Pils-thrills and ferry aches

PILS-THRILLS AND FERRY ACHES

The holiday beer is a moment to savour, but recreating it at home is the challenge. Step 1, writes Katie Mather, is: get a lager.

 

It’s after 12 o’clock somewhere in the world, and where we are right now is exactly what time it is. The sun has risen to a glorious peak in an impeccable sky and under a Perrier parasol you’re relaxed and shaded. The heat of the day warms you through to the bones. Breathing deep, there’s an ozonic scent of salt and sardines in the air, lifting the gentle hum of hot terracotta, coconut suncream and charred seafood — calamari? — being grilling somewhere out of sight. On the table in front of you, bathed in the sunlit glare of whitewashed walls, is a stemmed and frosty half-glass of local lager, bubbling with the anticipation of being your first holiday beer.

Welcome to one of my happy places. I escape there during the cruel wastelands of January and February and on the darkest days I cling to the memory of it like a lilo swept out in a riptide. When the nights grasp tight, squeezing winter’s weak, grey-white days into a desperate four or five hours, strong, blinding sunlight becomes mythical. I keep my happy reserve of it safe in my head until summer comes back around, and against all odds, it always does. But you never know. Seasonal Affective Disorder is no joke.

Recreating the happy place at home requires a few specific ingredients. You need a rare afternoon when the English clouds part for a few hours, heating up the patio to accommodate bare feet. When swallows appear between the rooftops and you start feeling peckish, throw an appropriate glass in the freezer and dawdle to the shops. Pick up the beers that most suit your appetite. ‘Holiday beer’ can be any lager, as long as its underwhelming taste is totally compensated for by the joyful scenes of beaches and olive groves and legs of ibérico ham it beams directly into your head. Pick food to suit the beer you’ve chosen. Return home, light a barbecue, and pour. Ignore the chilly breeze. Those were not spots of rain. Pour another. Relax.

Dorada, Birra Moretti, Cruzcampo, Tropical, Sagres, Mythos… These beers represent something special to me that’s about much more than how they taste. Their colour reminds me of how whole the world feels when the sun comes out again. How time slows while you watch their tiny bubbles rise, and how everything starts making sense again.

But let’s get back to the happy place. The café table and the parasol, the glass of beer. Beside it, a bowl of torn focaccia, or crumbling cubes of cheese. Perhaps chicharones, if you’re lucky. The sun is shining through your little beer, and you can hear bells from an ancient cathedral clanging in the distance. Maybe you’re with somebody, or maybe you’re contentedly alone with your thoughts. There might be a plaza to watch the world pass by, or the horizon to contemplate out at sea but the beer, at least for me, will be the same. Local lager, poured foamy and cold. A glowing glass of sunshine. 

First printed in Original Gravity #18, spring 2018


Solidarity for Hospitality

SOLIDARITY FOR HOSPITALITY

Your local might be shut, but there are things we can do argues Jessica Mason 


It has been a tricky few days with so much conflicting advice, uncertainty and frustration. But in times of crisis, we have to plan and pull together in any way we can. For the hospitality sector there has been no reassurances and no show of solidarity and I know that this has left so many of us gobsmacked about what the new recommendations mean for each person and business. Most are terrified that everything they have built will be crushed by the latest government hints on safety measures meaning to avoid going out to eat and drink or socialise.

Advising and recommending people to stay away from pubs and restaurants, but without the government forcing them to close puts the entire hospitality industry at risk of, not just infection, but with no way to claim insurance or pay their staff. This means that, without customer support, many venues will fold within the coming months and not return. 

I don’t know an MP that hasn’t had their picture inside a pub to support their campaign when it suited them, but now they’ve been completely sacrificed without considering the people who work within them.  

I listened to Emmanuel Macron in France, enforcing rules for safety, protecting all businesses so that lives and livelihoods are not under threat throughout the spread of the pandemic. But, so far, all we have from our UK government are a lot of vague recommendations. Boris Johnson has done nothing to help people get through this — he has offered no leadership, no compassion and, even in his delivery, he offers no support or empathy. There is just a lot of bumbling; no understanding of people; no perception of mounting anxieties; no true plan to protect others in the wake of such global uncertainty. I still cannot believe how someone can show such detachment from humanity. He offers no firm guidance while in the seat of power and he is the one person who can. To be so out of touch and uncaring about the knock-on effect of the constraints is shame inducing. And if it isn’t ignorance, but a calculated approach to reduce pay-outs, then it’s worse. Much worse.

I want to help the industry I love. I’ve supported the hospitality industry for over 10 years throughout my career and yet I feel staggeringly paralysed between wanting to be of use and support my local and needing to adhere to the WHO advice and keep my family safe using distancing measures. However, my silence would be deafening right now if I said nothing about the quandary this places me in. Would I be safe by not carrying the virus onto others more vulnerable if I diligently washed my hands, but still ventured out to pubs and restaurants? Would I be helping? Or is the only helpful thing to do right now distancing myself? The answer is that I don’t know.

But while I don’t know, I don’t intend to sit indoors and do nothing. I intend to make some kind of a difference, or at least try to.

We hear quite a lot of conflicting opinions about COVID-19 and how we can limit its spread. If we try to support local indie businesses, are we selfishly putting others at risk? My feeling is that it will be a personal decision and everyone is simply trying to do all they can. Everyone is just trying to do the right thing and support the people and businesses around them.

So, here are my plans, let’s do what little we can to support others, but stay safe.

  • For the places that were once drinking and dining destinations that are feeling the reduced custom and no government support, if you are turning your outdoor spaces into drive-by bottle shops then I will buy from you. I will collect drinks. My money will continue to go into your tills. PLEASE TELL YOUR LOCAL COMMUNITY VIA SOCIAL MEDIA IF YOU PLAN TO DO THIS. People want to support those who have given them a community space for so many years.
  • For the places offering takeaway or adapting to set up a delivery service for local residents so we can all still support your business, I will buy from you. I will feel sad to not be visiting and clinking glasses in your establishment, but you have my unwavering support.
  • For the many places offering gift vouchers to buy for a meal for the future. I will purchase these and continue to support you from afar. Keep alerting people on how to buy them and where. When we return in the future, I am happy for just a portion of the voucher amount to be removed from the bill and the new voucher amount updated. There is no way I expect the knock on effect of a scheme designed to help you to become something that puts you out of business once you do open. I want to pay something each time — that’s the gratitude I feel for all of the good times we have shared.
  • We want an industry to return to in the future. Even if our government doesn’t show its support, we need to show solidarity ourselves. Stay in touch and share learnings for what is working to keep things afloat without putting anyone at risk.

I’m hugely passionate about how people and pubs can foster communities. And for so many years you have helped me, even if you haven’t realised it. Socially isolating may be better for our lungs, but it will have a knock-on effect on our emotional and mental wellbeing over the approaching months. I plan to write a lot more letters to friends and family, but also stay in contact with as many people as I can across the industry to make sure that if anyone needs an ear, I am here for them. 

Sometimes, when we don’t know what to say, we avoid saying anything because we fear the awkwardness of broaching conversation in adversity. I just want to suggest we grow a little braver for others, not just ourselves, by keeping the lines of communication open, even when the pubs are closed.


ANATOMY OF …. BOCK

ANATOMY OF … BOCK

There’s something so comforting and willing about a bock’s capacity to please the palate. It majors in malt, holds back the hop and summons up the sight and sound of an ancient Bavarian tavern whose regulars drink and sing deeply before sleeping the sleep of the just back in their neat farmhouse. Darkness is its friend, dark chestnut or dark amber, though Hellerbock is a light-coloured bock with a nod in the direction of noble hops (you could also argue that it is really a Maibock). It’s a beer you drink in half-litres, rather than thimbles. It’s also a noble beer, with which monks allegedly subsisted on during Lent (much better than water and crackers I suspect).  ATJ

STRENGTH

Traditional bocks usually flex their pecs between 6-7.5%, as do Hellerbocks, though a Doppelbock is a usually a beast of a beer up to 9%.

FLAVOUR

Given the use of Munich and Vienna malts, bocks are toasty, creamy, smooth and chocolaty, with a hint of mocha and/or caramel; hop bitterness is low and the finish can often have a subtle sweetness.

APPEARANCE

Aside from the gold-hued Hellerbock, traditional bock seeks darkness as its friend, ranging from a dark copper to a chestnut brown reminiscent of a well-aged sideboard that a relative left to you.

HISTORY

Einbeck in Lower Saxony is the place where it’s generally thought bock first emerged in the Middle Ages, though in the 18th century it become more associated with Munich and the beer for local monks.

AKA

Many of the stronger bocks such as Celebrator (see below) have a ‘tor’ added to the end of their brand name.  

FOOD

A very adaptable beer style, which can be swigged on its own, or served alongside a grilled sirloin; bock is also good with cheese, something like a well-aged Gouda or Gruyere.

WHERE TO DRINK

If you can find a pub or bar that treats German beer serious, then bock should be present in winter. A small but growing number of Brit breweries make a bock.  

WEIRD FACT

The best-selling Portuguese beer in the world is Super Bock, which as anyone who has been to Portugal knows is a – wait for it – pale lager.


The Art Of Beer ... High Weald Brewery

THE ART OF BEER … HIGH WEALD BREWERY

England was forged on the iron of the High Weald. Where today are serene woodlands, gentle hills and commuter towns, The Weald once panted the puff of bellows and breathed the fire of the bloomeries and blast furnaces. The wealth of Wealden iron was first identified in prehistoric times, and its use was hugely expanded during Roman times with more than 100 sites around the Sussex & Kent Weald. By the 1600s, the industry was in full swing – England needed cannons, and the ochre stone of the Weald provided it. The fuel for smelting this iron was charcoal, which had an abundant source in the area’s heavy woods.

Today, it’s more often steam carrying the smells of barley and hops that waft into the Sussex air. In a part of the country curiously lacking an abundance of breweries, Andy Somerville saw an opportunity to expand his part-time nano-brewery High Weald, and in November 2015 he launched his three core beers in bottle. Chronicle is a delightfully drinkable 3.8% Sussex Bitter and Greenstede (the original name of East Grinstead where the brewery is based) is a golden ale at 4%, but the one that first caught our attention at the Great British Beer Festival is Charcoal Burner, an lucious oatmeal stout.

“The High Weald has an old, ancient feel to it,” explains Andy “It’s an evocative name and I wanted the artwork to reflect that. And it’s important to look good. You’ve got to pull them in with the art and then hook them with the beer.”

The brewery were already using a hammer and anvil as their logo, but it wasn’t until designer Will Parr showed Andy the potential for the brand by adding a distinctive character. “We went for the most out-there option he presented,” says Andy. “It had skeletons riding chickens – who could resist that?”

Will had worked with many breweries, creating some of the most identifiable beers on the shelves, before setting up Studio Parr in Sussex. “I started out on my own in order to talk directly to some of the UK’s most exciting craft brewers, I saw something in the early labels of High Weald that I liked, but more importantly the beers were really good.”

Charcoal Burner is a great oatmeal stout, full of flavour and life, and the first that Andy and Will worked on. “The area is so rich in history that we could build on to add in characters,” explains Will. “All of the stories on the bottles are based on Anglo Saxon folklore. It could be a battle or the wheat workers being chased by the ‘charcoal burner’.  A quirky English lion was too good an opportunity to miss to use for Chronicle and the skeletal characters we have are reminiscent of those in Anglo-Saxon folklore, but we have a bit of fun with them. Those on the Chronicle label are having a piss-up in the brewery!”

High Weald’s beers are resolutely English. “We’re using really good English hops,” Andy says. “They’re more complex and the flavours change and develop. English hops are more of a watercolour than modern art. And there are some really interesting English hops coming through, such as Jester. We’re looking at doing a 6% IPA with tons of English hops, and also a hefeweizen. With every beer, we want to tell a different story”.   DN

/  highwealdbrewery.co.uk

/ studioparr.co.uk


The big picture

THE BIG PICTURE

The Big Picture is a series that focuses on one single image. It doesn’t have to be beautifully shot, but it tells a story.

You’re never far from a pub in London, but some stand head and shoulders above the rest. Every summer my friend Lee and I spend a weekend exploring the capitals boozers and bars. Sometimes we’re disappointed, but more usually

we’re reassured by what we find. Sometimes we’re even enraptured – as we were by the Nag’s Head in Belgravia. It’s in a mews round the back of the corkingly posh Berkeley Hotel, all toffee-coloured panelling, faded Punch cartoons and dangling brass nick-nacks. This a freehouse with a fondness for Suffolk legends Adnams, pulled from century-old Chelsea china pumps by the charming Noreen, pictured here. It’s singular, eccentric and a very welcome escape from the draining bustle of central London. It’s a pub where one swift pint can easily become several slow ones.  

You may know Gareth Dobson as Teninchwheels from Twitter. He’s also a beer and brewery photographer / beershots.co.uk


HOW TO JUDGE BEER

HOW TO JUDGE BEER

You’ve been to a meet the brewer event or punctiliously taken notes at a beer festival and then like Saul on the road to Damascus you realise you would like to learn how to taste beer, appreciate it, know what you are talking about and become a beer judge. So what do you do?

Of course, you could take a course with the Beer Academy with its How to Judge Beer module; you could take online papers with the BJCP (Beer Judge Certificate Program). Or you could read a lot of books and blogs on beer and find out how beer writers and bloggers get to become judges. It’s not rocket science, but experience and knowledge gained from brewers and other writers can be as worth as much as any certificate (my first judging gig was in 2000 and I was placed next to Michael Jackson — no pressure then).

Here in a few words is an idiot’s guide to tasting beer, which you might or might not want to carry on forward. So how to taste it, how to know what you’re looking for? Is it as easy as falling off a log or something more ambitious? Surely, say those with a penchant for a pint, beer is a matter of mere swigging, a matter of hanging out with your mates, taking a deep draught and declaiming Brian Blessed-style, ‘by God that’s a good pint’?

That’s true to a point — pontificating on the white pepper notes in your glass is the sign of a show-off. However, the beer drinker can have a discerning palate as much as the wine sipper.

Here’s how

1 Look at the beer. It should be clear (unless it’s a wheat beer or unfined).

2 Judge a beer’s condition by assessing its liveliness — let it dance lightly on the tongue.

3 Note the beer’s colour, which varies according to the malt used.

4 Swirl the beer around to release the aromas and perk up the flavour. Malt might suggest dried fruit, coffee beans, biscuit, smoke, Ovaltine, chocolate, toffee or caramel. Hop-led aromas are fruity, resiny, aromatic, citrusy, peppery, herbal, spicy, lemony and floral. It’s possible to pick out Seville orange marmalade (sometimes lime), juicy grapefruit and tropical fruits such as lychees, passion fruit, mango or papaya). With stronger beers yeast esters add their own complexities such as tropical fruit, banana, apricot skin or a spritzy feel.

5 Taste the beer. Concentrate on the flavour sensations you pick up. Some beers come bearing plenty of fruity flavour, others boast rich, malty savours. What is the essence of the beer in your mouth? Is it smooth, tingling, grainy, thin, acidic or chewy?

6 Does it make you want to reach for the sky when jotting a score? If it should then congratulations, you have just tasted a winner.  

For details on the Beer Academy’s judging beer courses for to www.ibd.org.uk/about-us/beer-academy; meanwhile details on the BCJP can be found at www.bjcp.org.


WIN! Two places on a London Craft Beer Cruise & 3 beer boxes from Craft Metropolis

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Closing date: March 20, 2019 at 23.59.

 

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Moody Brews

MOODY BREWS

In anticipation of his new book Seven Moods of Craft Beer, Adrian Tierney-Jones looks into the soul of beer

Are you in the mood for a beer? Of course you are. But what kind of mood are you in and what kind of mood is the beer that you fancy drinking in? Will there be a row when the two of you meet (and I’m not talking about the kind of tension that comes with badly made cask beer or under ripe keg), or will you get on famously and stay together for the next three glasses or so?

When I think about the mood of a beer, I like to try and guess what the beer in the glass is saying to me. Then I try and think about the kind of discourse I am having with the beer in my hand. What is this beer saying to me, what am I saying back to it? Or is this all a bit too fanciful, a conceit conjured after a few too many?

After all, many might sneer about the idea that a beer can have a soul, a mood, a way of influencing your life, an outlook even. After all, it is just a beer, an intoxicating liquid, coming along in different colours, aromatics and tastes, but it’s still a beer, to be drank and quickly forgotten.

On the other hand, I’ve always wondered about beer, always thought it could be something more than just an intoxicating liquid, a rhyme and a reason for talking to the person on the next table in the pub that you visit on a Sunday afternoon, or a clanking assemblage of carriages ready to take us through the journey we call life. I have always wanted it to be more; I have always wanted it to have its own life, its own personality — which takes me back to the mood of a beer.

So how do we define the mood of a beer, especially when this bottle or glass that you are admiring and trying to understand is just one of many from a single brew (and then there’s the next day’s brew of the same beer). I’m not interested in being pedantic, it’s a leap of faith, a imposition of the imagination, in the same way as you can believe a great meal has a soul or that a poem speaks directly to you. I’m suspending belief and believing in the mood of my beer.

Brief philosophical debate over, let’s move on to see how the beer can chime with our mood and act in harmony. If we are feeling contemplative, thoughtful, quiet almost, in need of some time spent alone, let’s look at the mood of a beer that might be best for this. There’s no need to pick a Czech-style Pilsner for instance, a blond, Saaz-ravished creature of light, chattering away in the glass, lively and loquacious, a great beer in its own right not in the right mood. This is a social beer.

Let’s not go for a saison either, angular and jazz-like in its free form on the palate, brisk and bustling in its mouth feel and sashaying across the tongue with its spice and fruit. That’s a beer for a different mood. Bucolic perhaps; this is a beer to make you think of a lonely Wallonian farmhouse with a history of brewing spanning generations and where the brewing kettle is still direct-fired (I’m looking at you Dupont!).

Instead, when we think about contemplation, maybe we think about stillness, about being in the eye of the storm, of being calm and collected and expecting a beer to possess those same virtues. It could be what Michael Jackson called a ‘book at bedtime’ beer, a slow-drinking barley wine to be enjoyed in a comfortable armchair while the weather does its worse outside. For that sort of contemplative beer I recall a glass of Duits & Lauret Winterstout on a wet night in a canalside bar in Amsterdam several years ago.

However, from my own personal experience, one of the more memorable contemplative beers in the past couple of years has been Alesmith’s Speedway Stout, a glass of which I enjoyed in the Pine Box in Seattle. Yes, the venue was lively and there was music playing, but I personally was thoughtful and contemplative and Speedway Stout was the very beer to mirror that mood. It was sombre in its darkness and its chocolate, coffee, roast grains and bitterness, alongside the heft and weight of its 12% alcohol, were calm and custom-made to be this beacon of tranquillity and contemplation within the noise of the bar (which incidentally used to be a funeral parlour and was where Bruce Lee was laid out — maybe this information helped with the mood).

The beer spoke to me, encouraged me to think about it, to think about its tastes, to enjoy and plug into every facet of its taste and aromatics. I was one with this beer, there was no other beer in the world that I’d rather have at that moment and I contemplated with it, communed with it, as deeply as if I was meditating or doing a session of yoga. This was the true meaning of the mood of a beer, a way of getting close to it, of enjoying without making a fetish of it.

I don’t always want contemplative beers. Sometimes I want social ones, like the Pilsner I mentioned; beers that ring like the finest lines of poetry or beers that are as adventurous as Errol Flynn playing Robin Hood. Beer has a mood, which if you allow yourself time and imagination can match your mood and add lustre and luminosity to your drinking life.

Adrian Tierney-Jones’ The Seven Moods of Craft Beer is out now and available here.


An unreport from a day at the Brewers’ Congress

AN UNREPORT FROM A DAY AT THE BREWERS’ CONGRESS

Adrian Tierney-Jones reflects on a day at the second Brewers’ Journal’s Brewers’ Congress.
Photos: Nic Crilly-Hargrave

How on earth do you write about a day-long conference, or in this case the Brewers’ Journal’s Brewers’ Congress (which was, as last year, held in the August and stirring surroundings of the Institute of Civil Engineers just around the corner from where Churchill stands, that’s the statue btw not the real thing, he’s been dead since 1965)? How on earth do you write about it without getting on a conveyor belt of who said what and who mumbled and who electrified the audience and who went home in tears?

How on earth do you pay justice to the essential eloquence of Garrett Oliver as he blew a metaphorical whistle on the day’s words by stating that craft beer ‘is a return to normality’, and then went on to use the plasticity and toll-booth cheapness of ‘American cheese’ as an example to highlight the way ‘American beer’ had travelled in the same direction since World War II? We’ve obviously talking big beer here. Garrett was, as ever, elegant, articulate and funny, a speaker who I first encountered in 2003 (a cheese and beer tasting at GBBF) and always love listening to. Good hat as well.

How on earth do you ‘review’ a day-long event like the Brewers’ Congress, which was rammed with engaging and light-sabre wielding speakers such as Ulrike Genz from Berliner Weiss brewery Scheeeule, who highlighted the role of Brett in the beer style; or what about Fuller’s head brewer Georgina Young on the joy of collaborating with other breweries, whether Sierra Nevada or the brewers who join in with Fuller’s and Friends; or Colin Stonge from Northern Monk elaborating on his journey through dark beer with a few words on how to make a pastry stout (ok I’m convinced now)?

Well, this is Original Gravity, and we’ll have a stab at anything apart from folk dancing and incest, so here goes.

Only in its second year the Brewers’ Congress has already become an essential part of the calendar, a Goodwood Races of people, information, education and great beer. Even though I have no intention of brewing, it’s an event that cements my allegiance and my sense of ceremony to beer and its satellites. It’s an event, that if I were a brewer, I would mark down in my diary as soon as it was announced, as soon as it was intended. If I had attended in my alter ego as a brewer this year (which will never happen, the alter ego that is), I have would learnt about best cleaning practices (Pete Lengyel, KCBC), cask beer (Andrew Leman, Timothy Taylor), consistency (Sophie de Ronde, Burnt Mill), barrel ageing beer (Chris Pilkington, Põhjala) alongside various panel discussions chaired with characteristic humour and wisdom by John Keeling (if you don’t know who he is please share your secret of space travel because you’ve obviously been on Mars for a while), who came up with another quote of the day, during a debate on whether breweries should focus on their core range or pursue the new: ‘with London Pride, you learn to love it through all the seasons of the year, while a new beer is like a snapshot of a moment in time.’

Your thoughts will be very welcome.

Adrian Tierney-Jones


How to age a bottle of beer

HOW TO AGE A BOTTLE OF BEER

“Yeah, I’m ageing some Orval at the moment.” It sounds quite technical, perhaps even daring. But ultimately, ageing beer is simply resisting the urge to drink them straight away.

All beers age if they aren’t drunk.

They oxidize, and most beers will start to taste stale and papery after their best before date. But some beers age in interesting ways, and even attributes like oxidation can come through positively if they’re in a beer that’s complex enough to work with them.

I WANT MY BEER TO AGE:

  • Choose strong styles such as barley wines, imperial stouts or Trappist ales. If they’re bottle conditioned this will help, as the slow production of carbon dioxide from the secondary fermentation will slow oxidation. But beers age in other ways too so any strong, complex beer is worth a go.
  • Store in a cool, dark place such as a cupboard, or, if you’re lucky enough, a cellar. Warm areas age beers faster.
  • Unlike wine, beer bottles should be stored upright, so the beer doesn’t come into contact with the cap.

I DONT WANT MY BEER TO AGE:

The first change in ageing beers is that the strong, hoppy character breaks down. If you want to drink a juicy IPA at its best, drink fresh and store chilled at all times.