I was asked recently for a few photos of my beer cellar. 'Cellar' is a very strong word, and can mean many things to various people and get everyone's nose in a twist. Fun Fact: I don't have an actual cellar! Most people who choose to age their beer don't really, with a large number opting for a fridge. I don't have a fridge either. (I'm still waiting for a reason to cough up $1000+ for the one I really want)
With that, I give you the ghetto fabulous 1960's West End Vancouver kitchen beer 'cellar.' So far it has been pretty good to me. Details below, and some tips at the end. Enjoy!
Yup. It's pretty hideous. I'm sure someone's Grandma really liked it 50 years ago. Surprisingly, the tiled kitchen sink area actually provides a certain amount of heat insulation. I haven't tested, but the air inside the cabinet usually feels slightly colder when I open them after an extended period of time being closed. The kitchen also gets no heat, is sealed off from the living room by a curtain, and in summer the building is shaded by giant weeping willow trees, it stays very cool year round.
At this point I'd like you to make a mental guess as to how much beer I have in there.
On closer inspection, hmm, there's quite a bit in there. The styrofoam sheets I had laying around, and whether they serve a real purpose I'm not sure, but it helps slide bottles in and out, and keeps spiders and other creepy crawlers away. I'd like to note that in general it stays quite dry in there, despite being so close to the sink. Humidity is a big factor in proper cellaring. The most important thing is that you store your beer in a completely dark place. Light is enemy #1. Heat is enemy #2. I keep bottles away from the actual sink as when doing dishes it warms up quite a bit. Probably not enough to do anything, but maybe.
A few more peaks inside reveals some cases. Generally I just take what the bottle shop gives me to take beer home in, but it's worth noting that something with handles is very handy. Also, better quality cardboard makes a difference. Ideally I'd use plastic cases if they were available in the proper size. Cardboard can get soggy easily, and attract bugs. But it matches my ghetto aesthetic pretty well.
Taking it all out, yes, it's a lot of beer! Who knew you could fit so much under the kitchen sink. I have about 150-200 bottles at any given time in various sizes. The full list of what's in there can be found here at CellarHQ Usually what goes in actual boxes is what I plan on aging for awhile and I keep those at the back. As for time-frame, most beers I keep 1-2 yrs, but I've had success with anything over 3yrs that I've opened so far.
Boxes also contain most of my verticals (what we call beers in various years of the same brew) for easy sorting. I somewhat sort by style in the box, but often it becomes full of beer from one brewery, or region.
A few more peaks inside. Generally I'd say cellar what you like, and develop a set of personal favorites. I may have a slight addiction for Firestone Walker...
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed a look inside! As much as I love this 'vintage beer cellar' I'm quite excited to be moving in 2015, and at that point I'll be looking at a proper temperature controlled fridge. Quick tips below!
Jonny's Beer Cellaring Tips
- Keep it dark. Keep it cool. Keep it dry (but not bone dry)
- Sorting helps a lot, and you'll spend less time looking. CellarHQ is a great inventory site.
- BeerAdvocate has a great cellar forum for people opening and trying different years, although it lacks severely in Canadian brews.
- Take off the foil! Any beer I've had with a foil wrapped top has rusted. Rust is bad. It can destroy a proper seal.
- Keep corks clean. It's a good idea to have a look at corked bottles every now and then for mold. A warm rag wipe off does the trick, unless it's really bad, then open it and drink ASAP! I've been looking at small dehumidifier packs you don't need to plug in (but then charge once full). They're supposed be pretty awesome.
- A warmer cellar will age beers quicker than a really cold one. Which isn't always a bad thing. Your 2012 might be the same as someone's 2011! *in theory. There are many reasons why one vintage will taste different than another, not just time.
- Waxed bottles are hard to open? No they aren't. Use a match to soften the wax. Easy.
- Drink what you like, and stash a bottle for a year, experimenting is fun!