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Old 09-27-2008, 04:24 AM   #1
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Default Aging Belgians (or not)

I've seen multiple posts where people refer to Belgian brews (not sour) and their desire to age them for considerable amounts of time (9-12 months).

My recent experience includes brewing a Belgian Pale Ale, Strong Ale, and 2 Saisons and I have found that while these brews taste excellent after 2-3 months total they do not age well (more than, say, 6 months) and I'm curious regarding the difference of opinion. I spend a good deal of time with my nose stuck in a glass of my saison just inhaling it's aromatic goodness, but I doubt that will last for long.

My experience is that beers that are dependent upon yeast-driven flavors--phenols and esters--do not age well because these aroma compounds appear to be relatively fragile or volatile. After about 5 months, the aromatic quality of the beer degrades and so does the overall enjoyment of the beer. I have not had this experience with porters and stouts that have flavor profiles that are less dependent upon yeast characteristics.

But I've seen multiple posts where people refer to aging times that, in my experience, would be significantly beyond the peak of the beer.

1. Do you agree that phenols and esters significantly degrade after 3-5 months?
2. If you don't, and those wonderful aromas in your Belgian brews is lastinf ro years, what could be contributing to the apparently short shelf life of my brews? Oxidation? Hot-side aeration or is it oxidation in the bottles?

Thanks for your inputs.

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Old 09-27-2008, 11:19 AM   #2
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We're stuck on semantics here. What you're calling a loss of something, I call a change.

A couple of months ago, I had my last bottle of Belgian-style Quadruppel. It was brewed in 2000. It tasted fan-freaking-tastic. But it was completely different from young Quad! The carbonation was gone, the ester profile had undergone a complete transformation from spicy to winey, and the body had dried out considerably.

Better? I think so. Different? Hell, yeah. Still definitively Belgian? Absolutely no question: yes.

So, no, I don't agree that esters and phenols degrade after 3-5 months. I think the way these flavor precursors interact with other precursors changes over time. Thus, I don't think your beer is suffering from quality issues at all; it's changing. If you don't enjoy it after a certain amount of change - which you've determined happens at a certain point in the space/time continuum - that's perfectly all right! Just knowing that shows that you can overcome the obstacle by drinking beer. Yes, that's the solution I'm recommending - drink your beer when it's at the peak of its flavor.

If you have any left over, send it to me for a thorough, professional analysis. I'll email you the results.

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Old 09-27-2008, 05:31 PM   #3
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I did a belgian about three months ago and i didnt age it at all. Came straight from a secondary to a keg. Then it proceeded down my throat. It was hands down the best beer ive brewed. I still have a little bit left and the flavor has changed but only slightly.
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