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I have just started brewing so I apologize for my stupidity. My nephew was just born today and I want celebrate by brewing a batch and storing it until his 21st birthday. I think it would be cool to give him a bottle of beer 21 years from now that was brewed the day he was born. So I was curious if there are any particular types of beers that would be best to brew for this particular situation. Or do all beers keep their great taste for long periods of time.

Also what storage process do you recommend? should I bottle it and keep it cold? is room temperature ok?

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The only drinks that are routinely aged 20 years are spirits and fortified wines. Most table wines are drunk well before the 20 year mark. Though I'm 100% behind the sentiment, my feeling is that this plan is unlikely to succeed. –  Tobias Patton Jan 12 '12 at 14:59
    
@TobiasPatton While I agree, I certainly wouldn't let it stop me ;) That said, for my brother-in-law's 21st birthday, he chose a beer style, I bought him ingredients and helped him brew his own first batch. He loved it, and made a fantastic batch of Oktoberfest. –  JoeFish Jan 13 '12 at 19:36
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There's some good stuff in here, but I don't think there's any way to tell you what the "best" beer for aging is. converting to a wiki... –  baka Jan 14 '12 at 14:19
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13 Answers 13

In general, higher-alcohol beers age better. Something like a barleywine in the 10+% ABV range would likely be a good choice.

As for aging 21 years, that I couldn't speak to. I've aged Imperial Stouts up to 2 years, and they keep getting better. Dogfish Head claims their DFH 120 will age well up to 10 years, and I think that's better than 15% ABV.

Edit for storage notes: I age my beers upright in my cellar, which stays between 60-65F. Beer does spoil faster at higher temperatures, but I don't believe refrigeration is necessary. I found this article from Beer Advocate that has some suggestions as well.

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My feeling is that 21 years will require refrigeration. I might age it at 60 degrees for 2-3 years, then put it in cold storage. –  Dustin Rasener Jan 13 '12 at 17:35
    
@DustinRasener a good point - beer does spoil more slowly at cooler temps. –  JoeFish Jan 13 '12 at 19:13
    
Which, I realized after typing, is just what I said above, but backwards :) Really, I don't think any of us can have a "correct" answer for this question. If I were the OP, I would make the beer and see what happens over the years. –  JoeFish Jan 13 '12 at 19:22
    
Be careful, though. If you store it at too cold of a temp it may cloud. –  jsmith Jul 24 '12 at 16:18
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I have been brewing for about a year now and have been trying to learn a lot as fast as possible. That being said I would be surprised if one of the experts in home brewing could pull off what you are trying to do, and have it taste good that is (I probably would not be that suprised). I have a 7 month old son myself and the idea is super cool. For the novelty of the idea you could make something and then give it to him on his BDay 21 years later and it would still be a cool idea, but I doubt the beer would taste all that good.

If you try go for a very high ABV, cork it, put it in a temperature controlled area on its side and don’t move it. Good luck.

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As have been said earlier, best beers for aging are those with high ABV and also those, which are very hopped since that was the idea of IPA - they have doubled or trippeled the amount of hops used during brewing and raised the ABV in it so it will last the long journey by boats to India. However best aging beers are from Trappist breweries - I had one, which was 6 years old, however it was not pretty good. I think in this batch you need to focus on hygiene on 100 %. Any bad think will destroy the beer over the 21 years. So probably you will need fresh and first clone of yeast. Barley Wine, Russian Imperial Stout, Double IPA or Eisbock will be good tips I think. Anyway, try it, brew at least a batch of 42 bottles and you will see every half a year how doest it look like :) Keeping fingers crossed.

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I'm pretty sure the story of an IPA being created to survive the trip to India is a myth. Also, I probably wouldn't create an IPA for aging since hop flavor and aroma tend to die out in beers after a year or so and can lead to skunking. –  roto Jan 12 '12 at 19:15
    
Well I do not want to argue much here, but when I was studying brewery at my college we were told about chemical processes while brewing with more hops and it really preserves the bear and defends it from spoiling. Sure, hop flavor will be different after 21 years, but this will happen to any bear. You can age beers for 1-5 years without any problems or worries about dramatical flavor changes, but 21 years. That is a challenge. –  Petr Jan 13 '12 at 7:24
    
If you want, I can find some chemical formulas and proves, that it hops really preserves beer from spoiling. I am from Czech Republic so it will take some time for translation of large chemical articles, but I simply know from various resources, that hops and alcohol helps preserving the beer from spoiling. –  Petr Jan 13 '12 at 7:29
    
I'm not debating the fact that hops are a natural preservative to beer. I'm more wondering if, or at what point do you have diminishing returns? The thinking of my original comment was more towards the skunking of the beer. Since skunking is caused by light breaking down the alpha acids, I would be nervous about adding a lot of alpha acids to a beer that is going to be aged. –  roto Jan 13 '12 at 15:28
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We have been discussing this with friends and maybe even better for storing the beer for that long are Gueuze, Lambic, Kriek, Biére Champagne / Biére Brut. Or Trappist beers. –  Petr Jan 16 '12 at 7:29
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Probably stating the obvious, but avoid light exposure. Sunlight is the worst, but in a cellar, I'd be considering any/all light sources. Not as much of a concern if you're planning to open a bottle a few weeks after bottling, but when you're talking 21 years, it may factor in.

Random thought: You may want to do what you can to pad/cushion the bottles. For example, if you're keeping them in a box suitable for storing bottles (cardboard separators), you may want to add something. I'm not sure what material to suggest, but it'll have to be something not likely to degrade over the years.

I make this suggestion, as I expect that over time, the container of bottles will likely become forgotten about in a moment of haste (by the wrong person, or a pet running around) and quickly shoved aside. Or perhaps someone will stack something heavy on the container of bottles.

Just thinking out loud here. Long-term storage of anything, not just beer, can be problematic if not approached with "what could possibly go wrong" thinking.

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One style not already mentioned would be to brew a sour. They typically age well. For example, if you check out the back of a bottle of Boon's Mariage Parfait the best before date is typically 20+ years.

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While I respect your intentions, it is highly unlikely (basically impossible) that any beer you make today will be good after 10+ years of aging.

Ask yourself this question. If you personally are "into beer" enough to be a home brewer, why is it that you yourself have never had a 10+ year old non-distilled, barley-based beverage? The closest thing I've had was is probably braggot (half beer - half mead), and that was probably only a year or two old.

21 years is simply far too long for a barley-based beverage that still possesses residual sugars and isn't either distilled or seriously acidified (like vinegar). Any such beverage would be very, very likely to spoil, like maybe 95 times out of 100. (And I am a little skeptical of the big breweries' claims about cellaring their beers for 10+ years too, for the record.)

Furthermore, you say that you "have just started brewing," (welcome to the hobby! its great!). In all likelihood, its going to take you several more years to really get good enough at brewing to make big ABV beers made for aging.

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While distilling is usually illegal and pretty much straight up dangerous as hell, you could try freeze-distilling (like the methods used to make an eisbock). The two highest ABV beers in the world, Brewdog's Tactical Nuclear Penguin (32%), and Brewdog's Sink The Bismarck! (41% abv - they outdid a competitor after the competitor topped TNP with a 40% beer) are both brewed using these processes. Since these have higher abv's than many whiskeys and vodkas, you might be okay aging for extended periods. I would think that the high high high alcohol would stave off most infections/spoilage.

You just need a chest freezer to freeze off the water and boom, ready to rock!

Make sure to use anti-oxidation caps, and I might even consider vaccum-sealing the bottles when they age (this may also be an entirely useless step). If you're willing to make the investment, maybe consider barrel aging for a few months (years?) before bottling (you could secondary in a carboy with an s-load of oak chips if you or your wife is against the idea of oak barrels in your basement)

Also a +1 for making a big enough batch to try them occasionally (maybe crack one for each World Cup!).

Man, now I want to do this!

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I've read in a couple of places (e.g. Zak Avery, here) that Greene King have some bottles that were brewed in 1936. From the linked article,

'[...] brewer Craig Bennett recently tried one, which he laconically describes as "a bit sour, but drinkable".'

So, who knows - they may last and be drinkable for long enough. I'd say go for it, and if (as suggested) you make enough to taste them once or twice a year you'll know if they're going off.

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Yeah, only Barley Wine ages fair and even then, it's not 20 years...

Tell ya' what. Brew up a beer, then when he's 9, give him a sip and say, "No, just 9 more years to go and you can legally drink in Canada."

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I know I already answered this, and I'm not sure if the poster is still looking, but consider making a wine (I know this isn't a winemaking forum). Wine ages waaaay better, is easier to make than beer, and may make this a more worthwhile project. My grandfather was a huge home wine maker, and made a wine that he aged at least 10 years before my oldest brother (his first grandchild) was born. When they got back from the hospital, my grandfather ushered my dad to his wine cellar, uncorked, and after pouring, said "Vino vinello, quanto sei bello" (Italian for "wine, little wine, how beautiful you are!")

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I don't know - I've had a 12 year old Barley Wine which tasted good. I would say a big ABV Barley Wine or Imperial Stout. I'm sure it'll keep for 21 years but it will change flavours substantially. Fullers Vintage Ale 2000 basically tasted like port or sherry - i.e. nothing like a barley wine but not unpleasant either. Don't listen to the naysayers - just do it and see what happens...

There's also this: http://protzonbeer.co.uk/features/2012/02/14/royal-beer-that-never-saw-the-light-of-day

Which substantiates what I said in some ways.

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Why don't you make a gueuze? Or actually keep making gueuze batches over the years, but of course you will be blending, so in 21 years, some fraction of that original batch will hit your nephew's palate.

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Here's a better idea. Why not just brew a house beer named after your child every year a month before his birthday. That way you get to celebrate his birthday every eye with a batch you only make once a year. After he turns 21 you can both celebrate the tradition!

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