How to Build a Stellar Cellar

We’ve all found a few dusty bottles of forgotten beer while cleaning out the basement. Your first instinct might be to trash them, but wait – you might have accidentally started your own beer-cellaring program.

Like great wine, cellaring a beer can deepen and enhance your favorite brew’s flavors. And the process couldn’t be simpler; all you need is a closet. Justin Austermann, general manager at Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar, said the best way to achieve a great aged beer is to leave it alone. “I’ve always told our guests it’s not even patience so much as make yourself forget it,” he said.

With the help of Austermann’s tips, you’ll be ready to start your own beer cellar, well, about as soon as you can walk down to your basement. The forgetting will be the hard part.

Buy Boozy
• Generally speaking, high-gravity, high-alcohol brews are the best candidates for aging. Imperial stouts, barley wines, grand crus, dark ales and Belgian quads all improve with time.
• Exceptions include lighter, low-alcohol Belgian styles like lambics, which get pleasantly funky after a few months or a year.
• Avoid cellaring hop-forward styles like IPAs; as the hops fade, the beer loses its expressiveness.
Consistency is Key
• A constant temperature is more important than a cool one. Likewise, consistent, low humidity keeps the beer stable as it ages.
• Store the bottles in a windowless room. Too much light can ruin the beer.
• Keep the bottles upright, especially if they’re corked.

Buy Many, Taste Often
• Buy several bottles of the same beer and taste one of them every few months, noting the differences each time. “That’s what’s going to teach your palate to recognize what’s happening to the beer,” Austermann said.
• There’s no hard and fast rule for how long a beer should age. If you age the same beer over multiple years, host a vertical tasting party and sample different years of the same beer to note changes over time.

Ready to start your beer cellar? Here are Austermann’s three picks for those new to aging:

2nd Shift Brewing’s Katy
Brassiere de Rochefort’s Trappistes Rochefort
North Coast Brewing Co.’s Old Stock Ale