Booze Banter

Vertical Beer Tasting Q&A

Since I’ve been going back and forth with our friends at Alcohol and Aphorisms about the effects of aging on high ABV beer (I often find them to be a bit too boozy for my tastes), I thought I would add to the discussion by posting a brief Q&A with Miracle Max (taken from our Facebook page) regarding his experiences with vertical tastings of Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout (BBCS)…

Miracle Max (MM): I have a bunch of “aged” BBCS. Maybe 8-10 different annual brewings (can you call them vintages if it aint vino? Hops comes on a vine right?). Vertical Tasting!!!!

G-LO: Have you figured out the BBCS break even point yet, i.e. at what point does it go from getting better with age to getting worse?

MM: It depends on the person, the beer temperature, and how much you have already drank. In the beginning I like the very old, but it is very subtle, mild, a lot of alcohol flavor and syrupy with very little hop or carbonation. Port-like. Then …as my tongue gets slightly numbed from the high alcohol (or just used to the flavor) it starts to be too watery. At that point I start liking it younger and younger. If it gets too warm sometimes too much bite comes through and I start to go back towards older (which is now getting a bit more flavorful with the rising temp). Other people reacted differently, some like the very young at first but over time said they started to appreciate the older… I think I normally like it around 5 years old if I just take one out of the fridge to drink by itself. By the time it reaches 10 (under my storage conditions) it seems like a waste of beer, although I like to save a bottle or two just to illustrate the point in a vertical tasting. It is NOT an infinite projection upwards but in fact a bell curve.

G-LO: So 5 is the magic number. I don’t have the patience to let anything sit around for that long, especially beer or whisky. The only alcoholic beverages that tend to linger are the mixers, i.e. gin, vodka, rum, etc.. Have you done verticals with other beers or just the BBCS?

MM: Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barleywine, and some other high gravity beers. I have around 8 years of Bigfoot. I think I have 20+ cases of various beers right now.

G-LO: You’re ready for the Apocalypse! 😉

So there you have it! Under the right storage conditions, high ABV beers will actually improve with age (but only to a certain point of course).

13 replies »

  1. Isn’t this a little like the question of “How many licks does it take to get to the center of the Tootsie Roll Pop?” Who waits five years for beer. I have to restock every five days!!


    • Good advice A&A! May have to give that a try. The key will be finding a space that the wife and kids will never think to look. Pull a Jedi mind thing too… “These are not the beers you are looking for!” 🙂


  2. This is a great article. My friend and I will store a few (brands) away each year. Usually, they only make it a year or two. But we have a few that are creeping up on three years and there’s been the question in our head about what’s good and what’s not. And we’re novices. I can’t wait to reference this thing next winter.


    • Glad you enjoyed the article! Miracle Max takes his beer aging very seriously and seems to know what he’s doing. I have never attempted it. Should you happen to crack open some of your reserves, please report back and let us know how it goes.


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