Mission : Leap Beer, 366 Beers in 366 Days

Leapbeer Reports – Cellaring Beer

There have been several blog posts about cellaring beer in the craft beer crew, so what can I hope to add another to the mix. Beeradvocate gave us a very thorough explanation about how to store beer, and which beers are good for it. Vancouver based beer blogger, Barley Mowat, has done something extrememly similar (but he adds pictures). Vancouver Island beer blogger allum (although I grimace as I say that, I’m not even in his league let alone the same court) Ian Lloyd, aka Left4Beer took his kick at this same can too. (Note: To view these posts I’m referring to please click the links embedded in their names)

The reason I chose to toss my hat into this ring was because it was a completely unheard of concept to me one year ago. I, like many out there, thought old beer = bad beer. I mean obviously beer is meant to be drank as soon as humanly possible (unless of course you think I’m encouraging drinking in the store or in your car on the way home. DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE!) I should say, consumed as soon as reasonably possible.

Not quite what I mean by aging your beer (photo from agefotostock.com)

Why do beer geeks the world over choose to shell out top dollar for “fancy-pants brews” (pending TM) just to let them sit in a cellar until they can’t hold out any longer. Quite simply put, because it *can* make them better. I say can, because generally cellaring beer is saved for many styles, but not for others. Something like a fresh hopped beer is best consumed fresh. Even any dry hopped beer should be consumed as soon as possible, as those hop characteristics really diminish with time. Where aging beer really shines (in my limited opinion) is when it comes to high test stouts, bocks and sours. The rule of thumb I’ve heard is ‘If it’s at or over 9% ABV, it will age well”. I’ve spent some of this year collecting different beers and adding them to my cellar. Some of which I’ve tasted during the course of this year, but most of which I haven’t.

Another interesting ‘journey’ beer lovers are known to do is what is called a ‘Vertical Tasting’. As you may have guessed you have the various years of one beer and taste them to examine the nuances, changes and journey the beers have gone through. Recently left4beer and Jeff Kendrew did a three year vertical tasting of the same beer I chose to examine cellaring.

I devised a test to examine what cellaring beers actually does. I took two bottles of Hermannator Ice Bock by Vancouver Island Brewery, one from 2011 (a gift from a co worker Michelle, Thanks!) and one from 2012. The 2011 bottle has been aging in my ‘cellar’ (aka a stack of beer boxes in my downstairs closet) over the course of the hear. Hopefully this 9.5% ABV eisbock (or Ice Bock) style beer will have changed some. I’m going to use similar styled glassware (tulip/snifter) with a similar approximate six ounce pour.  I’ve got three criteria I’m going to be judging these beers on, Appearance, Aroma and Taste. Then I’ll divulge my overall thoughts of these two beers. Bear in mind that the batches may have some differences in the brew, but the recipe is very close from year to year. I served these beers directly from my cellar, meaning they’re between 10-12 degrees Celsius. Here’s the combatants.

2011 (left) & 2012 (right) Hermannator Ice Bock by Vancouver Island Brewery

2011 (left) & 2012 (right) Hermannator Ice Bock by Vancouver Island Brewery

And on to the tasting we go. First up lets see how these beers pour out and compare in a glass. Leapbeer #313 is Hermannator Ice Bock 2011.

2011 Hermannator by Vancouver Island Brewery

2011 Hermannator by Vancouver Island Brewery

And Leapbeer #314 is the 2012 Hermannator Ice Bock.

2012 Hermannator by Vancouver Island Brewery

2012 Hermannator by Vancouver Island Brewery

So now for the testing criteria. First up is appearance.
2011: A near jet black beer, when thinned out by tilting the glass it shows off a chestnut brown colour. There’s a thin rim of a tan head. Also there isn’t much carbonation to speak of, just a few bubbles from time to time.

2012: This beer is perhaps even darker than the 2011. Now when tilted it is an even darker brown. If you hold it up to the light you really see the difference. It’s difficult for me to get a pic of them both against the light because I’d have to hold each glass. There is considerably more carbonation in the 2012 beer, which I was expecting. These beers aren’t bottle conditioned, so there’s nothing feeding added carbonation into them after bottling.

Next up is the Aroma
2011: This beer smells very rich. There is an almost anise-like licorice scent accompanying the malt in a big strong way with this beer, but also a lot of hints of dark dried fruit. I think of prunes or raisins when I smell this beer.
2012: This beer smells much more subdued. I still get the aroma of roasted caramel/licorice malt to it, but it is much more faint.

How about the Taste?2011: If I were to describe this beer in one word it would be; Smooth (with a capital S). When you drink this from a glass that incorporates the aroma to the party at the same time you get the whole flavour profile, but the beer itself is just silky smooth. The plum/prune like flavours you get from it are subtle and playful. Because the carbonation is lower there isn’t a harshness to holding it or swirling it in your mouth. Despite the high test of this beer there isn’t a strong alcohol feel to it.
2012: Smooth and subtle this beer is not. The malty sweetness is accompanied with big flavours of licorice and dried fruit. I am not getting a strong alcohol burn from this beer, but definitely more than the other bottle. There’s definitely more bitterness to it as well. Almost a bitter coffee/cocoa nib type of bitterness in the back of the tasting to this beer.

My overall thoughts on these two beers, while both great I can definitely see the benefits of aging this beer. The more prominent flavours of the beer when it is initially brewed get mostly converted into aromas over the course of the year, leaving a silky smooth beverage.

It’s really cool too, because Vancouver Island Brewery has released a limited run of 650ml bombers of this years Hermannator Ice Bock. Dipped in wax to prevent any air getting in to spoil, these 25th anniversary beers are a great place to start a cellar. They can only be purchased at the brewery in Victoria, although I’ve heard rumors that the Vancouver VIB rep (@VIB_Matt) has been dropping a few off over there to a select few people.

Wax Dipped (inset) 25th Anniversary Hermannator Ice Bock from Vancouver Island Brewery

Wax Dipped (inset) 25th Anniversary Hermannator Ice Bock from Vancouver Island Brewery

A big thank you to Alan and all the Vancouver Island Brewery crew. I’m looking forward to saving my wax dipped bottles for at least a year.

Thank you all for reading. If you want to view the pages I used to research my post, the links are below.


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10 thoughts on “Leapbeer Reports – Cellaring Beer

  1. The rumors are true as my christmas wish was granted!

    • Awesome. I remember reading the tweets thanking Matt for the beer. These will be great to save for at least a year to compare against the following years versions. The 2012 wasn’t even close to what the 2011 tasted like. Both good, but aged is way better.

      Worth drinking straight from the cellar too, flavours come alive.

  2. I find the 2011 a little lacking in body compared to the 2012. The 2010 is amazing right now, should be better still in another year. Still have 7 bottles left. 🙂

    I think the 2012 is going to be excellent for cellaring.

    • I wasn’t a collector back in 2010, but if you ever wanted to arrange a trade for a 2010 hermannator, let me know.

      • You never know, something could be arranged… 😉

        I took a vertical to left4beer’s place a little while ago. Speaking of which Ian, Todd says he might have some 2009 kicking around.

  3. maybe although I do not have any 2011 either as this was the first year I heard about this wonderful beer!
    I still have your two bottles here just to remind you. Although I am sure you would not forget.

  4. You are far too flattering. Nice article about cellaring. Wait for the rewards in three years

  5. Glad you found our post useful!

  6. Pingback: Leapbeer Reviews #315-319 A Cornucopia of Phillips Brau « leapbeer

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