How to age beer and why you should probably try it

When it comes to the bold and vivid flavors of craft beer, the rule is fresher is better. The ravages of time are not kind to most craft beer styles, especially the popular hoppy brews, and you want to experience a beer the way the brewer intended. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule, and many dedicated beer lovers enjoy exploring the flavors of a carefully aged beer.

Some who age their own beer may take a page from the wine lover’s handbook and hoard bottles in home cellars, shepherding their treasures carefully into the future as time and oxygen transmogrify the ales. Cellaring craft beer can be as rewarding as it is easy to start; all you need is space and time (and a few simple guidelines to follow).

What does aging do to a beer?

The first crucial rule of aging beer is irrefutable: Age doesn’t necessarily make a beer better — it changes the flavor. Whether that new flavor is “better” is up to you. Usually, as with hoppy beer, different means worse as oxidation dulls flavors and produces new and distracting flavor compounds. But with some styles — the old ales and barleywines of the British beer tradition, for instance — the flavors mellow instead of dull, and the oxidative additions harmonize instead of clash.