Why does beer mature with time?

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explosivebeer

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Obviously beer gets better with time, assuming it's stored properly, protected from heat, oxygen, and light. What specifically improves with time?

After doing some research, I've learned that during fermentation the yeast creates a byproduct of diacetyl, which produces off flavors in the beer. As it matures though, the yeast eventually turns the diacetyl into acetoin, which is nearly flavorless. That can often take 2-4 weeks.

Are there any other chemical reactions going on that affect the flavor and maturity of a beer, or any other factors at play?

Obviously having the yeast and random particulates settle out will affect clarity, but I'm just trying to get a better understanding of what is going on inside the carboy and keg.
 

Mutilated1

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Most everything improves with age except women and milk, so it wouldn't surprise me to hear that beer improves with age as well. I've always heard that rumor, but if you think about it seriously - does beer ever last long enough to "age" ? My beer doesn't. I found a bottle of beer that was 3-4 months old at the back of the refrigerator once, closest I've ever been able to get to aging beer.
 

Air Pirate

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Muss said:
A Japanese inventor made a machine that ages wine instantly using electrolysis. It apparetly has something to do with water molecules rearranging themselves closer to the alcohol molecules, which normally happens over many years.

Maybe the process is the same for beer...

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/10/magazine/10section4.t-8.html?pagewanted=print
Along the same lines, I was on a commercial flight recently and in the little catalog they have there was a little product (looked like a piece of some kind of metal to me) that supposedly ages wine instantly. It looked intriguing and gimmicky.
 

david_42

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Conditioning & maturing are mainly the interaction between the complex unfermentables and fermentation byproducts. The maltier a beer is, the better it will age. Ales with high hop aromas don't age well, at least the nose tends to fade.

As to the exact chemicals, there are hundreds of them. If aging was simply the interaction of water and alcohol, vodka would improve with age. Doesn't seem to.
 
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explosivebeer

explosivebeer

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Muss said:
A Japanese inventor made a machine that ages wine instantly using electrolysis. It apparetly has something to do with water molecules rearranging themselves closer to the alcohol molecules, which normally happens over many years.

Maybe the process is the same for beer...

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/10/magazine/10section4.t-8.html?pagewanted=print
Thanks for the link Muss. That is very interesting. I see some electrolysis (and electrocution) in my future. :cross: ---> :fro:
 
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explosivebeer

explosivebeer

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david_42 said:
Conditioning & maturing are mainly the interaction between the complex unfermentables and fermentation byproducts. The maltier a beer is, the better it will age. Ales with high hop aromas don't age well, at least the nose tends to fade.

As to the exact chemicals, there are hundreds of them. If aging was simply the interaction of water and alcohol, vodka would improve with age. Doesn't seem to.
I've always heard that higher gravity beers needed more time to age but I didn't realize maltier beers needed the same. It makes sense that hoppy beers are better earlier in their lifespans.

I guess my curiosity on this subject revolves around identifying the most significant components that cause the aging and maturation process, and possibly finding a way to help them along in order to get a better beer sooner.

I know patience is a virtue, but so is creativity. :D
 

AdIn

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I think one of the most important to aging/maturation is a mechanical reaction when tannins stick with fatty acids (haze) and then precipitate to the bottom which mellows the taste of the beer. Unfortunately along with maturation there is also oxidation reactions going on. But that's a different story.
 

Danek

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I seem to recall Michael Jackson talking about some high-alcohol beers, and saying that they are nicely complemented by the slight madeira edge that comes with age-related oxidation.

I know that with wine some of the age-related changes are definitely improvements, whereas others just make the wine taste different - neither better nor worse (unless you happen to have a particular preference). I imagine beer would be similar.
 

Beerthoven

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explosivebeer said:
...
I guess my curiosity on this subject revolves around identifying the most significant components that cause the aging and maturation process, and possibly finding a way to help them along in order to get a better beer sooner.
One way to get a better beer sooner is to brew a good beer in the first place, one that doesn't need time to age out any off-flavors. Some beer styles do benefit from extended ageing, but most don't really need it if they are brewed well.

My first few batches were pretty good, then I had a string of batches that weren't so good. It took a long time for them to age into something I could enjoy. I figured out what was causing the off flavors and improved my brewing process to eliminate them. Fermentation temp control was the most important change. Now my beer is good right away (if I do say so myself ;) ) and I don't have to wait for it to come around.

That said, I'm planning on brewing my Christmas 2008 Ale in February and letting it mature until the Holidays. But that will be 1.1100 monster :D
 
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