Our brewer and infamous beer collector & trader Andrew Bell had some very thorough points on cellaring. Here's what Andrew has been up to with his beer collection.
I'm going to hold onto ___________ the longest. Probably up to _________ years/months!
I usually don't intentionally plan on aging one of my beers for more than five or six years at the longest (with a few exceptions). As far as ones that might stick around for a while: I have a case of 2011 Tilquin that will probably last another 10 years (if I open one a year), as well as a case each of Pelican's Perfect Storm and Mother of All Storms from a few years ago.
From the remaining bottles that I have of Partridge, at least one of them will last the 12 years. I ended up stocking up on that beer when it was first released and common on shelves out here in SoCal. I wasn't working for The Bruery back then, but I loved the beer fresh and ended up buying a case and a half of it around Christmastime. I still have about half a case yet. I figured that it was pretty affordable, tasty, and with all the craziness that was starting to build around Stone Brewing Co.'s 02.02.02, I figured that Partridge would probably be a good investment.
My most exciting beer opening will be _________ because I plan on opening it at ___________.
No real plans. I find that I generally open up the rare stuff around Christmastime with old friends and family. Some of the ones that will probably happen soon are my 3 Fonteinen Armand Lente and my last bottle of Lost Abbey's Isabelle Proximus.
When I first started cellaring my beer away, I made the mistake of cellaring beers that I now realize will not really improve with age. Coffee imperial stouts and such, and some fruit sours that have not really improved all that much.
The item I am in search of for my cellar is __________ because it would make it the most awesome cellar ever.
To be honest, most of my cellar wants these days are beers that I know will be good at a set time in the future ... and they are generally not that hard to find. 18 month old Orval, two to three year old Saison Rue, four to five year old Rochefort 10, Tilquin Gueuze and Girardin Black Label. (I really like my 3 Fonteinen Gueuze pretty fresh, under two years from the release), and Fuller's Vintage.
The biggest cellaring disappointment for me was when I opened ______________ because __________ happened.
I haven't really had too many cellar disappointments, as I treat cellaring as a gamble most of the time. I still have six bottles of the infected 2009 batch of Abyss, but mostly instead of disappointments, I have opened up a few beers that turned somewhat lifeless (Green Flash Silva Stout, notably). I have also had a few lambics that went past their prime and a three year old bottle of a very highly rated imperial stout from a San Diego brewery that ended up turning sour.
In contrast, when I opened ___________ after _______ years/months, it had become the perfect beer!
That said, I have had plenty of good results with certain beers, particularly Fuller's Vintage that hits a really nice sweet spot around four to five years (in my cellar conditions). Also a bit of a shocker was a bottle of Stone Brewing Co. 10th anniversary that I forgot about for two years. When I found it, in 2008 (two years after the release) I was going to give or throw it away, but I decided to taste it, and I was very glad that I did, as it had turned into a brilliant American barley wine. That said, I would not recommend aging IPAs -- the smell of oxidized hops drives me crazy!
On the topic of cellaring, I remember seeing an interview with Matt Brynildson a few years back asking which was his favorite Firestone anniversary. He always said the freshest one. I have quite a few of those, and to be honest, I'm starting to agree with him. The blend tastes spot of for the first year or so after bottling, but after that they mellow and get sort of muted.
Check out the rest of our Bruers' cellars: