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Cellaring homebrew for decades

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Raving_Elk

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Hi all,

A buddy of mine is expecting his first child this summer. Obviously, this calls for the creation of a celebratory beer. :mug:
I have read about some people brewing a beer at around the time the child is born, put it away in a cellar and have it age along with the little one. (https://www.homebrewtalk.com/showthread.php?t=475480) He liked the idea very much. Off course we will taste the beer every year around the birthday of the child, and make sure some bottles are left when the son or daughter is at appropriate drinking age.

So this is where I want to tap into your collective wisdom. What is your experience with aging beers for more than a decade? Which beers (homebrew or commercial) tend to age best? Any other tips on recipe, process, bottling or storing conditions?

I have read some threads and articles on the topic, and from my own experience I know some types withstand the test of time better than others. But still most beers would probably reach their peak well before 18 years of aging.

Some ideas we came up with are the big, dark and malty types such as a Belgian dubbel or quadruple, Weizen Doppelbock (e.g. Weihenstephaner Vitus) or a big imperial stout.
Another idea is to go for sour or brett beer, but other than the occasional accidental infection I have no experience with these. Maybe a Flanders red (Rodenbach Grand Cru)?

Any other thoughts and tips?
 

jmark

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Barleywine is the first thing that comes to my mind... those are often sat down for years on end and can 'benefit' from 'some' oxidation as more complex notes will appear in the beer.

Storage is key... the cooler the better and just as important keeping the temperature constant. If the temp fluctuates a lot that can cause the beer to contract and expand which in turn can cause micro amounts of air (oxygen) to be pulled in to bottles which will cause staling. I've heard of folks who have good o2 management processes keeping even lower alcohol styles in kegs for several years without ill effect... not sure how feasible keeping a keg of beer would be for 21 years though :)
 

Steveruch

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I brewed a batch of high % mead for each of my grandkids when they were little. I tried one of the first batch at 10 years and it was great.
 

brewcat

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Beer is meant to be drunk. Even the ones you mention should be drunk within 6 months to a year.

My suggestion is to come up with a recipe you could do yearly.
 

Peam

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My 2 cents would be to brew a high gravity beer, keep cool, and of course make sure you have spot on sanitation. I also like the idea of a sour
 

brewbama

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Back in the day Porters were aged IIRC. Might be an option. Also Adambier was a Dortmunder style aged for a decade or so.

Cheers!
 

worlddivides

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Beer is meant to be drunk. Even the ones you mention should be drunk within 6 months to a year.

My suggestion is to come up with a recipe you could do yearly.
That's blatantly false. Sour beers, for example, oftentimes aren't even bottled until at least a year after they've been brewed. The Belgian gueuze style, for example, isn't even bottled until there are batches that have been aging in oak barrels for at least 3 years (specifically it's a blend of 1 year old, 2 year old, and 3 year old lambics, and it's not unusual for it to age a couple more years in the bottles). Barleywines and Rusian Imperial Stouts are commonly aged for several years. Pretty much everything the original poster said is true.

I recently had a Stone Best After IPA, which is the polar opposite of their more famous Stone Best Before IPA. It's an IPA that is inoculated with Brett at bottling and gets 100% of its carbonation from Brett's secondary fermentation in the bottle. They have a date on it that is exactly 1 year after the day that it was bottled on. In my case, my beer was bottled on October 31, 2015 and was labeled "Best After 10/31/2016" and I had it in January of 2017. It was amazing. It probably would have gotten even better if I'd cellared it for another 6-12 months.

STILL, that said, 21 years is pushing it way beyond the limits of even the typically most aged beers. I think the typical limit for a beer that's good for cellaring and aging is roughly 10 years or so. Wines and meads can age longer than that and I have heard of some Belgian ales that can still be good at 20 years, but they are really the exception and there is no guarantee that it will still be good at that point.
 
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Raving_Elk

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Hi!

Thanks for all the reactions!

brewbama: I like the idea of an Adambier. Have you ever brewed one? I just took a look at this article:
https://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/Adambier
Very interesting. This is one of the beer styles I always forget about.

jerbrew: Unfortunately, I do not have a barrel, otherwise I would have liked the idea of doing a solera project very much!

About storage: I have a basement which has a stable, but slightly high temperature (around 20 Celcius/66 F year round).

Any thoughts on corks vs crown caps?
 

jmark

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Caps all the way... corks will dry out if you leave the beer stored vertically (which you should to keep all sediment on the bottom and not all down the side).
 

brewcat

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That's blatantly false. Sour beers, for example, oftentimes aren't even bottled until at least a year after they've been brewed. The Belgian gueuze style, for example, isn't even bottled until there are batches that have been aging in oak barrels for at least 3 years (specifically it's a blend of 1 year old, 2 year old, and 3 year old lambics, and it's not unusual for it to age a couple more years in the bottles). Barleywines and Rusian Imperial Stouts are commonly aged for several years. Pretty much everything the original poster said is true.

I recently had a Stone Best After IPA, which is the polar opposite of their more famous Stone Best Before IPA. It's an IPA that is inoculated with Brett at bottling and gets 100% of its carbonation from Brett's secondary fermentation in the bottle. They have a date on it that is exactly 1 year after the day that it was bottled on. In my case, my beer was bottled on October 31, 2015 and was labeled "Best After 10/31/2016" and I had it in January of 2017. It was amazing. It probably would have gotten even better if I'd cellared it for another 6-12 months.

STILL, that said, 21 years is pushing it way beyond the limits of even the typically most aged beers. I think the typical limit for a beer that's good for cellaring and aging is roughly 10 years or so. Wines and meads can age longer than that and I have heard of some Belgian ales that can still be good at 20 years, but they are really the exception and there is no guarantee that it will still be good at that point.
I was specifically focused on the dubbel, doppelbock, imperial stout. Sours are a whole other thing. A dubbel is probably best around 6 months or less. A doppelbock the same. An imperial stout, like 9-12 months. Yeah you can age them but they don't necessarily get better, so what's the point?

What if the OP did a fortified wine? Don't allow complete fermentation and fortify with a spirit. It would give a high probability of aging well.
 

Weezy

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Some lambic style sour is what I'd do. Pitch a Belgian yeast with a few Brett strains and pedio and lacto. Let it ferment for a week in a primary fermenter then transfer to a purged keg to finish and long term storage. Release the pressure daily until it slows, then pull the poppet once a week, then once a month, then just set it in a cool dry place.

Whatever beer you make, I'd recommend kegging it for storage.
 

bleme

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I would probably vote for a barleywine although the first beer to blow my mind was a 10 year old Imperial Stout.
 

Weezy

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Distill some 'shine.
Unfortunately, distilling is still illegal...

BUT..

You could buy a drink dispenser like this...


Fill it with whiskey, add an ounce of oak cubes and some cherries and let it sit.
 

cegan09

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If it's something you want to do, then just go do it. Don't let people here discourage you.

Before I got into home brewing I was fascinated by cellaring. My girlfriend got me this book, which goes into some good detail about what helps a beer age well. While not aimed at home brewing, the information is still relevant.
https://www.amazon.com/dp/161212156X/?tag=skimlinks_replacement-20


I've considered doing the same thing for my first kid. My list is down to a big english barleywine, a big RIS, or something with brett. But a mead is another good option. Why not both? Just try it. Worst thing that happens is that it doesn't turn out great after a certain time period. In that case just take note of how long it was good for, and brew it again such that it hits that point on their birthday.
 
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drgoodbrew

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had the distinct pleasure of enjoying a bottle of Thomas Hardy from 1993 on my 40th birthday a few years ago..it was amazing and probably could have aged another 5-10 years!

for aging, go with a big ol' barley wine (English style, 11%-13%) that can hold up the test of time. shoot for a simple malt bill w/ little to no specialty grains and give it a LONG boil (2-3 hours) to give it a rich color and kettle caramelization. bitter up front (70-80 IBU) and don't focus on crazy flavor/aromatic hops. give a long rest in the secondary and pitch a fresh vial of yeast when bottling (this will help with carbonation for the long cellaring process).

as for sours, your call on that. too trendy IMO right now and they taste like vomit in a bottle. not sure someone would appreciate that in 10-20 years...I know I wouldn't! :D
 

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IMO... Use bottle caps and large dark bottles, half the normal air space. Make a high malty beer, an ale. use a yeast with charater British Belgium. ABv 8-9. Use nobal hops, extra bittering hops, your flavor and aroma hops will most likely not be detected after ageing. Just saying

Have some brew bottled in 1997 forgot about it for 15 years. left it in garage hot and cold with the seasons then moved to beer cellar. I opened some at a party fo son's college gard 2 years ago. BEER drinkers thought it good to great and wanted more. backgound rich malty mouth feel and good hot alcohol taste, lot of port notes to it seemed to have aged well.

I added brewed coffee to the primary. I thing this helped it age for some reason.

Son really thought it was cool
 

blackbeer

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i would do a imperial stout with an OG of about 1.100, an IBU of about 100 and obnoxious amounts of roasted barley. i would be very careful not to oxydize it and fill the bottles up to about 1/2" from the top and use oxy caps. i would keep it in the coolest part of my cellar with the least temperature flucuations. drink two bottles a year and then when the kid hits 21 finish them off.
 

brewcat

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IMO... Use bottle caps and large dark bottles, half the normal air space. Make a high malty beer, an ale. use a yeast with charater British Belgium. ABv 8-9. Use nobal hops, extra bittering hops, your flavor and aroma hops will most likely not be detected after ageing. Just saying

Have some brew bottled in 1997 forgot about it for 15 years. left it in garage hot and cold with the seasons then moved to beer cellar. I opened some at a party fo son's college gard 2 years ago. BEER drinkers thought it good to great and wanted more. backgound rich malty mouth feel and good hot alcohol taste, lot of port notes to it seemed to have aged well.

I added brewed coffee to the primary. I thing this helped it age for some reason.

Son really thought it was cool
My thought would be the extra tannins.
 

imasickboy

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I drank a barleywine a couple months ago that a friend and I had brewed 10 years prior. No extra care was taken with it, because it wasn't intended to be cellared that long. And it was surprisingly fantastic. So barleywine gets my vote.
 

jerbrew

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Actually just read in Radical Brewing that they would make double beers that were sometimes brewed near the birth of a child and saved until their "maturation" so long aging things like really big barely wines and old ales isn't that crazy. I'd wax the hell out of the caps though.
 

jerbrew

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IMO... Use bottle caps and large dark bottles, half the normal air space. Make a high malty beer, an ale. use a yeast with charater British Belgium. ABv 8-9. Use nobal hops, extra bittering hops, your flavor and aroma hops will most likely not be detected after ageing. Just saying

Have some brew bottled in 1997 forgot about it for 15 years. left it in garage hot and cold with the seasons then moved to beer cellar. I opened some at a party fo son's college gard 2 years ago. BEER drinkers thought it good to great and wanted more. backgound rich malty mouth feel and good hot alcohol taste, lot of port notes to it seemed to have aged well.

I added brewed coffee to the primary. I thing this helped it age for some reason.

Son really thought it was cool

That's pretty cool. And makes me feel like sherry yeast might be an interesting way to make a project like this more wine like and easier to age (since you talked about the port like flavors).
 
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Raving_Elk

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Hmm, so many options...

Thanks for all your thoughts.

cegan09: I will definitely have a look at that book, interesting!
jerbrew: I have never thought about waxing the caps. Even if it doesn't help, it looks awesome :D

I am leaning towards the Adambier, maybe let it sit on some wood chips and sour bugs as suggested in this article: https://www.homebrewtalk.com/wiki/index.php/Adambier

Big oll' Barleywine sounds very interesting as well. I will talk to my buddy next week and see what he likes! I'll keep you updated!
 

sfish

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That's pretty cool. And makes me feel like sherry yeast might be an interesting way to make a project like this more wine like and easier to age (since you talked about the port like flavors).
Well I would not use wine yeast imo stick with the Belgian yeast because of the esters and phenols the hops fade away.

Before we drank it I read a little about old aged beer and was expecting it to be bad considering it was not age in the best conditions. So I was expecting a sherry flavor and a lot of cardboard. We agreed both were not there and it was very much port~ish. The truth is I did not know too much about brewing back then. I purchased brewing supplies from a Confectionery cake making store.

These are my notes:
5..25 gal
1.75 crystal malt 60°L
3.0 dry light extract
3.0 dry extra light extract
2.0 corn sugar
1.0 northern brewer 60 min.
1.5 Tettnanger 60 min.
1.5 Tettnanger 10 min.
belgian yeast
1/2 to 3/4 pound coffee dark roast in a pint of water boiled the filtered into primary
 
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Raving_Elk

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Hi people,

Thanks again for all your suggestions! We decided to go for a big ol' barley wine. Now studying on a recipe and doing some calculations to see if we can squeeze out enough malty goodness in one go with my equipment.

Not sure on the exact recipe, but I have read lots of good things about Thomas Hardy ale. I will get back to you with the definitive recipe.

Hopefully we will brew this bad boy next Saturday :rockin:
 

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How big is big ol'? :p
I have a 15% Imperial Stout that I got to using additional sugar additions and super high gravity yeast after the initial primary fermentation started. I say strive for at least 12-14%, the higher the better :D
 
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Raving_Elk

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@ sweed: I think we will aim at quite big ol', but not yet huge *ss :D

So an SG of around 1100 to finish in the low 1020's, about 10-11% abv.

We will keep the recipe simple:

100% Maris Otter or maybe a small amount of crystal malts
Mash low to create a fermentable wort.
90 minute boil.
English hops for 60 minutes to about 70 IBU (will this be enough?)
Some late hops (which will probably not be noticeable after a few years of maturing, but at least add some aroma for the first few tastings)

Not sure on yeast. Maybe Wyeast 1084 Irish Ale or wpl099 High gravity ale?
 

Mainer

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I think the Barleywine suggestions are spot-on, but I also think a Flanders Red or an Oud Bruin would evolve nicely over that kind of time period, developing some lovely rich sherry notes.
 

cmac62

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I just picked up this post, but I was thinking an EBW at about 13% then ice distill it to about 18%. That should age well for a long while. Also I would put all of the hops in at 60, with that much eoth you don't need no stinking flavoring hops.
 

RevKev

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Not sure if you have done this or not but my two cents I'll chime in.

I would be hesitant to brew a wild or sour ale and bottle it, after a decade or two unless you are extremely careful you'll likely have at least some vinegar production from acetobacteria. I have a low tolerance for vinegar in sours.

Me personally I would think any huge malty, boozy beer with a high FG would be ideal. Imperial malt bombs would benefit from oxidation.. make it bitter also, this will help aging as hops are a natural preservative.
 
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Raving_Elk

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So, tomorrow is the big day! Went to the lhbs earlier this week to get supplies.

I have picked up a bucket of maris otter and some Fuggles and E.K. Golding.

They were a bit short on yeast-options. I was planning for either Wyeast Irish or Scottish Ale, but these were out of stock.

I have picked up a bunch of Wyeast 1450 because I remembered incorrectly that these would be a good alternative. Upon reading some more into them I now realize this may not have been the best choice.

I also have a fresh vial of WPL099. One vial would definitely not be enough, but to late to make a starter now. I think I will pitch the WPL099 along with the WY1450 to hopefully help attenuation beyond 10% add some flavors.

Alternatively I have a fresh slurry of WY1272 American Ale II or a package of Nottingham. What do you think?

As for the rest of the recipe:

12 liters/3.2 gallons
OG 1.103
FG 1.020 (? not sure what to expect from the yeast combo)
IBU 83
10.8% vol

97% MO
3% Special B

Mash at 65 celcius/149F for 70 minutes
Mash out and sparge (second running's will be used in a brett experiment)

40 gr EK Golding for 60 min (35 IBU)
10 gr Magnum for 60 min (26 IBU) (leftover to bump IBU's)
7 gr Challenger for 60 min (10 IBU) (also a leftover)
15 gr Fuggle for 15 min (5 IBU)
15 gr EK Golding for 15 min (3,5 IBU)
15 gr Fuggle for 5 min (2,9 IBU)

Yeast: WY1450 and WPL099 combo
Start fermentation at 18 celcius/65F
Ramp up over first week to 21 celcius/70F

Let ferment for a while longer, bottle with CBC-1 in 0,375 l champagne bottles.
Forget about bottles at least one year. :tank:
 

radwizard

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Its time to get a barrel at get your solera going. Beer isnt made to be drank, or aged. Its meant to do both!
 
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Raving_Elk

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So, I just bottled this one, time to report back to you.

Brewday went not very smoothly, I think we pushed a bit beyond the limit of my setup with this one. Sparge took forever, and eventually we ended up with a bit less wort and a bit lower gravity than anticipated. We added a pound DME and some sugar and some water to compensate.

Fermentation went a bit further than expected, all the way down to 1002 (!) in 7 weeks. Does anyone else experience this with WPL099? I can imagine the long sparge time allowed for a more fermentable wort, but this is really low. Maybe an infection? I tasted the hydro-sample, it does not taste infected or sour.

I guess we just have to wait and see.. If it is infected we will just call it a Dortmunder Adambier and pretend that was the idea all along :D
 

Ashevillain

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Arctic Ale is designed to be aged for over a decade.

"That it was still sound as bell after 13 years in the bottle attests to the keeping qualities of strong British beers. Yes, they made 'em to last in the old days. Not these new-fangled running beers that'll go sour before they drop bright." -Ron Pattinson

These beers are delicious by the way! More specific details in the hyperlink.
 
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