Roll Out The Barrels!

Posted on 05.04.09 9:07PM under Beer Cellar

barrelsI recently moved.

When you move, you really take a good hard look at every single item in your possession. What do you absolutely need? Each item you intend to keep must be painstakingly moved by hand, or at least packed by hand, and then unpacked by hand. All in all, moving presents a great opportunity to discard some of the less essential items for everyday life.

For me, I was forced to examine my ever-growing beer stash. Four fridges full of beer in various states of being, from fermenting wort, to the mini keg fridge, to the full cold bottle fridge, to the “beer cellar” fridge, to the couple of extra cases with nowhere to call home.

It became clear that it was time to play Darwin and weed out some of the stragglers, in favor of consolidating. Only the real keepers were to make it past this survival of the fittest. I would naturally select the best bottles to stick around for another generation of consumption.

In short, this means no more “beer cellar” fridge. Sure, some things were worth holding on to, but most have been consumed. What good is a single bottle of some particular beer? If it improves with age, then you don’t have any more after you learn that, and if it gets worse with age, then you’ve missed your chance to drink it fresh in its prime. At least I had a handful of beers I’d bothered to store several of. In a few years, I’ll have a healthy Bigfoot vertical, for example.

At any rate, some of the beers I kept around, but have since consumed were beers aged on wood. These brews provide a distinctive character in varying degrees. A touch of vanilla here, some boozy flavors there, every now and then a mulchy note.

The other night, I had one of these beers opened before dinner. And I found myself taking a gulp to quench my food-induced thirst as I ate the freshly prepared food. But it did not provide a positive experience, nor a complement to the food. Which got me thinking. Beer is often put forth as a great side dish to your food, but this oaked beer was a poor match to the food I had. So where does oaked strong beer fit in with the “beer and food” thing?

Of course, there is some food that would go well with the high-strength oaked, beer, laden with the complexity of derived proofs of limit theorems. For example, I figure some stinky cheese probably could stand up to the beer. But really, most normal food just ends up a squash-mark of mush under the steel-toed boot of the oaked beer.

It was then, scraping the plankton of my dinner off the sole of my own wooden shoe, that I realized the oaked beer is good just on its own. It does not need nor does it want the accompaniment of food. Like a ninja of alcohol, it prefers to work alone. In the end, this new conclusion of mine just serves to enforce my overall attitude that the enjoyability of a beer is about so much more than just the beer itself. Had I forced myself to try to find the perfect food to pair the oaky beer, I could have ended up frustrated, but by letting myself follow the sudsy lead of my oaked friend, I managed to have a fully enjoyable experience through all 22 ounces of intense power. And came out quite faded at the other end.

Read Comments

  1. Posted by Good Burp on 05.12.09 8:13 PM

    I never thought of it this way, if my aged beer is so good, it is the only one I will get to enjoy. I think I need to start aging two at a time.
    Good thing my other beer fridge is still empty.

    It sounds like you are having quite the taste tests lately. Enjoy.

    By the way, I like your blog. You have a new fan.

  2. Posted by Keith Brainard on 05.12.09 8:18 PM

    Thanks! I just found your blog via BsBB yesterday, and I’m eager to follow your progress starting a brewery. One day I may do the same…

    One recent tasting tidbit: I have found that DFH Immort Ale is a lot better aged than fresh. After having a couple of one-year-old samples, I rushed out and picked up a new 4-pack. Aged it is a sublime combination of rich vanilla woody flavors, but fresh it just tasted burned to me.