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When you buy beer that you plan to keep for a while (a while being more than a month or so), what's the best way to store it?

Specifically, what are the rules for storing it cold or warm, on it's side or upright, and any other considerations?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 13 down vote accepted
  • Keep out of the light
  • The cooler the better
  • Store upright
  • Carefully choose beers to store
  • Be patient

There are two major beer spoilers: light and oxygen.

There is not much you can do about O2 getting into the bottle except seal the cap with wax. I recommend this for very long term storage.

Lightstruck beers take on a "skunky" character - if you want to experience this, leave a bottle of Corona in the sun for a few hours. The wavelengths of light that cause skunking are emitted by the sun and florescent lights. Incandescent lights do not cause skunking so us those in your cellar.

Heat is another consideration. For every 10°C rise in temperature catalytic reactions double in speed. Such reactions take place as the beer matures; some of them are good and some of them cause flavor instability. I keep my cellar around room temperature in the summers (75°F) and it gets down into the forties or fifties in the winter.

Wine bottles are stored on their side to keep the corks wet. Dry corks shrink and allow oxygen into the bottle. Capped beers should be set upright to keep the sediment at the bottom and, in rare cases of old beers, to keep the cap from rusting.

Most beers are not meant to be cellared, so pick ones that will survive the duration. Alcohol is the best indicator of shelf life in this case, so choose high strength beers. Hoppiness will decrease and malt sweetness will mellow. Vinous and/or sherry flavors will develop.

Always keep in mind that cellaring a beer will usually not make it better, but will make it different. Check out episode 65 of Brew Bubbas Radio for a good episode on cellaring. Some of my experiences follow.

Last week I opened a year old bottle of Sam Adams Imperial Pilsner. The hop aroma and most of the hop flavor was gone, but it still had a great Hallertau bitterness. It also had a pleasant sherry tone that does not exist in the fresh bottles.

Dogfish Head Palo Santo Maron changes little after a year, likewise with Sam Adams Chocolate Bock and Alaskan Smoked Porter.

Bigfoot Barleywine ages well, but with some vintages everything becomes muddled together.

I like DFH 120 Minute IPA better after at least a year.

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Had a two year old bottle of Gulden Draak. Didn't taste bad, but the sherry flavor that developed overpowered what is a good tripel. Another example that aging usually doesn't make a beer better, just different. –  Dean Brundage Dec 15 '09 at 16:57

I keep all of my beer stored in a Vinotemp wine cellar, that was converted to have shelves. All the beer is stored upright, and and 55 degrees. I was initially concerned with corks and wondering if I should lay the bottles down just like wine. I asked Lost Abbey and they said their beers are to be stored upright. The corks used are recycled cork and as they explained denser. After comparing the beer bottle corks to wine bottle corks this made sense. Laying down the bottles allows for more of the beer to be exposed to the air in the bottle. As far as the temperature goes I just chose 55 (I'm not sure why). To my understanding upping the temperature just increases the speed of the aging process. Here is a good article talking about how Dr. Bill and Matthew VandenBerghe do it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/25/dining/25beer.html?_r=1

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If these are beers you do not intend to age, refrigeration is best. Otherwise the coolest spot in your house (that won't freeze), covered up or in a box is good too. Upright is preferred for beer. Your main enemy is light and frequent temperature fluctuations. If you can keep away from those two things your beer should do fine for several months.

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I like to keep all more stored beer in boxes to protect from light. The beers are kept at cellar temps, close to the floor. This keeps them as cool as possible.

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Putting them in boxes makes it easy to stack them. –  Dean Brundage Jan 20 '10 at 20:39
1  
Putting bottles in boxes makes them easy to stack. –  Dean Brundage Jan 20 '10 at 20:40

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