Session #37: When to Drink the Good Stuff

This is my first time participating in The Session, a first-Friday event in which a number of beer bloggers all post on the same theme. I’m a day late. So what. It’s just a beer blog. Next month I’ll try to be timelier. This month’s Session was hosted by The Ferm, with the theme of The Display Shelf – When to Drink the Good stuff.

Last summer I attended a BBQ at the home of the owner of my favorite local beer store. Of the actual party, no more will be spoken. Trust me, it’s for the best. However, I DO remember that we made several trips into the basement of his humble abode to survey and sample from the beer cellar. Atop what should have been a workbench were a collection of small refrigerators filled with beer, a fact that apparently caused his spouse some consternation. (Who hasn’t experienced that?) But I think my friend’s explanation to his wife perfectly sums up the rationale for the beer geek’s beer cellar. “The beers upstairs are the beers you drink. These are the beers you don’t drink.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Anyone who is at all serious about beer has a collection of “beers you don’t drink.” I myself have a good supply of saving beers stashed safely in the basement. There’s the vertical collection of Lee’s Harvest Ale from 1997 through 2009, the miscellaneous crusty bottles of Samuel Adams Triple Bock, and a couple of 1999 Thomas Hardy Ales to name just a few. And that doesn’t even count the cases of homebrewed barleywine, bretty imperial stout, and sour beers that I intentionally drink only very slowly.

My problem is not the “beers you don’t drink.” I’m fine with those. I don’t even worry particularly about finding the right occasion to open one. They are after all the “beers you don’t drink.” My problem is the sizeable collection of beers in my cellar that I never really meant to save. These are beers that I bought fully intending to drink that instead found their way to the basement only to be forgotten in the stacks of cases on the shelves. Some of these beers will age just fine. There are barleywines, imperial stouts, and a full case of sours among them. Some of them though were never intended for aging and won’t necessarily benefit from the passage of time. I’m talking about saisons, hop-heavy double IPAs, and the bottle of 2007 Left Hand Goosinator Smoked Doppelbock with the quarter inch of sediment on the bottom. With these beers it isn’t a question of finding the right occasion to drink them; it’s more a matter of finding any occasion. I simply have too much beer in the cellar and I’m constantly buying or being given more beer. I periodically impose beer-buying moratoriums on myself, but they never last. What am I thinking? I can only drink so much and the beers are piling up. I’m being buried in beer.

I realize that to some this might not seem like a problem. Perhaps I shouldn’t see it as one either. Perhaps I should start viewing these beers as experiments, controlled (or maybe not so controlled) explorations into the effects of ageing on beer. How long will a bottled hefeweizen last before it becomes undrinkable? What is the half-life of hop flavor? Can oxidation ever benefit a Belgian wit? Perhaps my cellar can yield valuable information that will forever change the way craft beer is packaged and stored. Perhaps I’ll go down in history as the one who finally cracked the code on this recently rediscovered practice of cellaring beer…

Or maybe not. While waiting for future beer writers to define my legacy I guess I’ll just have to keep plugging away. I think I’ll start bringing one beer a week up from the archives to be consumed and enjoyed. As someone said (I no longer remember who it was), “A beer not consumed is a beer wasted.” I don’t like to waste beer.

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3 Responses to “Session #37: When to Drink the Good Stuff”

  1. Mark R. says:

    I am always happy to help dig you out from under that avalance of beer in your basement. You know where to call.

  2. It sounds like you import more than you export my friend. Thanks for your submission to Session #37.

  3. Saul says:

    I know I don’t have the only basement like that (although with not nearly as many barleywines, imperials, etc.), but it’s definitely nice to read about others having that same “problem” and thoughts on experimentation.

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