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Pro Tips for How to Store Beer and Keep Your Cellar Organized

beer cellar
Image used with permission by copyright holder
The new year isn’t just the time to give your house a thorough deep cleaning and weed unloved items from your closet — it’s also a great opportunity to organize your beer cellar. Depending on your set up, it may not be a proper “cellar” like those wine vaults you see in the movies, but those bottles, can,  and growlers that are getting dusty in the back of the cabinet or crowding your mini-fridge need your attention.

There are many reasons to age your beer (we’ve got a handy intro guide here), but cellaring does you no good if you never drink the beer. Having an annual auditing schedule for your beer collection ensures your stash doesn’t morph into a hoarding-type situation, and you get to enjoy special beers at the opportune tasting time.

We spoke with Keith Dion, cellarman for Service Brewing Co. in Savannah, Georgia about his personal cellar maintenance and tips for keeping your beer collection stocked, organized, and well-rotated.

How do you manage your personal beer cellar inventory? 

Although I do utilize the website, for the most part, it is by eye. About every four to six months I perform an inventory and pull beers that I want to open. Too often I find beers that either have sat too long, or have become “too special” to not share.

beer cellar
Bernt Rostad/Flickr Image used with permission by copyright holder

Do you have any standardized rules for when to drink general styles of beer you cellar, in particular beers that you haven’t aged before?

I’m often inclined to age barleywines without trying them previously for about a year, but nothing hard and fast. I might age a particular beer if someone I trust tells me it could use some time.

What are three of your favorite beers to cellar, when are your preferred enjoy by dates, and why do you cellar them?

Sierra Nevada Bigfoot, I drink between one and two years of age. This was the first beer I really experimented aging. I found that this was my sweet spot to mellow the hop intensity without losing any complexity.

bigfoot ale
Bigfoot Barelywine Style Ale/Sierra Nevada Image used with permission by copyright holder

Cigar City Marshal Zhukov’s, I have to wait at least one year before opening. This is an absolutely delicious stout, but it is really intense when fresh.

Oskar Blues Gubna, I age one-and-a-half to three years. I’m not gonna lie, I don’t like this 10-percent [Double IPA] much at all fresh. Way too much onion-y hops. At some point, I decided to try it again, but mis-read the canning date. It turned out that a year and a half old Gubna is fantastic! The dank hops fade and it becomes a bit barleywine like.

About how many beers do you keep in the cellar at a time?

At my max, I probably had about 250 beers total; maybe 175 of those were unique. I currently have just over 100. I’ve been trying to drink the cellar down considerably over the past few years. It’s actually harder than you’d think!

How has your attitude about cellaring changed since you began?

I got pretty heavy into the hobby of beer collecting/cellaring, but compared to some beer nerds out there, I’m an amateur. I’m happy to have created a nice little cellar to pull from when it is time to share with friends or celebrate a special occasion. There are a few beers I will still age, but for the most part though I have come back around to just enjoying beer fresh.

Lee Heidel
Lee Heidel is the managing editor of Brew/Drink/Run, a website and podcast that promotes brewing your own beer, consuming the…
This Road in Washington is Where All Your Favorite Beers Get Their Start
Hop farms.

On a map, it doesn’t look like much more than a straight north-south line just southwest of Wapato, Washington. Yet, the road known as Lateral A in the Yakima Valley is one of the most famous hop-growing stretches on earth. Here, one of beer’s critical ingredients grows up along tall trellises as far as the eye can see, harvested annually and sent off to brewers near and far.
It’s a reminder of the many people and places that go into your favorite brews. Rural areas like this provide the space, climate, and human beings for such sprawling agricultural tracts. Those who’ve been to the Yakima Valley know of the openness of this arid country, with mountains beyond and glimpses of Mt. Rainier and Mt. Adams to the west. If it wasn’t for the dramatic topography in the distance, you’d think you were in the desert, or some farm-heavy stretch of the Midwest, mid-drought.

Here, the sun shines more than 200 days per year. It’s an energized environment, one that’s responsible for three of every four hops produced in the entire country. What started as an experimental planting in 1868 is now an impressive patchwork of hop-farms. It’s said that a hotel room in the area is hard to come by in August and September, when bottom cutters meander through rows, harvesting the annual crop and brewer’s celebrate with farm-fresh creations.
The valley is quickly approaching 150 hop varieties, which emerge, cone-like, from hop bines (yes, bines, not vines) that can surpass the height of a three-story building. It’s home to many family-run operations which have been hauling in hops for generations. Places like Perrault Farms, in Toppenish a bit south along Lateral A. The Perrault Family arrived here in 1902, when Theodore Roosevelt was in the White House. In addition to growing eleven hop varieties, the family raises bison and grows blueberries.
The hops end up in everything from specialty one-off seasonal beers by Bale Breaker Brewing Company (just north and on the other side of the Yakima River) to Budweiser. Business is booming and the area has its requisite commissions, grower-owned coops, and the like. It’s not uncommon to see reps from the big boys like AB InBev-owned labels sniffing around for a good deal on some choice hops.

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Understanding the Difference Between Dry Hop and Wet Hop Beers
dry hop wet beer explained hops closeup getty

Hops are as important to beer as grapes are to wine. New hybrids are entering the picture every year, changing what a beer is able to do in terms of flavor and fragrance. From a beer-making standpoint, one major consideration is whether to go the wet hop or dry hop route. But the names can cause a little confusion.
For the record, most hops are dried. They get picked in the field, treated to some warm air, and are often shaped into pellet-like cones for use later on. Since most are grown in the northwest but beer is made all over, this is a great way to preserve a good hop and ship it all over the globe. It’s said that they can last for several years in this format (although we all know how great a fresh-hop beer is).
But a dry-hopped beer usually refers to the actual beer-making approach. Hops are added later in the process so that they hang on to their aromatic intensity. Part of that intensity is owed to the fact that dried hops tend to be denser in terms of the flavor and fragrance punch that they pack. The overall IBU dial will be adjusted, too, as hops inject varying amounts of bitterness. There are even double dry-hopped beers, which means if triple and quadruple dry-hopped beers don’t exist yet, they’re coming soon.
You’d think wet hop would be just the opposite — throwing the flavorful cones in during the boil, giving them a good soak. Nope. A wet-hopped beer is a lot like a fresh-hop beer. It’s made with hops that are not air or kiln-dried. They tend to be moist and full of flavorful oils, having just recently been harvested. The flavors tend to be more nuanced and green in nature. And if it weren’t for new hop oils and extracts, you’d really only find wet-hop beers once a year, right around the hop harvest in early autumn.
Some breweries will do a wet and dry take on the same beer, but I’ve yet to see both versions canned or bottled and available side-by-side. Often times, the wet or fresh hop version is a limited run and simply poured on draft at the brewery’s headquarters. Either way, it’s worth looking out for when sipping beer in the fall.
Here are some worth trying to see what side of the hop fence your taste resides.

Wet: Great Divide Fresh Hop Pale

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What is a gruit, and where can you find one?
Gruit, the beer made without hops that you need to try
Beer snifter chalice glass

Most beers you know and love today have four primary ingredients: water, barley, hops, and yeast. That’s largely due to the centuries-old German beer purity law, or reinheitsgebot, which demanded that beer be made exclusively using these ingredients and set the standard for today’s brews. 
But beer is an ancient beverage — historians believe its story stretches back to 5th millennium BC in Iran and went on to be enjoyed by the likes of Egyptian pharaohs and the Greek philosophers. However, if Socrates or Tutankhamun ever enjoyed a pint in their days, the beer was likely missing one of those four critical ingredients: the hop.
In today’s hop-hungry climate of India pale ales (and hazy IPAs, New England IPAs, as well as milkshake IPAs, and others), it seems impossible that beer could exist without hops. The fact is that many other natural ingredients can serve as substitutes for the bittering, aromatic, and flavoring characteristics of hops. Today, if a beer relies on other herbs to fill the "hops" role, the beverage is classified as a gruit.

Gruit is the German word for herb. Instead of depending on hops, these brews use exotic additives like bog myrtle, horehound, elderflowers, and yarrow to offset the sweetness of the malts and create a more complex beverage.
Thanks to the creativity of modern breweries, you don’t have to travel back to the Middle Ages to find a gruit (though if you can, please let us in on your time travel technology). You can try them right now, but you will have to do some detective work.
“Authentic” gruits can be tough to find in the mainstream marketplace. That’s because some laws require hops to be present for a product to be sold as beer. Not having the “beer” title would limit distribution and sales channels for some breweries.  To illustrate how rare gruits are in the current marketplace, there are currently 32,576 American IPAs listed on the Beer Advocate database and only 380 gruits.
But don’t despair — this list will help you get started on the path toward discovering modern versions of the ancient ale. Start your gruit journey here:

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