In the past couple years here at West Vail Liquor Mart; I have noticed that freshness in beer is becoming more and more important to our customers. Increasingly, I hear folks ask for the freshest beer we have. This is especially common with the new hot trend – the New England/Hazy/Juice Bomb IPA. Luckily, we have some great breweries that nail this style and ship their beer incredibly fresh. I do not blame customers that are in search for this style and want to consume as soon as possible. I have noticed that this style has a shorter lifespan than most. This makes sense scientifically as the filtration process does increase shelf life (which is omitted generally in this style). Look specifically for New Image Brewing and Odd 13 Brewing – both breweries make great beers and can get beer here in less than two days from canning.
Here are a few notes on what to look for involving age of beer:
-IPAs are the most important style to drink fresh. Hops fade over time and hops are the featured ingredient in IPAs. Drink unfiltered and Hazy IPAs as soon as you can. We try not to shelf any IPAs that are more than 4 months old. This is when they really start to loose their luster.
-Non-Hoppy beers tend to last closer to 6 months although many producers would prefer that you drink them sooner and will state it on the package.
-95%+ of beers are meant to be consumed as fresh as possible. However, some do benefit from some aging. Prime candidates for aging include Barleywines, Sours, Strong Ales, and Imperial Stouts. These beers sometimes “hot” or “unbalanced” when released and develop more complex and harmonious flavors as oxidation naturally occurs over time.
-A sign of a beer being too old – a papery or cardboard flavor is a sign of a chemical compound which is not pleasant and is an off flavor in beer. Please bring the beer back here if you get any beer from us that have these flavors.
-Experiment! These rules are not set in stone. Sometimes someone might enjoy an IPA with a few months on it rather than brand spanking new. Some people find super fresh beer to be overly “green”. If you want to try cellaring out pick a few beers which you think might develop or even improve over time. Store them at a consistent cellar temperature ~45-55 degrees F. This process can be really fun but don’t expect that every beer with get better with time. With practice you can figure out which beers most greatly benefit from some age.
Remember all these rules when picking out a beer here or anywhere. We are working very hard to keep the freshest examples of our entire beer selection so you can enjoy it as the brewer intended.
-Dean Lorusso, Beer Buyer, West Vail Liquor Mart