Recently, I’ve bought a couple beers that explicitly told me not to cellar them. Pliny the Elder from Russian River and 13th Anniversary Ale from Stone are the two that I’m thinking of specifically. On the bottle, they make it seem shameful that one even has the idea to cellar their products.
What do these beers have in common? I believe that the hop factor is the real answer. It is semi-understandable that they want their product to have the fresh hoppiness that they intended when making it. Hop acids degrade over time, so their essential oils break down and recede. On the other hand, the practice of increasing hops in a beer was originally intended to lengthen the life of the beer. Hops are a preservative and antiseptic. So I want to make myself clear when I say that whether or not you cellar a beer is a matter of preference, provided the beer fits the criteria of being cellarable. It is extremely annoying to me when the manufacturer tells me to do this or that with their beer.
I’ve been cellaring beer for about 5 or 6 years now and know how they can blossom over time. All these IPAs with Cascade hops become tiresome after a while. They are ubiquitous, predictable, and quotidian at this point. Far more interesting to me is what these beers may become over time. So, the prohibition is baffling to me. I would think that brewers might encourage people to age their beers and even perceive it to be not unlike a fine wine. Can you imagine someone saying in 2019, “This is a 2008 Pliny the Elder?” I can.
As a matter of fact, I’ve had beers that have been aged/I have been aging for 5 or 10 years. In fact, they were hoppy beers that turned into something quite different and quite wonderful. Drinking 1999 Lees Harvest Ale and Fuller’s 2004 Vintage Ale this year were major highlights. Good thing I don’t always do what I’m told. Do you?