Beer On My Shirt: On Aging

J. R. Shirt, June 10, 2015

As a young boy, I recall sitting in my father's car on our way to Mom's house, listening to the La Bamba soundtrack. At the time, I had an all-consuming crush on a young lady in my class named Becky, and the song "Donna", as performed by Los Lobos, really tugged at my heart strings. I would sing along, substituting the name Becky every time Los Lobos said Donna.

As an older man, I look back on this yearning and the volume at which I projected my yearning as both comical and slightly embarrassing. But from the wise perspective that fatherhood offers, I find the entire series of events – the repeated viewings of La Bamba, Dad buying me the La Bamba soundtrack at a grocery store, and then the bi-weekly listenings on the long, night drives – this went on for months (Becky just would not have me) – completely hilarious in that awkward way of Wes Anderson movies.

Life sometimes needs a little time and a little space to offer a more appealing perspective. Sometimes beer can work the same way – a little time and a little space, preferably in a basement – and things change. Sometime for the better. Sometimes not. But keep in mind, it is always about perspective.

My daughter was recently singing softly from the backseat – which is what brought this odd childhood moment back to my mental stage. Unfortunately, I was too overwhelmed with memories of La Bamba to make a mental note of what specifically she was singing, but it was soft, it was sweet, and most importantly, I could hear her.

The Donna/Becky performances, which may or may not have included a singular teardrop, were performed in the passenger seat of my Dad's Mazda RX-7. So if I could hear my daughter's fairy princess butterfly voice in the spacious cabin of my Subaru Forester, then my dumb nerd voice was most certainly audible inside the locket-sized interior of that RX-7. Maybe I realized it then and wanted the world to know, and maybe I didn't. But I know now – not just because time has passed and I now take up more space – but also because of experience.

Like most things in life, aging beer is equal parts time, space, and experience. My general rule of thumb with beer is if I like it, I do not age it. The exception to that rule, for me personally, is Bell's Expedition Stout – last year I purchased a case, as I do every winter (ah, experience), specifically to age. So I drank a fresh six pack last winter, a year old six pack this winter (along with a few fresh bottles I picked up from the bottle shop, and next winter I will drink a two year old sixer, and so on and so forth. So far, it has been an enjoyable endeavor.

However, I've also had aging experiences I did not enjoy. Hopping Frog's BORIS is one that I've aged only to realize I enjoy the fresh product more (We podcasted that one if you'd like to hear more about that). This was actually the beginning of the rule of thumb I mentioned earlier – if you like it fresh, why waste the time? Maybe I'm just not the gambling type.

Most recently though, I accidentally aged a bottle of Evil Twin's I Love With My Stout. I simply forgot about it for a time and then didn't want to drink it without trying a fresh one – so then I had to wait until I saw a few fresh ones on the shelf. Eventually, I found it fresh and drank it. And was slightly disappointed – both in the taste and in that I thought the beer was called I Love You With All My Stout up until I actually opened the bottle and read the label.

Obviously, this experience did not leave me excited to try the aged version. But I persevered and a few nights later I drank the year-old bottle.

I Love You With My Stout, Evil Twin Brewing

Appearance = 5/5

Black with a light mocha, tan head – retains about a finger of said head, with a melted ice cream sort of look to it. Great lacing. The rating numbers are for the fresh pour, but the aged looked the same with maybe just a bit less head retention off the pour, with not so much of a melted ice cream vibe, so maybe that bumps it down to a 4.5 or 4.75.

Smell = 4.25/5

A rich and sweet roasted smell, dark chocolate with a slight herbal element – but not straight anise. The roasted aroma brings dark coffee notes with it. Aged it was not much different, the change being slightly less sweet and more booze prevalent in the nose.

Taste = 3.5/5

Not as roasted as the nose. Very rich, dark, bitter chocolate. A good amount of herbal sweetness that I can't quite place. But very rich is all I can think as I'm half way down the glass. And a sweetness left on the lips. The aging offered a substantial improvement in this category as the sweetness had given way to more heat and booze, which really helped to turn down the richness and accentuate the roasty bitterness. The bitterness in the aftertaste was complemented nicely by the extra heat. Aging bumped this up into the 4.25, as I'm a fan of boozy heat.

Feel = 4/5

Very thick and creamy – melted ice cream like the appearance hinted at, it's almost too much. I didn't write down anything about the aged feel. Whoops?

Overall = 3.75/5

Almost too rich and dessert-like. Perhaps more enjoyable in smaller doses, something to end an evening with, splitting the 12 ounce bottle among three or four friends. Aging the beer made it a lot more drinkable, replacing the dessert qualities with booziness, which is more what I want from a big stout.

Now might be a good time to try and find this on the shelf at your local bottle shop, buy some, and then sit on it until winter or the winter after that. Maybe drink one now, or buy a fresh one to compare to when you see it one the shelf next winter. As one of Evil Twin's cheaper offerings there's not much risk involved and aging stouts is a lot easier in the summer. In fact, this might be a good course of action for any Imperial Stouts you see still hanging out at the bottle shop.


Follow JR Shirt on Twitter and Untapped @beeronmyshirt. The next episode of the Drinking With Shirt podcast is coming soon, I swear.