Everything mellows with age, even rock stars and celebrities (Donald Trump being the exception). Aging is a prerequisite for making bourbon and whiskey, and much of a bottle of wine’s value is tied to the year it was bottled.

While not every style of beer holds up well over time, many, like stouts and imperial IPAs, attain new levels of complexity with time. Another feature craft beer fans relish is the “mellowing” effect aging a beer has on feistier varieties like Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA or Avery’s Tweak.

There are a lot of blogs out there on how to properly age a beer, so I’m not going to cover that well-treaded ground. I’ve always wondered what exactly is going on inside that bottle as it sits in the cellar, or more likely, kitchen pantry for a year or more. So I found someone who had the answer.


Julia Herz is craft beer program director for Brewer’s Association, a trade group that advocates for and protects independent breweries across the United States.

The beer market accounts for $101 billion in US sales each year, she noted, far more than the $36 billion or $65 billion in sales for wine and liquor, respectively.

“Yet beer education is not nearly as advanced as it is with wine and liquor,” she said.

The first topic we chatted about was the difference between storing and aging beers. Storing should be done in the fridge to preserve a beer’s shelf life, especially hop-centric brews like pale ales that are meant to be served fresh.

But for craft beers with an alcohol content of 8 percent or higher, aging can provide “an advancement of flavors.”

How? Well, the ageing process largely works on one ingredient — hops. Over time, she said, the flower mellows out, loosing much of its astringent bitterness and aromatic profiles.

“Carbonation will soften, depending on the packaging, and malt flavors will evolve,” she said. “But the hop profile diminishing, that’s the key thing.”

But don’t go willy-nilly tossing your suds in the basement, hoping for a time-induced miracle, though. Of  the 142 beer styles Brewers Association documents, the majority of beer styles are below six percent alcohol, meaning aging will only bring an unseemly demise to those pilsners and goses. Lighter beers need to stay out of the light and in a cold environment.

“Beer is not wine,” she said. “When it comes to aging, don’t look at beer like wine. You’re not going to lay down and celer the majority of beers you get.”

But for barleywines, imperial IPAs, eisbocks, and barrel-aged stouts, place them in a cool, dark environment and wait. Or if you’re like me don’t, because the hardest thing about aging beers is that long, long, wait.

On Tap this Week:

One of my favorite craft beer bars (Shipping & Receiving Bar) is celebrating its second year anniversary in grand style this Friday and Saturday. Here is Hearsay’s great preview about the live music show.

On tap for next week is an announcement about a new Fort Worth Weekly contest that involves, you guessed it, craft beer. It also involves Panther Island Pavilion and all your favorite local breweries and brewers so you won’t want to miss it.