The Secret to Cellaring Beer? Forget About it

In Beer News by Ryan

You’ve probably noticed a lot of cellared beer reviews rolling out as of late, which has actually delayed me writing about this whole concept of cellaring beer. I guess writing about drinking cellared beer trumps writing about how to cellar beer.

And I say “how to” very, very loosely. There are plenty of other resources out there that will tell you at what temperature beer should be cellared and in what kind of conditions. For those of us without basements, especially those of us who live in Chicago apartments, know we can’t meet many if any of those requirements.

So this is more about how to NOT drink what’s in your cellar — at least not drink it until you really want to.

It might sound silly but we hear that quite a bit; people wondering how we have the willpower to cellar beer for years and even decades.

For starters, we make it a point to cellar with a purpose. For instance, a few years ago I picked up a case each of Bell’s Batch 9,000 and Bell’s Batch 10,000 with the intent of sampling a bottle every six months to a year, see how it’s developing and report the findings on this site. And I stuck to it. Other times I’m building up a five, ten or even 20-year vertical and only pick up one bottle of the beer I need to fill that year’s slot.

The purposely cellared beer, by the way, I track using a color-coded spreadsheet because organization. It allows me to keep tabs on what is up for a tasting, track what I have and how long before I accumulate enough bottles to complete a vertical.

I do, however, have a few beers that I’ve picked up along the way solely out of curiosity and with no real plan for what to do with the bottles.

And it wasn’t until our legal analyst, Thom Vogelhuber, graciously gave us two cans of Heady Topper that I actually looked at my spreadsheet to find something that wasn’t earmarked that I could give him as a “thank you” beer. I found those beers, the ones I picked up just for the hell of it, beers  I completely forgot I had. It turns out some were prime for the drinking including five-year old bottles of Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA, World Wide Stout and Olde School Barleywine.

This brings us to the real secret of cellaring beer; being forgetful — or at least not tormenting yourself with what’s in your cellar. Beer takes time to age and, if you can swing it, ideally needs to be in a dark place. If you stash a few cases in the back of a closet but check in on your beer three times a day you aren’t doing it any favors.

This isn’t like checking on a batch of homebrew. You aren’t going to see it aging. So consider this a friendly tip to try and not obsessively check on your cellar. Keep the beer out of reach and let it be.

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Equal parts beer nerd and policy geek, Ryan is now the curator of the Guys Drinking Beer cellar. The skills he once used to dig through the annals of state government as a political reporter are now put to use offering unique takes on barrel-aged stouts, years-old barleywines and 10 + year verticals.