Local beer cellar bets

San Diego County beers best suited for prolonged aging

The term “beer cellar” can come off a bit pretentious, intimidating ale and lager fans who are only ankle-deep in the liquid medium. But fear not. Unlike wine cellars, which veer toward the legitimately pretentious, beer depositories aren’t subterranean lairs of lavish excess. Often, they’re converted fridges of the standard or wine variety, or more typically, a gaggle of bottles tightly packed in a dark closet or underneath a staircase. Both methods, while divergent from one another, serve the same purpose — temperature control and light deprivation. Spiking and dipping temps, natural light and oxygen do the fastest and greatest harm to beers, so if one keeps that in mind and can locate the spot in their home that stays steady at 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit (or as close as possible), then make sure to keep aging bottles form getting “lightstruck,” they can have a “beer cellar.”

But what beers do you age? There are but a few rules. Typically, one looks to age higher-alcohol beers — imperial stouts, barley wines, strong ales, Scotch ales, etc. It’s best to aim for 8% alcohol-by-volume and above. That said, there are some lower alcohol beers that, though they aren’t capable of holding up in their original form, will become more interesting as their base liquid deteriorates and added ingredients — yeast, Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus, spirit essences brought on by barrel-aging — flourish, transforming the brew into something entirely different. Another rule that applies is to avoid aging hop-forward beers. Hops are the first thing to fall away as a beer gets older and nearly every pale ale, India pale ale, double IPA, and the like were meant to be consumed as fresh as possible, with the rare exception being nouveau Brettanomyces IPAs and barrel-aged IPAs.

Even armed with the information above, determining which bottles can be aged can be challenging. So, I’ve developed a cheat sheet for readers. The following are craft beers produced throughout San Diego County that will absolutely age, and age quite well. For further questions about how long to age them or what to expect from them down the road, it’s best to inquire with the individual brewing companies.

AleSmith Brewing Company, Miramar: Grand Cru (Belgian-style strong ale), Old Numbskull (barley wine), Speedway Stout (imperial stout), Wee Heavy (Scotch ale)

Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits, Scripps Ranch, Miramar, Linda Vista, Little Italy: Indra Kunindra (foreign export stout), Sea Monster Stout (imperial stout), Victory at Sea (coffee and vanilla imperial porter)

Coronado Brewing Company, Coronado, Bay Park: Stoopid Stout (imperial stout)

Green Flash Brewing Company, Mira Mesa: Double Stout (hoppy black ale), Tripel (Belgian-style strong ale)

Iron Fist Brewing Company, Vista: Uprising (Belgian-style Trippel-IPA), Velvet Glove (imperial stout)

Karl Strauss Brewing Company, 4S Ranch, Carlsbad, Downtown, La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Sorrento Mesa: Wreck Alley (imperial stout)

Lightning Brewery, Poway: Black Lightning Porter (hoppy Baltic-style porter)

The Lost Abbey, San Marcos: 10 Commandments (Belgian-style strong ale), The Angel’s Share (barley wine), Carnevale (Belgian-style farmhouse ale), Cuvee de Tomme (Belgian-style sour ale), Deliverance (imperial stout), Gift of the Magi (Belgian-style strong ale), Judgment Day (Belgian-style strong ale), Lost and Found (Belgian-style strong ale), Serpent’s Stout (imperial stout)

Mike Hess Brewing Company, North Park: Umbris (rye imperial stout)

Mission Brewery, East Village: Dark Seas (imperial stout)

New English Brewing Company, Sorrento Valley: Zumbar (coffee and vanilla imperial stout)

Port Brewing Company, San Marcos: Santa’s Little Helper (imperial stout), Old Viscosity (imperial stout), Older Viscosity (imperial stout)

Rough Draft Brewing Company, Miramar: Emboozlement Tripel (Belgian-style strong ale)

Stone Brewing Co., Escondido: Double Bastard Ale (American strong ale), Enjoy After IPA (Brett IPA), Imperial Russian Stout (imperial stout), Old Guardian Barley Wine (barley wine)

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