A Beer That Is Past It’s Drinking Window Tastes BAD…

Unless It Doesn’t

OKAY…I’m nowhere close to egotistical enough to suggest that I know better than ANY reputable beer scientist or brewer about ANYTHING having to do with how beer is made or stored or intended. And certainly, as I am a HUGE Firestone Walker fan (Union Jack in my beer fridge NOW), I’m taking their view as Gospel.


HOWEVER, ahem…I’m gonna GENTLY suggest to the minds at Firestone Walker that there IS an alternate viewpoint…

A few years back, when I was running a major online beer retailer, I took home a six-pack of 21st Amendment Brewing’s Shaun O’Sullivan’s lovely “Brew Free or Die” IPA. Judye and I drank five, over a couple of weeks and then I did spring cleaning and somehow stuck the sixth can at the very back of my fridge’s vegetable crisper drawer…and forgot about it.

A full YEAR and three weeks later, I found that can and got a little sick about it. I LOVE that beer and drank a lot of it. I was totally against the idea of pouring it down a sink, if only out of respect for Shaun. So, that evening, I sat on the patio and opened the beer, expecting NOTHING.

And it was WONDERFUL.

As FW says in this piece, it did develop notes of caramel and grains and toffee but those were SUBTLY underpinned by a hint of the original hops, which mostly served to drag it away from anything too sweet and cloying. No, it was NOT really what we all think of as an IPA at all. But “faded“? Depends on how you define that. It still had sufficient intensity of flavors for me, but DIFFERENT flavors, probably not anything like what Shaun intended. Stylistically, it had more in common with an Amber but a really sorta oddly GOOD Amber.

MUCH of the history of beer – and wine and whiskey and fermentation in general – originally came about by accident. White Zinfandel, famously, happened to Bob Trinchero, with a stuck fermentation of clear-ish Zin juice at Sutter Home. It wasn’t what he was trying to make but, in popularity terms, it was one of wine history’s great fuck-ups. Sour ales came about with bacteria in European homebrewers’ homes infecting regular ales. Cider originally came about when apples rotted and fermented spontaneously, from the wild yeasts on their skins. And so on. If we remove the possibility for serendipity like this, of small miracles that shock us, we take a LOT of the adventure out of experimentation.

As is chanted like the mantra of modern beer knowledge, “Fresh Beer Tastes Better!” We all know this. And, yeah, even I completely agree. If I want an IPA, I want a FRESH IPA. But if I want a Stout? Then that adage gets slapped hard with a provisional “maybe“. “Fresh Beer Tastes Better – MOST of The Time!” Not “always“. Sometimes, it just tastes different…And “tastes different” does not always mean, “tastes bad“. I completely enjoyed that beer and have since experimented with storing and drinking MANY allegedly non-age-worthy beers past their suggested drinking date. My preferred consumption window for my beloved Deschutes “Jubelale”, in fact, is the following summer.

You want to pour out that “stale” IPA? Fine. Your choice. But if you can suppress what we all “know” about it, you MIGHT just taste something very nice. Not EVERY time but, hey…

It happens.

Speak yer piece, Pilgrim.

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