I like old beer. I know that's a weird statement. It's true, though. I'm not talking about Bud, Coors or Corona here. I'm talking about real beer. The stuff YOU should be drinking as well. Not too long ago I had a customer come in and ask me to special order some beer for him. He asked for Rogue Brutal Bitter. It's a fantastic beer. We talked a little while about how we both love it and that we haven't seen it around in a long while. The next day, I ordered it from my supplier and it came in later on in the week. That's when I discovered why the customer and I haven't seen it in a long time. They changed the name of the beer! Rogue Brutal Bitter was now called Rogue Brutal IPA.
I'm always skeptical about label changes and/or product name changes. I was curious about the brew and wanted to open one to see if it was the same thing. I decided to wait until the customer popped in to taste it with him. About a week later, he came in and I gave him the news. I suggested we try it together to see if it is, in fact, the same beer. It wasn't. It wasn't even close to the Brutal Bitter we both knew and loved. It was hoppy and bold. It was a great beer, though. The Brutal Bitter that we talked of was soft and mellow with delicious malty overtones. Sorry Rogue. It's not the same beer. I contacted Rogue to find out about our old favorite. They insisted that it was the same exact recipe as it was back in the day.
After doing a little bit of research, I came to find out that it was in fact the same beer. The Brutal Bitter that we were drinking was old product in Connecticut. I guess the distributor did such a crappy job of selling the Bitter that it just sat in the warehouse to get a little "cellar time."
I believe that most people would balk at the idea of drinking old beer. In actuality, a lot of the beer you see in specialty shops can be aged. In fact, there are many beers on the market that are vintage dated. The flavors in a cellared beer mellow out with age. We're not talking about aging a beer for 30 years like a fine wine. It's just a year or two that can make a good beer better. Obviously, you don't want to cellar any beer that has an expiration date. One thing to help you decide, among many, to cellar a beer, would be the alcohol percentage. If it's around 8% abv and higher, you might be able to age it.
Every beer is different in the cellar. What would help you in the long run is to buy several bottles of the beer that you are going to cellar. Open one and make your age assessment and write down tasting notes. Then in a year, pop another bottle and compare note. If you start to get off flavors, it's time to drink 'em up.
I could probably write a novel on cellaring beer. Who would want to read that? It's boring. To sum up this post, old craft beer isn't necessarily bad craft beer. Drink what you want. Drink what you like. After all, you do have a mind of your own, don't ya?