As the popularity of microbreweries has exploded and craft beer culture has become more and more popular in the U.S., the malt maniacs have stopped letting wine connoisseurs have all the fun and have started storing and aging beer. Beer storage is much less of a defined science than aging wine, but there are some basics for anybody trying to brew, store, or age their own beer. While we’re no beer experts, we’re space and storage experts who can always appreciate a good brewski, so here are three key tips for your own beer storage operation. Prost!
Don’t look at the light
While Amber might find herself love-struck under the sun on a beautiful summer afternoon, your amber nectar will find itself “light struck.” The term describes beer that has been over-exposed to UV rays, giving it a “skunky” taste. The taste has earned the flattering adjective because the beer will actually smell like skunk gas –light struck beer “skunks” because the UV rays break down hop compounds, producing a sulfuric substance similar to that found in skunk stank. Ain’t nobody got time for that! This is the reason that you’ll find many beer bottles made of dark glass. It is also the reason that you’re going to need to clear out some of the stuff that resides in the dark corners of your apartment. Amateur brewers (read: beer fans without cellars) usually opt for the bottom of a closet.
Don’t get heated
The ideal temperature at which to store your beer actually depends on your specific brew. A general rule of thumb is around 50°F or slightly above. The darker the beer and the higher its alcohol content, the warmer the temperature at which it can be stored (the closet will generally work just fine for those of us that don’t have a cool cellar in our non-existent basement). Managing this is fairly easy, but there are two problems that must be avoided: heat and temperature fluctuations. Heat spoils beer, and temperature fluctuations cause beer to age quickly and sporadically, experiencing funky changes. It would seem to make sense to keep your beer in a fridge to maintain a constant, cool temperature; however, refrigerators are designed not only to be cool but to be very dry, so if there’s a cork on your vintage bottle, it might dry out and allow oxygen to seep through. This can alter or potentially ruin the aging process. The temperature requirements are yet another reason that it’s necessary to create some more space in your home if you want to age your own beers.
Stand up straight
While some people out there are debating issues like Burwell v. Hobby Lobby or how the U.S. should respond to conflicts abroad, the beer experts are debating an equally vexing issue – to store vertically or horizontally? The consensus seems to be that storing your beer upright is the way to go. Why? First of all, storing your bottles upright ensures that the yeast settles at the bottom of the bottle, instead of creating a permanent ring around the side. Secondly, this method of storage allows your beer to last longer because the beer will oxidize less as less of the scrumptious suds are exposed to air – science! Lastly, long exposure to cork can taint the flavor of beer. The commonly cited reason for storing horizontally is to prevent the cork from drying out, but modern corks don’t dry out under regular conditions anyways. Plus a true beer fanatic wouldn’t want to store his beer like a bottle of wine anyways!
The bottom line
If you need to regulate the temperature of your beer and keep it where the sun don’t shine, you’re going to need to find some space in your apartment so that you can provide your prized beer with a comfy, dark, temperature-regulated home. We hope you have the space, but if not, we’ll deliver it to you. You can’t wish your homebrew goodnight if it’s not in your home!