Most people don’t realize you can cellar beer similar to how you cellar wine. It undergoes similar chemical processes- notably oxidation. The spice and hops in beer fades with time, and the flavours usually become more blended and complex. Beers come out in vintages, just like wine, although they’re rarely labelled as such. Although most mega beer companies (Bud, Miller, etc.) strive for consistency year after year, smaller operations may adjust their recipe based on their own evolution, availability of ingredients, etc. These small changes can contribute to changes in batches and certainly changes in vintages.
We have been hoarding beer in the basement for five years. High gravity beers age better than regular gravity beers, so they’re all over 8% ABV. We tried to collect beers which come out consistently- Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch and Weyerbacher’s Fifteen were the most successful on this score. A few we had only two years’ worth. After collecting for five years, we decided to open them up with some beer-loving friends.
We had a total of fifteen different beers of at least two vintages, and a few with four vintages. It turned out to be more alcohol than anticipated. We didn’t meet our goal of finishing it all- only about a third was done in by us and our nine friends. The conclusion for most was that the older beers were nice if you appreciate smooth flavour, and the newer beers were better if you wanted distinct flavour.
Hoarding beer is a great hobby, but ultimately too much for us to keep track of. If you haven’t tried it, we’d strongly encourage you to collect for a vertical tasting of your own. It was a singularly remarkable experience.