When fresh is not best

By BeertownNZ Tue, 12 Sep 2017 National

The Beertown cellar got a tidy up and census last weekend.

For ‘cellar’, read ‘furtherest corner of the garage’. One of the benefits of living on a Wellington hillside is having a garage cut into the hill and under the house. It’s a relatively constant temperature, though a bit damp at this time of year.

I’ve been meaning to do a census and take a look at optimum drinking times. And as it turns out, I have several bottles in there that should still be good drinking into my retirement.

The census count came to 45 bottles with a mean age of 1.26 years.

The strongest is a 2013 8 Wired Bumaye Imperial stout at 16%.

The biggest is a magnum of Tuatara XV, another imperial stout, at 13 standard drinks.

The oldest is a 2011 Emerson’s Taieri George. I’m hanging on to this for a vertical tasting – I also have a 2014, ’15, ’16 and ’17. If you have a 2012 and 2013 then we should get together.

There’s no deliberate theme, but there is a substantial proportion that have rested in barrels – wine barrels, sometimes, plus a few whiskey barrels and one tequila barrel too.

Most are one-offs as far as my collection goes. In the past I’ve had half a dozen Victory at Sea’s that were picked off one by one over 18 months. My best buy was undoubtedly the dozen Emerson’s JP 2013 Belgian Stout (8%) – I bought these at Moore Wilson in late 2014 when they were past a year old and were discounted from $10 each to $6, as old stock. Boom – instant beer cellar for $72!

Buying by the dozen is useful for tracing a beer’s maturation, but it also means I drink that beer more often. That JP 2013 is all gone now, and as I’m down to the last example of each beer I tend to treat them as more valuable, as most can’t be replaced.

That makes these special occasion beers, ideally enjoyed with others, and that can take organising. The Tuatara XV magnum is going to need a once-in-a-lifetime excuse and some excellent company. That or being trapped inside after an earthquake.

There’s no rush. I really don’t know how long these beers can be expected to last but many could be good for a decade at least. After all, Thomas Hardy’s Ale has a ‘best after 25 years’ reputation. Kererū’s Night Spirit Imperial stout is aged in New Zealand whisky barrels that have been used for decades already, and some of that ancient whisky has infused into the beer. If Night Spirit is good for 25 years then I could be opening it on my 78th birthday, if I can remember where it is.

One more point on that dampness. My landlord says I must keep the garage door open during the day, to let the airflow. I pointed out I have things I don’t want stolen. Her response: “Don’t worry darling. If anyone steals your beers I’ll buy you some more.”

That garage door is staying locked.


Martin Craig


By BeertownNZ Tue, 12 Sep 2017 National