Fresh Schmesh!!

Posted by Terry Bell, March 8th, 2012 | 4 Comments

I think most of us have seen those tv ads for commercial beer, touting it's "freshness". I was always a little skeptical of the advantage of freshness, as beer is a fermented beverage, and, like wine, should probably smooth out and generally improve with some ageing. Since I started making my own beer, however, I have chosen to throw the fresh idea out the window. Here's why.

Last summer, my friend and I made a straight-up Dutch Lager using a Baron's kit with the yeast and hops that were included in the box. We drank most of it soon after it became nicely carbonated, which took about a month of it sitting in an upstairs bedroom (about 20°C) It quickly became a favourite.  We detected a very slight "home made beer taste", which was acceptable because it was by a long shot better than any other home made beers we'd ever tried.  Even so, it was a challenge not to drink it all once we got going that day, but, displaying steely self-discipline we were able to squirrel some away to sample later.

Before we knew it, the cooler evenings came along, bringing us around to drinking a lot more red wine, as well as tucking into the chocolate raspberry port from the previous year. Okay, I admit it. We forgot about the beer. Until last week, when I flipped the top off a one litre "E-Z Cap" bottle of our now nine-month-old Dutch Lager.
Wow.  The delightful hoppiness and crisp aromas literally jumped out of my glass, while I admired the golden colour and creamy head that stayed around until I started drinking it.  Smooth as silk, it was.  But what impressed me most is that the "home made beer taste" was TOTALLY ABSENT, leaving behind nothing but a whole lot of character and flavour.   By the time the bottle was empty, I felt like putting on some wooden shoes and kicking myself in the butt for not saving a whole lot more, "for later".  Lesson learned:  "Fresh, schmesh".       Terry Bell


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Chris Heier wrote on Apr 24, 2012 7:22 PM:
The freshness really depends on the type of beer being brewed. Some lighter beers I've found will lose some of its character over time, especially those that have been dry hopped. Most recently, I tried the Paddock Wood 606, which I've had fresh on tap, and 6 months old. Fresh on tap was much better as the hops really came out nicely with the bitterness, but after 6 months, some of the bitterness was slightly muted, there was little aroma from the hops, and the caramel malt flavour was coming out a lot more. It is the same with a home brewed amber ale I did. The hop flavour and aroma eventually subsided, accentuating some of the caramel malts.

Wheat beers are also not usually a great aging beer and are usually best enjoyed fresh. Every wheat beer I've tried or made will taste different after a few months, but not usually in the best way.

On the flip side, I have an imperial stout that won a gold medal in the Yeast Wranglers competition that has simply been getting better and better with age. The same with almost all of my heavier beers.

It is hard to say how a kit will fare are most of the times you don't know the exact recipe and ingredients that went into making the kit, but when building a recipe from scratch, how it ages is generally a consideration. The best way to combat the loss of some of those fresh flavours... brew a damn good beer so it won't last... :)
Terésa Cerveza wrote on May 27, 2012 8:17 PM:
Hi Chris, thanks a lot for your comments. You're right, I really should have clarified in my article that not all beers are meant to sit in the bottle for a year! But since I am relatively new to beer-making, I would drink everything that came out of the tank within, let's say 2 months. So I really wasn't prepared for the experience of letting this particular beer sit for (in my world) a long time. I have tried the Paddock Wood 606 as well and I agree, it is outstanding right out of the tap.. Congrats on your Yeast Wranglers gold medal and thank you again for your positive feed back, I learned a lot. Cheers!
Don Mitchell wrote on Nov 11, 2012 8:19 PM:
Beer like wine needs to age in. It’s just that with beer it is slightly faster 6 to 9 months versus 6 to 18 for wine. I have beer which is the best part of 1 ½ years old, and is some of the finest beer I have ever tasted. That being said, it is all dark full malt beers. The secret is to have a functional pipe line, so that there is no temptation to drink either the beer or wine too early. My wine closet has lower shelves for beer which I rotate every batch, new 6 packs to the back and old to the front. Every time I have 10 to 12 dozen empties I make another 2 batches. The worst part is that it hurts when I go out for dinner, and have to pay full price for a beer which is no better!
Don Mitchell wrote on Nov 11, 2012 8:28 PM:

If making dark beers, note that the only reason commercial breweries ram the idea of “Ice Cold” down our throats is that the only way questionable beer is drinkable is “Ice Cold”. Drink your beer cold, cool or warm. If it doesn’t taste good warm, it’s because it doesn’t taste good, not because warm beer doesn’t taste good. To really enjoy full malt properly aged beer, start by drinking it fresh out of the cold room / wine cellar, then progressing to room temperature. The only negative, is that once you start enjoying warm beer, you will be disgusted at how hard it to acquire at a pub or restaurant.

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