Cellaring 101: The Basics of Storing Beer

Categories: Bar Beat

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Photo by Joshua Justice
My own "beer cellar" at home, inside a dark cabinet.
The concepts of a beer cellar and aging beer are both very new even among many craft beer enthusiasts. As the craft industry continues to grow, sales surge and customer demand for a wider range of styles increases, so has the culture of storing, preserving and sharing aged beers.

Beer cellaring is so new, in fact, that even in the age of the Internet, information on the topic is slim. Since the finished product is entirely subjective to taste, opinions may not always be consistent from one person to the next. Where the wealth of information lies, then, is with the beer enthusiasts, homebrewers and brewmasters who are practicing and learning the art of cellaring beer.

I reached out to friends and industry professionals in Houston who keep collections of cellared beers -- some of which are several hundreds of bottles large -- to help me build a solid foundation of information on cellaring. What follows is a basic idea of how to begin storing and aging beer for future enjoyment months and even years down the road.

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Photo by potatoknish
A serious -- albeit unrefrigerated -- cellaring set-up.
Basic Beer Storage Guidelines

The art and science of storing and aging beer is not only subjective -- it is one that's still being flushed out in the brewing community. That said, there are three basic rules to storing beer for any extended period of time.

Light Control: Light damages beer quickly. And while it isn't quite the nefarious ruiner of beer that Samuel Adams commercials might have you believe, less light is always better. Keeping your beer out of direct light sources will keep it happy.

Temperature: The ideal temperature for long-term storage of beer is between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Since this is not always possible without expensive refrigeration options, the most important thing to do is keep the temperature as steady as possible and under approximately 85 degrees.

Upright Storage: This is the easy one. Don't store bottles or cans on their sides. By keeping beer upright, you are limiting the amount of the beer surface area that's exposed to any remaining oxygen in the bottle, thus slowing oxygenation. And oxygenation is ultimately the degradation of any beer.

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5 comments
Bruce_R
Bruce_R

I agree with your advice.  Also, I've seen a lot of people fuck up aged beers by pouring the entire contents of the bottle into a glass, sludge and all.  It is not a matter of opinion as to whether the sediment remains in the bottle.  It does.  If you want to drink the sludge post-mortem, fine.

SirRon
SirRon topcommenter

The hardest of core beer nerds would use the term "lagering" for storing beer, and not the wino term "cellaring."

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

 @SirRon Good sir, would you like to come and see my beer lager?

SirRon
SirRon topcommenter

 @kshilcutt I like to do the opposite of lagering to other people's beer. :)

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