Most people know that beers like barley wines and stouts do incredibly well with some age. On the other hand, most people think that hoppy beers are meant to be drank as fresh as possible. The question: is it wise to mix in some double IPA’s in your cellar along with your other beer?
I recently had a chance to enjoy a bottle of Goose Island Double IPA that Ted Sullivan (Binny’s corporate beer buyer) kept in his cellar for a very long time. The bottle said 2007 on the top label, and the back of the bottle said enjoy by 4/12/08. So two years after it was brewed, and a year after it went out of code, this Goose Island double IPA found it’s way into my favorite beer glass. It smelled very malty, and I got a hint of honey. The hops had faded almost completely from this beer, although I still detected a faint bitterness on the finish. The faded hops caused this beer to taste a lot more malty and caused an above average alcohol burn. I was very surprised at how well this beer held up over the last two years. It was very pleasant, and reminiscent of a barley wine. It is tough to say whether or not aging this beer made it better, because it is almost a totally different beer after two years. The bottom line is that Goose Island’s double IPA is a solid beer fresh or aged.
While the Goose Island Double IPA was a suprising success, I wouldn’t recommend aging just any hoppy beer. Look for one that has a solid malt backbone, and make sure it is pretty high in alcohol. I had a negative experience with a certain fresh hopped beer recently. It was only 6% alcohol, and somehow managed to get buried in the back of my fridge for about 4 months. It was one of the best beers I have ever had when it was fresh, but it was undrinkable after 4 months in the fridge and got poured down the drain after a few sips.
I would venture to guess that most breweries would recommend consuming hoppy beers as fresh as possible. On a recent tour of Three Floyd’s brewery, we were informed why Dreadnaught Double IPA goes missing from Binny’s shelves every once in awhile. Three Floyd’s doesn’t brew another batch until they are fairly sure that their past one is all but history. This insures that every bottle of Dreadnaught will be hoppy and citrusy when bought, but most importantly fresh. I’m sure Dreadnaught would be a fine beer when given some time to age, but this is not the intentions of the brewers. I’d like to know what your intentions are. Not a fan of aged hoppy beers? Not a problem, just make sure to give us your two cents on this debate.