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Best Bottle for EXTENDED cellaring

A friend just had a baby boy and I am thinking of getting a beer suitable for cellaring for 16-21 years. I know it is a stretch but it could be quite fun.

Has anyone ever tried this? If not this, has anyone enjoyed a bottle that is approaching this age? If so, what?

What bottle (not styles) would you recommend? Ideally, it would be a 2010 vintage but this isn't critical. My first thought was a four-pack of Thos. Hardy but it is no longer being produced. I imagine Utopias would do just fine but I'm looking for something a little more conventional. Any other ideas?

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  1. American barleywine is pretty cellarable, and I know people who have aged Bigfoot (Sierra Nevada). In fact, it's recommended you age it as the flavor profile changes over time and it gets more malty

    3 Replies
    1. re: chuckl

      I recall that the folks at the brewery like their Bigfoot fresh (as do I), while the hop oils still stick to the lips.

      Better for aging would be a more malty barley wine.

      1. re: Jim Dorsch

        I've had friends age Bigfoot and Monster for years and they turned out rather good.

        1. re: Jim Dorsch

          Then again, the same guy has 10 years worth of anchor steam Xmas.

      2. There are a few options open to you, and they're inexpensive enough you could even buy two so you can verify quality when it's time to give your gift.

        These are all beers that I've had after extended aging:

        JW Lees Harvest Ale - English barleywine. I had one that was 10 years old and it was still very good, though somewhat oxidized.

        Chimay Grande Reserve - I've had this also at 10 years old, and it was tremendous. No oxidation I could detect. This is probably a very safe option.

        Lindemans Cassis - I'm aware this sounds strange, but I sat on a bottle of this for somewhere around 5-6 years, and it was amazing. Lindemans does still have wild yeast in it, so it does improve with age. Lambic is unique in that regard, since low alcohol beers normally don't age well. The active cultures in this beer keep working on it. Plus the fact that it's corked and capped I think helps prevent oxidation.

        Heck, do several, and have a tasting when the big 21 rolls around.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Josh

          Definitely JW Lees. I was thinking that one of the massive Dogfish Head beers might also be a good candidate (World Wide Stout, e.g.).

        2. I'll second the Chimay Grand Reserve, I had a 98, 99 and 2001 and they were all good (the 98 was a little bit musty).
          I've had a really great Geuze Mariage Parfait that was a 2002 I think, it's usually quite sour but it was really well balanced after getting some age on it. To me, it also feels a little more special, since it's more rare to see this, or any geuze, in the states.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Shaggy

            I once had a 12 year old Cantillon Kriek that was out of this world. Aged lambics rock.

            1. re: Josh

              I'll 3rd Josh's suggestions, some excellent choices there. Good job Josh!

              Another brew which surprised the heck out of me was a barleywine called Abacus, made by Firestone Walker. I'm not much of a barleywine fan really, but last week I visited the Firestone brewery in Paso Robles California and had this on tap and it was absolutely superb. Best barleywine I've ever had bar none.

              As of this moment it's not available for purchase, however word has it they are going to start bottling it soon, and if that's the case I plan on buying a few and sitting on them for a while.

              1. re: Whisper

                Abacus is a fantastic beer. It is one of the components of their annual anniversary blend.

              2. re: Josh

                Cantillon is awesome, that's a good suggestion. I had one a while back that I didn't allow to age, but the bottle read "best before 2025".

                1. re: Shaggy

                  I once lucked into a 4 year old bottle of Cantillon Iris at an Indian restaurant (of all places) in Las Vegas (of all places). Apparently the previous beverage manager was a beer geek, and he left a legacy of a ridiculously good bottle selection.

            2. I'd go with Rogue Old Crustacean. It's meant to be cellared and even the brewmaster recommends cellaring as it gets better with age.

                1. I've had a few well aged beers lately. They were stored in my cellar with fine wine. Some held up better than others. Any hop character will just fade as the beer matures. JW Lee's 2000 was quite good in a recent tasting, though lacking in carbonation. Thomas Hardy's Ale ages very nicely, if you can still find any around. Two years ago, had one with about 15 years in the bottle. Sort of whiskey character if my memory serves me right. Quelque Chose from Unibroue in Canada--Lovely heated up like a baby's bottle-has an age statement something to the effect of best before 2025. The higher the alcohol, the better the brew will age. That's why barleywines hold up so well. .

                  1. I think you need to be careful with a lot of the suggestions below for a few reasons.

                    1) very few beers hold up over 10 years. Even great Trappist beers do fade after 10 years. Sure you can drink a 16 y.o. Chimay, but it is clearly on its way down. I would say Chimay is a good 5-10year cellar beer, but not really beyond. Westveletren fades after a mere 5yrs. Must be careful.

                    2) I think Thos. Hardy is a good choice, as it has proven ageability. If you don't want to go with TH, then think of other great English BW, like JW Lees Harvest Ale. Samiclaus could be another great one for that distance. It might be interesting to try some DFH stuff too, like Olde School BW

                    3) Stick to basics. Lambic, or Flanders Reds, can age for eternity. Get some Goudenband, Cantillon or something else sour from Belgium. Store it at proper temp and enjoy in 16-21. I had an 87 Goudenband in 02 and it was top of its game. 2.50 euro at the brewery!

                    Avoid hoppy beers is my final suggestion.


                    1 Reply
                    1. re: TimJE

                      I like your suggestions, mostly. Especially for the lambics. I do have to disagree with the Hardy's though. I once had a cellared '85 Hardy and it was definitely far too oxidized.

                      I'm a little puzzled by the Chimay comment - Chimay Grande Reserve's alcohol is comparable to a barleywine, and the 10 year old Chimay I had was really good.

                      Lastly, the only thing I'd disagree with about the hoppy beers is that I think they can age pretty well, provided you're OK with the hoppiness fading over time. I've had aged double-IPAs that became delicious, malty barleywine-like beers after some time in the bottle.

                    2. Last night I opened a Samichclaus 1996 bottling ( from the original Hurliman's brewery in Zurich). It had lost most of it's spritz and had become more malty than I remembered. It was smooth and had a ton of fruit but about half way through I picked up some off flavors. I went ahead and finished the bottle anyhow. About an hour later I had a very bad stomach ache and had to spend the rest of the evening in the john.
                      I never had a reaction like that to any beer before and am mystified as to why it could have happened. Samichlaus was bottled at 12% and that alone should have protected the beer from turning that bad. BTW, it wasn't dinner or everyone else would have had the same problem, I think.
                      I have one more bottle of the same year and will be very cautious if and when I ever open it.

                      1. I had the most amazing 1984 Eylenbosch Gueuze in Rome last September; any gueuze seems to get batter with ageā€¦ that was 25 years and the experience was incredible

                        Maybe a Cantillon Gueuze 100% Lambic

                        1. SIerra Nevada released a 30th anniversary ale with Fritz Maytag as guest brewer. They are touting its ageability, so I'm going to get some to drink now and some to lay down for a while.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: fiddlr40

                            Time will tell but I don't hold a lot of hope for "Fritz & Ken" to survive extensive aging.

                            All of my bottles have enormous amounts of head space / low fill levels. Bottles are probably purged of oxygen but that's not a good sign. I've laid down four anyway. A year or two will probably be great but I really doubt it's got decade potential.

                            1. re: Kevin B

                              The design of the new S-N bottle and what looks to be a low fill level is explained in this post by a S-N rep http://beeradvocate.com/forum/read/26... (second half of the post).

                              1. re: JessKidden

                                I'm not coming at it from a volume, just a head space issue. The more head space involved the greater the potential for early oxidation. It's a really nice beer. I reviewed it on BA.

                                1. re: Kevin B

                                  Nor did the link only address the seemingly low volume issue - "the head space on the bottle is evacuated with nitrogen (hence the louder pop) and that will reduce some oxidation."

                                  Just thought you'd want to know that the "low fill level" (your term) was normal due to a unique bottle design and that the brewery itself has addressed the aging potential.

                                  1. re: JessKidden

                                    I'm not arguing with what SN says about their fill level. Nitrogen purged or not, unless you're corking in a O2 free clean room, O2 will be introduced into the bottle at corking. The larger surface area exposed to O2 in the neck can have an effect on ageing.

                                    Maybe "low fill" is why you're jumping on this but I can't of a better description for packaging that exposes more than normal surface area, intentional or not.

                                    A huge majority of commercial beers are counter pressure filled and purged. But that doens't stop oxidation from occuring.

                                    I remain open to the possiblity that the beer will age well but also remain skeptical that it will go a decade for the reasons I've stated. I'll be happy to be wrong.

                                    1. re: Kevin B

                                      "Maybe "low fill" is why you're jumping on this..."

                                      Sorry. I' didn't mean to be "jumping on" anything.

                                      Just thought S-N's info was interesting and thought some might folks like to read it if they missed it because there has been mention of the level of the fill in the neck in a few beer centric areas of the 'net.

                            2. I'd go with Lambics too.

                              But I've had mid 80's Samiclaus that lost their carbonation but were still good. I've had good 10 year old Stille Nacht that made it fine and Old Crustacean is a good candidate. Bigfoot will go that long. It won't be peak but it will be enjoyable.