Forget Beer Aging

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Another year of a certain commonly-hoarded beer release has passed, and what has followed it is as inevitable as the sun rising on your stale-ass beer: a riot of discussions across social media and beer forums about how long to wait to drink such-and-such a beer.

This one isn't hard: drink it now.

I'm not saying I've never had beers that have gotten better with some age.  It happens.  I don't mind a vertical tasting of some beers, even years after they've gone into the bottle.  I'm just saying that I've enjoyed those at about the same rate as I've enjoyed Disney films: sure, some are really good, but mostly I feel like I just wasted my time and money.

Look, nearly all beer is at or near its best right after it hits its appropriate level of carbonation.  From that point forward you're losing ground to oxidation, a shifting flavor profile as things physically fall out of your beer, contamination, light, and more.  Hoarding it like some kind of alcohol-dependent squirrel with too much shelf space on its hands probably isn't helping you.

Don't think about it: drink it now.

"But what about..."  Yes, properly-stored beer can be "flavor stable" for a long time.  Yes, some attributes of beer can make it more likely to age well.  Yes, certain characteristics mellow out or develop with age.  From where, though, does this optimism arise?

You're trusting that the folks at the brewery, and the distributor, and the retailer/vendor are all taking great care of this beer?  Arrhenius' Rule cuts both ways - yes, storing cold will dramatically slow chemical reactions/aging, but a few days in hot temps can create months worth of staling effects.  "But it's a dark, high-ABV, bottle-conditioned IPA!," you say?  OK.  So maybe - just maybe - thanks to these attributes it will be generally as-drinkable in four months, but why wait?  Is it going to get better?  Maybe.  But how do you know which bottle will improve and which will just get slowly less impressive, like the work of Aaron Sorkin?

Don't trust: drink it now.

And besides, you don't need to do your own aging.  This is why you have beer nerd friends that still buy into the "I'm going to build an awesome cellar..." mentality.  Use them.  Keep your ears pricked up to catch wind of when they're popping open those six bottles of Brooklyn Black Ops, 2009-2015 (thanks, Adam!).  I'm not saying to be a moocher or a deadbeat: bring them something in exchange.  But don't be the beer equivalent of the person who dry-ages their own steaks.  In both cases, the risk isn't worth the reward.

Maybe I just don't get the allure.  I'd trade a bottle of vintage Old Ale for a six-pack of fresh Pilsner any day of the week.  And sure, there are exceptions to any rule - I'll sit on bottles of Cantillon until Jean tells me they're good.  Mostly, though, I want to buy a beer and drink it as close as possible to that moment, sometime in the past, when a brewer tasted it in the tank or barrel and thought, "Yup, I want to sell that NOW."  

Forget beer aging: drink it now.

Keep it simple.

JJW

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Be a Beer Nerd - Not a Beer Jock

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At a homebrew competition this weekend, I was part of a conversation about boorish, pushy alehole behavior, and one of the participants opined, "Beer nerds - what are you going to do?"

It occurred to me, though, that what we're talking about doesn't really fit with generalized "nerd" behavior.  Deeply knowledgeable, overly-committed, willing to talk a subject to death - that's nerd behavior, for sure.  Shaming, bullying, exclusive?  That's not "nerd" terrain, no matter what the canonical Revenge of the Nerds films would suggest.  

What we're talking about here aren't "beer nerds."  They're beer jocks.

The Beer Jock

I should probably point out at the outset that I'm not casting aspersions on athletes as a group.  I'm simply using the 80's-nostalgia-film-fueled paradigm of nerds v. jocks as a rhetorical device.  Some of my best friends are jocks.  There - I've covered myself, right?

Now, back to those awful, cruel, high-handed beer jocks, shoving us beer nerds into our chest freezers...

I'm not talking here about a garden-variety "beer talk terrorist," horning in on conversations and holding forth on the proper glassware for a Kolsch v. a Pilsner.  No, I'm talking about the people that are so committed to craft beer that they're openly mocking and shaming other beer drinkers.

Sometimes the target of their ire is just a rube who stupidly thinks s/he actually likes their preferred macro lager.  Let's all have a laugh at their expense!

Often it's a fellow craft beer lover who isn't sufficiently nerdy - "what do you mean you haven't heard about Rainbow IPA?  The BA better update its guidelines to include them.  They have negative IBUs and are no discernible color, which means they're every color.  They're everywhere in Pittston, bro.  Wait, you don't even know about the hot new brewing town of Pittston?  Wow..."  

Could also be the beer jock who's too cool/postmodern for pumpkin beers, except the ones that get released in March "and are really more white squash beers, which is way more authentic."  In fact, the beer jock rejects all seasonal beers, and the people who drink them.

Or maybe it's a soulless capitalist who still buys the occasional case of Boddington or Goose Island, not realizing that they're coughing up money so that some rich CEO can get a third beach house - what a POS.  "Can you believe he still does that?  I mean, I've consciously uncoupled from any of my relatives and friends who still insist on drinking Devil's Backbone Vienna Lager.  Who needs that kind of betrayal in their lives?"

And I'm not even going to bother (well, I guess I am) pointing out the irony that these same aleholes never miss a chance to talk about the importance of camaraderie and fellowship in craft beer.  

Nerd Out

By all means, nerd out.  I'll spend hours in a discussion of the futility of secondary fermentations and the virtues of floor malted grains.  We enjoy the minutiae of beer and brewing, surveying the beer scene, analyzing what we see.

There's nothing at all wrong with a deep dive on a topic.  Malcolm Gladwell, writing in The Tipping Point, discusses a type of person he calls a "maven," who is an active expert on a subject.  Mavens are useful "tippers" because they can provide more than superficial knowledge on a specialized and not-yet-broadly-engaged topic.  Mavens are obsessed with ideas, not people.  

And therein, I think, lies the difference.  When you turn from an obsession with knowledge and ideas to a preoccupation with how others engage with your chosen nerdified field of interest, you weaponize your nerdism.  When you do, you pivot from Beer Nerd to Beer Jock, and that's when we see the kind of bullying behavior that's so common to this archetype.  

If you see me doing this, please let me know - I'm sure it happens.  As I've always said, I am, without question, a carrier of the alehole gene.  It's one of the reasons I love writing Beer Simple - it lets me engage in a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-like analysis of my own beerhavior.  If this applies to you, too, then we all have some work to do.

Keep it simple.

JJW

Please help support BEER SIMPLE by visiting the Support page and saving the links there as your bookmarks, especially this Amazon link!  Every dollar you spend will help keep BS coming your way, and more often (which is at least as much a threat as a promise).