Everyone knows that certain wines can benefit from age, with some wines taking decades to reach their peak. What is less known, and even less understood, is that beer can benefit enormously from proper cellaring. While many people want to begin cellaring beer, the prospect of starting and maintaining a cellar can be overwhelming. So let’s break it down step by step and get you on the road to enjoying cellared beer!
WARNING: Cellaring beer is a fun and interesting hobby that rewards patience and experimentation. However, you inevitably end up spending plenty of hard earned money filling your cellar with beers you don’t intend to consume for years. You have been warned.
Now that we’ve gotten the requisite warning out of the way, the first question we have to answer is - why cellar beer? Well, while all beers can be consumed fresh and enjoyed, some can take on new and interesting flavors as time progresses, provided they are stored properly. Sometimes, a beer that was overly aggressive or discordant in its youth can have its rough edges smoothed out by time.
Now to figure out what beers to cellar. Typically, you don’t want to age light and delicate beers. Pilsners, witbiers, hefeweizens, etc. are best consumed fresh. The one exception to the “light & delicate” rule is sour ale, specifically barrel aged sour ales like Flanders reds, lambics, and gueuze. These beers will age beautifully for years. You would also be advised to avoid aging hoppy beers. Hops are a funny thing because they actually have preservative qualities for the rest of the beer yet are themselves the most volatile component of beer. Thus, their bitterness, flavor and aroma will fade quickly so any beer that showcases hops (IPAs, Double IPAs, etc.) will be a shadow of what the brewer intended if not consumed fresh. The best options for cellaring include all big, malt forward styles of beer. Imperial stouts, barleywines, quadrupels, and scotch ales all age spectacularly and will reward decades of patient cellaring. Styles that include doppelbock, tripels, and dubbels can usually be aged for a few years but may fall off after too much time. The greatest joy in cellaring comes in the exploration and experimentation. Sure, you’ll occasionally drink a beer that didn’t develop the way you wanted. You will, however, once in a while, crack open something from deep in your cellar that redefines how you think about beer. These are the sort of transcendent moments that any good beer geek is searching for.
Any hope of reaching this kind of sudsy nirvana is contingent upon proper cellaring. Beer will age best in an environment that is consistently dark and consistently cool. A temperature between 55 and 60 degrees fahrenheit is ideal, although any cool closet or basement will do in a pinch. If you really want to geek out on a perfect cellar, you can buy a temperature controller for $50 or so and attach it to an existing refrigerator. This temperature controller gives you a very fine level of control over the refrigerator’s thermostat, allowing you to set the fridge to a constant 55 degrees. Do that, close the door to the fridge and presto! You have created the ideal cellar.
Once your setup is complete, in whatever form you see fit, all that’s left to do is start filling your cellar! Buy two of each beer, one to drink fresh so you have a baseline for comparison and one to put in the cellar. Store your bottles or cans upright. Be on the lookout for bottles with corks as these will minimize oxidation better than crown caps. Also, a bottle conditioned beer will provide an extra layer of development inside the bottle and thus make excellent candidates for your cellar. Keep a log of tasting notes on the fresh bottles for comparison to aged examples plus a log to document the bottled-on date so you know how old the beer is when you open it. The eternal question here is when you should open each beer. That’s up to you! Remember, beer is supposed to be fun! Have fun and enjoy the ride.
We dug deep into our cellars and pulled out some rare, hard to find, and all-around awesome goodies to share at our 2018 Barrel Aged Beer Bash, the only barrel aged beer festival in the area! From your big bourbon barrel aged stouts to crisp and funky sours and farmhouse ales, we had a little bit for everyone to enjoy!
We hope you enjoyed your evening trying some of these incredibly delectable beers. We'll see you at our weekly Pint Nights, future beer festivals, and of course, feel free to come by and visit the Tasting Bar any time! Cheers!
Jungle Jim’s Barrel Aged Beer Bash is an ode to all things barrel aged - be they stouts, porters, wild ales, sours, or any other kind of beer (yeah, we’ll even have a barrel aged kolsch). With over 100 beers to choose from - from all over the world - where do you even start?
We have a few ideas.
Check out what we recommend you take the time to try while you’re walking around the bash. And don’t worry, these are just a fraction of what will be available, and they’re ALL worth trying (responsibly, of course! There’s no way to try them all).
Founders Brewing Company - Canadian Breakfast Stout
If there’s one beer to wait in line for, it’s probably this one. Much heralded, CBS returned after a hiatus that had everyone in a fever pitch by the time bottles hit shelves. Rich, sweet, decadent, intense… lots of maple syrup hits the palate first, with bourbon, coffee, and chocolate rounding it out. It’s everything you want in a barrel aged stout, and absolutely a must try if you have the opportunity.
Listermann Brewing Company - Freedom Toast (Stout)
This one was limited in its own right, but hails from one of Cincinnati’s most formidable purveyors of barrel aged beverages. A stout with walnuts, maple, cinnamon, and nutmeg aged in bourbon barrels, this is another intensely flavored experience that you won’t want to miss.
Prairie Artisan Ales - Vanilla Noir (Stout)
Deschutes Brewery - The Dissident (Belgian-style Brown Ale)
A wild fermented Belgian-style brown ale with cherries, aged on oak. This is a tart, yet surprisingly smooth and approachable wild ale from one of the country’s most consistent breweries. We think this is a great way to break things up between some of the heavier flavors of the bash’s stouts, and a great beer on it’s own.
Figleaf Brewing Company - BA Black Solstice (Stout)
Another local offering, BA Black Solstice is all about the stout and the flavor of the barrels it was aged in. No adjuncts, just straight up notes of whiskey, vanilla, licorice and more. Oh, and this recently won the Best Barrel-Aged Stout title in the King of Ohio competition held last month. Don't miss it!
Boulevard Brewing Company - Cabernet Cask Imperial Stout
Following the packaging of the above mentioned (incredibly lengthily named whiskey), our barrel crew took possession of the barrels from Jefferson’s Reserve and immediately filled them with the base beer used to produce Imperial Stout, a prior Smokestack Series Limited Release. Over the course of nearly two years, our beer rested in the barrels coaxing out flavors of charred oak and vanilla alongside beautiful notes of blackberry and cinnamon from the whiskey all linked together with dark and dried fruits contributed by the cabernet as well as the Scottish yeast strain used to ferment the base beer. Cabernet Cask Imperial Stout is 100% barrel-aged.”
Jackie O’s Pub & Brewery - Babbling Brook (Saison)
We thought it might be a good idea to show the lighter, funkier side of the bash, because there are quite a few sours, wild, and farmhouse ales that will be ready for you to try. This one’s high up on our personal list. Aged in Vin Santo Casks, this is a mixed fermentation saison that speaks to the finesse Jackie O’s regularly shows to their non-dark beers. We cannot wait to sample this one.
Tickets are still available IN-STORE for this year’s Barrel Aged Beer Bash! With more than 100 beers available to sample, there’s something there for everyone. And don’t worry, the event itself is for everyone, too (so long as you’re 21 or over). It’s a great way to experience the wild side of beer, and challenge your perceptions of just what beer should taste like.
Check out the full list of what we’ll have to sample, all available to view on Untappd, right here!
IBUs (International Bittering Units) are widely shared, on tap lists, websites, apps, and beer labels. Breweries even tout the IBUs of their more aggressively bitter IPAs as a way to entice hopheads, who in turn brag about their heavily IBU-laden conquests. Despite the pervasiveness of the term, there seems to be a great deal of misunderstanding as to what an IBU actually is.
Simply put, an IBU is a measurement of the amount of isomerized alpha acid in a beer. Alpha acid is one component of hop resin and isomerization is the rearranging of a compound’s molecular structure without adding or subtracting any of those molecules. Isomerization will occur in beer brewing when heat is applied. This restructuring of the molecular arrangement of alpha acids allows the alpha acids to release all their bittering, flavor, and aroma into the beer. Therefore, the earlier hops are added during the boil, the more bitterness will be extracted. Adding hops late or even after the boil (a process called “dry hopping) will mainly add aroma.
Different hop varieties have different levels of alpha acids, measurable as a percentage of the total weight of the hop resin. A low alpha acid hop might only have 3 or 4% alpha acid while others might range as high as 17 or 18%. Obviously, these high alpha acid varieties are capable of delivering much higher IBUs. Almost all beers will have some IBUs. A light American lager like Budweiser only has a few whereas imperial IPAs can range north of 100.
So there you have it - IBUs are a fairly objective measurement of the amount of isomerized alpha acid in a beer. Where things get tricky, however, is that measuring the isomerized alpha acids in a beer doesn’t indicate perceived bitterness. In other words, knowing the IBUs in a beer won’t tell you how bitter the beer actually tastes. There are other mitigating factors, namely the malt bill and the use (if any) of adjuncts. Malt and adjuncts provide flavors that balance out the bitterness of hops. Therefore, a beer with a massive malt bill like an imperial stout might actually have more IBUs than a typical IPA but it won’t taste anywhere near as bitter because the huge malt profile drowns out the hoppiness; the hops in an imperial stout are merely providing balance, they’re not actually detectable. Only knowing the IBUs in a beer and nothing else is akin to only knowing the number of grains of salt in a bowl of soup - it doesn’t really inform you how salty the soup tastes.
I guess what I’m saying is don’t get too hung up on knowing the IBUs in a beer. It may serve as a rough guide but won’t actually indicate how bitter the beer is. Instead, I’d encourage you to ask questions and engage in conversations with beer lovers like the folks who work at Jungle Jim’s. A good beer geek will help steer you in the direction of something that serves up just the level of bitterness you’re searching for. Cheers!
Barrel aging beer takes time, planning, and patience. At the same time subtle and complex, there’s an artistry to bringing these beers to life in all-new, exciting, and incredibly flavorful ways. Spent barrels that once contained whiskey, tequila, rum, and wine are given a new purpose, and we’re gifted with their transformed contents.
Jungle Jim’s Barrel Aged Beer Bash celebrates the art of barrel aging by bringing together beers of all kinds. From light and funky, to sour and bright, to deep, dark, and roasty - there’s something for everyone to try and enjoy.
An exceptional experience from its inception, this year’s Barrel Aged Beer Bash promises to be no different. In fact, we’re bringing in more bold and inventive beers for you to enjoy. Rare, hard-to-find, and maybe even exclusive to this epic event, these beers are truly special. Tickets include entry to this year’s Barrel Aged Beer Bash, a tasting guide, and commemorative glass for you to keep.
Just like the time it takes to make these intense libations, we encourage you to take your time and enjoy these heavier beverages slowly, appreciating the depth and nuance in each pour. We’re excited for another amazing year of barrel aged beers. It’s time to find your flavor.
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