Cellar Report – Stone 10th, Firestone 11, Weyerbacher 13
Four the past four years, I have been on a beer aging journey here in Southern California. With all the noise on trading boards, and marketing speak on the sides of many bottles, I was intrigued to see what magic would come of putting some strong ales away for a later day, or in this case, later year. Before we go any further, I should let you know, I do not have a temperature controlled, humidity controlled cellar.
My beers have never been kept at exactly 55 degrees or below. What I can tell you is they have been kept cool, and tucked away in boxes to keep away from light. I was taught that the cooler I can keep the beer, the longer it will stay drinkable. Anyway, on to the report.
Stone 10th Anniversary IPA – Original Release Date: August 21, 2006 – Last Checked: August 2010. ABV: 10%
This beer was a monster when it was fresh, some say arrogantly overbearing. Tons of aggressive, resinous rip your face off hops that intersected with some big sticky malt. The pundits predicted this beer would quickly lose it’s hop profile and be nothing more than a barley wine within a year after being bottled. Surprisingly, this beer held up in in a hoppy form for a good two years plus, in respect to its bitterness and its aroma.
Two weeks ago, I cracked my very last bottle that was kept really well, and it was now just a sticky sweet barleywine with no almost zero hop aroma. All good things must come to an end.
Verdict: No cardboard, no sherry, no hop aroma. Drink now or trade away to a collector. I’ll be honest and say I look forward to trying this again in a year, if given the opportunity.
Firestone 11 – Original Release Date: November 2007 – Last Checked – July 2010. ABV 11% ABV.
This beer was more balanced than Firestone 10 when it was released. With that said it still had plenty of warm booze, and was considered something that would do well with some time on it. Last month, Brewmaster Matt at Firestone declared 11 his favorite beer to date, and felt it cellared well for him. I can’t say I had the same experience as Matt. The once thick, boozy, oaky beer was now much thinner, balanced (fine by me) and wasn’t as lively or complex. I asked a few friends geekier than I, and they told me that blending strong ales that have already started aging years prior to bottling were bound to make the blended product that much more oxidized. Makes sense to me.
Verdict: Slight cardboard, way thinner body, decent head replaced by an oily film, still great oak notes. Drink now to see if yours is like mine, save one for the prestigious vertical, or tasting party. Firestone 11 on it’s worst day still might be the rockstar of the party.
Weyerbacher Thirteen – Original Release Date: March 2008 – Last Checked – June 2010. ABV 13% ABV.
One of my first introductions to Weyerbacher was Thirteen, a luxurious Imperial Stout that made me seek out a few more for the cellar. This beer had lots of fruit notes, big booze, burnt roast, char and you could completely see the potential this had with some time on it. After the first year, I cracked one, and found the char and alcohol came further forward. I thought it might need more time to get tame. In June 2010, I cracked it and it was still very boozy, but in a new way. There was a little bit of sour cherry, still some hot alcohol, and the roast took a back seat. The beer was less goopy, but there was now a thin layer of cardboard that couldn’t be ignored.
Verdict: This beer appears to be falling apart. I would drink it now or trade it away. The group of tasters I was with agreed it was fun, but not going to get better or more “fun.”