 2 years old, its just been in the bottle since 2/09. Aging bigger beers helps take some of the harsh alcohol taste out of it.

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Old 10-08-2009, 03:38 PM   #9
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Those dates are there to scare my local grocer into putting beers on sale for me to buy I'll gladly take the expired-last-month Guinness and Bass for $6 per 4-pack/6-pack. One time at a party I did a 30-man double-blind taste-testing on two samples of Coors Light stamped 4 months apart. Only 18 out of 30 preferred the fresher beer and I was NOT one of the 30. (Both samples came out of the same type of 30-can cubes.)

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Old 10-08-2009, 03:41 PM   #10
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I am currently bulk aging a barleywine going on 11 months sitting in a secondary...

I was going to bottle but now I will keg and let it sit in the keg for a few more months to mellow out... Certainly one of my best beers yet... Almost tastes like Bigfoot

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