Wednesday, 17 February 2016

An Experiment in Beer Ageing

Jay - The idea for this project came from an article in a CAMRA magazine about aging beers and we both agreed that it was something we should try out. A quick internet search revealed not a great deal beyond “try the stronger ones”. So that’s what we did. As you can imagine, having to take a trip to Stirchley Wines and Spirits and Cotteridge Wines was a total hardship (!)

Beer #1:  Lemon Cello IPA
Brewery:  Siren Craft Brew
Tasting Notes said:  “This is a truly different beer. The concept was to develop the flavour and mouthfeel of Limoncello and fuse with the carbonation and lemony hop hit of an IPA. Using pale and wheat malts, the base beer goes through a 24 hour sour process to add to the tartness of the beer. Tons of lemon zest and juice are added to the boil along with all the citrusy lemony hops available”
One day after purchase, Jay said:  Dry and hoppy aroma with the slightest hint of citrus. First taste is hops then a blast of citrus acidity but more lime and grapefruit than lemon
One day after purchase, Dee said:  Rich gold, deceptively drinkable given its strength. The hops were balanced with a strong citrus flavour.
One year after purchase, Jay said: Very tart first taste and still citrusy but not the WOOOOOOO citrus it was last year. Aging has definitely mellowed the beer looking over last year’s notes
One year after purchase, Dee said: A rich copper hue with a grapefruit / hops / autumny aroma. Slightly sour, tangy taste.
Would we age it again? Dee says yes, I’m not so sure. Was it a good beer after waiting a year? Oh yes, definitely. Was it a better beer after waiting for a year? Possibly not.

Beer #2:  Wildebeest
Brewery:  Wild Beer Co.
Tasting Notes said:  “Ideal for contemplation and speculation, this is the liquid equivalent of the lotus position. Our Imperial espresso chocolate vanilla stout, Wildebeest is a judicious selection of pale and dark malts to which is added the highest quality Valrhona cocoa nibs and freshly roasted Columbian coffee. Best enjoyed sipped from your favourite brandy snifter, while sitting comfortably in a plush armchair, preferably next to a roaring fire.”
One day after purchase, Jay said: Poured deep chestnut. Coffee on the nose, almost Pedro Ximenez flavour. Roaring fire, leather wingback chairs…
One day after purchase, Dee said:  Almost smokey, maple cured bacon. A thick, treacly taste and quite sweet. Imagine a mixture of treacle and golden syrup. Needs no accompaniment.
One year after purchase, Jay said:  Still great but absolutely no change over the year (and that’s no bad thing)
One year after purchase, Dee said:  treacle, dark chocolate and a hint of espresso. Smooth, velvety and sweet.
Would we age it again? No, no need to (although good to know it keeps so well!)

Beer #3:  De Passie
Brewery:  Ilkley Brewery
Tasting Notes said:  “We invited two of Europe's most kick-ass brewers to come and brew a kick-ass beer with us. Packed full of Dutch passion, as well as buckets of fresh passionfruit, this Imperial White IPA will take you to the edge and back. Tart in all the right places, and with a warming finish. "The Passion" is a continental collaboration with Rooie Dop and Oersoep Breweries.”
One day after purchase, Jay said: A golden colour with lots of bubbles. A light brew compared to some of the others in this experiment. There was a hint of fruit on the nose but that didn’t really come through in the taste. A summers evening in a beer garden with all being well with the world.
One day after purchase, Dee said:  Sour aroma with a rich gold colour. A rich malty IPA with only a hint of passionfruit. A nice strongly flavoured drink.
One year after purchase, Jay said: Not a lot of aroma, hint of perfume (marshmallow perhaps?) and the first taste is a big hit of hops. Don’t think there has been much of a change over the year.
One year after purchase, Dee said: A slightly sour / citrusy aroma and a bitter taste
Would we age it again? No. Still a great ale though.

Beer #4:  Cherry Scotch Ale
Tasting Notes said:  oops! the bottle was recycled before we realised there wasn’t a great deal about this brewery on the internet! The bottle DID say that the beer would “age beautifully” though..
One day after purchase, Jay said: Dark brown ale (was expecting hints of red). Fizzy with a hint of treacle. Hint of cherry as an aftertaste. Proper boozer pub after a day out in the countryside.
One day after purchase, Dee said:  Sourness carried through into the taste which was strong and spicy.
One year after purchase, Jay said: Fizzy! Definitely smoother than last year but mellowing rather than mellowed.
One year after purchase, Dee said: Dark mahogany colour. Hint of cherry but lots of other flavours dancing round. Bit of an acquired taste.
Would we age it again? Definitely. Would keep it for longer next time though.

Thoughts and next steps..
Jay - It would have been interesting to have a “young” bottle of each ale to contrast the aged ale with.

We will definitely have a go at aging beers again but I think we’ll buy 3 bottles this time – one to try straight away, one to keep for a year and one to keep for longer (like the Cherry Scotch Ale).  The geek in me wants to know why the tastes change, what the reactions are that are taking place. I’m going to do a bit more finding out to see what guidance and tips there are out there too.

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