Beer today, better tomorrow: Restaurants see the benefits of aging beer
In an increasing number of restaurants, a request for a list of bottles may call for a list of vintage beers in addition to, or even instead of, the expected wine repertoire.
According to Certified Cicerone Anne Becerra, the overwhelming majority of popular beers today are pasteurized pale lagers or India Pale ales (IPA), usually meant to be consumed as fresh as possible.
“Neither are great candidates for aging, so the idea of aging beer may not seem like a natural thing to do,” she says.
At Treadwell Park in New York City, where Becerra oversees the beverage program, however, guests are offered a reserve list of aged beers “to show the benefits of patience.”
She’s not the only one to embrace the idea. This is something beer collectors have been doing for years, looking for rare bottles to add to their inventory. Beverage managers and Cicerones like Becerra are finally showing how to taste such beers in the cellar in a restaurant.
Like many wines, some beers benefit when stored for later. Age can introduce new aromatic elements or affect their flavor profile.
The hardness can soften, for example. This is the case of imperial stouts rich in alcohol, which develop notes of sherry from a gradual oxidation. Beer brewed with wild yeast like Brettanomyces, meanwhile, can be funky and bright in early childhood, but can grow into a richer or spicier drink. And although Trappist beers will lose some of their juicy and fruity aromas, they will evolve into a beer with attractive earthy notes.
“Vintage beer is one of the tools we use to breed beer,” says Greg Engert, director of beer for the Neighborhood Restaurant Group in Washington, DC. It is known for offering a 5 to 7 course beer and food pairing menu, just as sommeliers have done with wine for centuries.
Tom Peters, owner of Monk’s Café in Philadelphia, is another who thinks some selections are worth the wait. He has amassed a substantial list of vintage beers, many of them Belgian, since he opened the beer bar in 1997.
“I want to show the range of what beer can be,” he says. “You wouldn’t just have young Rioja on your wine list.”
Why should this be the case with beer?
Posted on August 20, 2021