Most beers are made to be consumed fairly quickly (that is, shortly after brewing, not to be “swallowed”). And that's because the volatile compounds that make up the flavor of beer will change and often run out over time, while the proteins that give it to the body will deteriorate and oxidation will slowly take hold. As a general rule, darker beers age better than light beers. Beer with a high alcohol content tends to respond better to aging than other beers.
The exception to this second rule are high-alcohol beers that have hop, fruity, or other subtle flavor notes. The compounds responsible for these flavors tend to break down over time, which means they're best enjoyed fresh. Aged beer can have a number of benefits if it's made correctly and with the right type of beer. It can bring out different flavors in beer, such as bread flavors, earthy notes, and woody or metallic aftertastes.
It also tends to reduce the bitterness of beer, as hops lose some of their potency over time. The question of whether beer should be aged is a very personal matter for every brewer. As for whether beer gets better as it ages, the answer is usually no. But remember that it can be, and it's certainly worth experimenting with it, because you have to explore, try and manipulate a temperamental drink like beer to see what you can think of.
Although beer aging is very complex, we know that some types of beer tend to age better than others. Strong beers tend to be more worthy of aging than low-alcohol beers. Beers that age well tend to have relatively high hop bitterness, but have more malt than hop aromas. The relatively high residual sugar content confers an advantage (barley wines, imperial dark beer, old beers), but some dry styles may work well.
Strong, dark Belgian beers, Trappists and Abbey beers, for example, tend to age well, despite their relative lack of residual sugar. Although it is not always true that darker beers age better than paler beers, this is often the case, with notable exceptions such as lambic beers and some Belgian triples. Pale beers tend to darken over time, but dark beers can turn slightly paler as their color compounds combine with other elements and settle. As is the case with wines worthy of aging, beers that are destined to be beautiful after 10 years or more of bottle-aging will tend to first experience a tough, expressionless and disconnected youth.
Freshly brewed beer put in a bottle is green beer. Not ready to drink yet. Therefore, most bottled beers need a relatively short period of aging in the bottle or a period of maturation. This can take one to two weeks and sometimes up to a few months.
Any longer than that, and the beer will start to get rancid. Why would you want to age beer? In other words, what benefit does aging have? It's interesting to note that beer doesn't deepen or develop its flavor as it ages. What happens is that strong flavors tend to decrease and the more discrete flavors and characteristics of beer occur as the beer ages. This interesting production process is the exact antithesis of how wine ages.
Beer doesn't deepen or develop its flavor as it ages. Because of the interactions between its complex microflora, the aging of Lambic beer is unique among beers. The beer fermentation process produces hundreds of secondary metabolites, in addition to the alcohol and carbon dioxide created by the yeast, and some of those metabolites are not as pleasant to drink, such as acetaldehyde, which can actually make you sick. Pale beers and other beers that emphasize the hop flavor of their beer are known for their distinctive flavor.
While brewing and storing your own beer is a way to get a satisfying drink, you can also let professionals ensure that you get the best quality product. Oxidation, while normally considered a form of damage at virtually every stage of the brewing process, is an important part of the deliberate aging of both beer and wine. The cans do not let in absolutely any light and have an inner lining that never allows the beer to come into contact with the metal of the can. Exactly the same thing happens with beer: most beers are at their best the day they leave the brewery and, depending on the conditions, have a limited shelf life, often measured in months and rarely longer than a year.
Some high-end restaurants and enthusiast bars have vintage beer collections, but supplies are naturally limited. The interesting thing about the temperamental nature of beer is that it actually takes quite a long time to turn into beer. The aging of beer, an aspect of beer knowledge that modern breweries, beer enthusiasts, serious beer bars and restaurants are rapidly rediscovering. Avoid this problem by storing the beer that you are going to leave to age in a dark place and minimize exposure to light.
While some beers improve after being allowed to age for some time before consumption, there is no guarantee that a beer will improve if left in the cellar for a while. The general rule when it comes to aging beer is that the more hops it has, the less you want to age it. Another good thing about aging beer is that you don't have to wait an exorbitant amount of time for the beer to develop before you can enjoy it. While the type of beer that is going to be allowed to age is important, it is also vital to create the right conditions for the beer to age properly.