Four Brewers | On Location at “Dr. Bill” Sysak’s Legendary Cellar
Season 2, Episode 23 – This week, we’re discussing beer cellaring with the legendary “Dr. Bill” Sysak at his home in Escondido, California.
This week’s blog post was provided by Yvonne England [John’s super-rad girlfriend]. You’re welcome. [Bracketed commentary supplied by John Holzer.]
This week, we go see Dr. Bill Sysak, the Craft Beer Ambassador for Stone Brewing Co.. He “handles the beverage philosophy” for Stone. We’re pretty sure he made that shit up, but it’s cool [He didn’t make it up]. He’s Dr. Bill. He can get away with it. He’s been around the craft beer world for a while, so he’s a great resource on all things beer. He’s known for cellaring (dudes, he’s been doing this for over three decades), so that’s why we went to his cellar.
We start the show with a 2012 Double Bastard Ale by Stone Brewing Co. As John eloquently notes, this beer cellars well, transforming into a beautiful beast filled with cameral and winter fruit loveliness [John didn’t say that].
Dr. Bill gives some advice on cellaring: if you’re getting a beer that you want to cellar, buy a case. Taste one fresh. If you like it, drink it all! But, if you want to start cellaring it, here are some rules (feel free to mix shit up). Look for 8% or stronger, bottle conditioned, and darker is better. Keep it temperature controlled—red wine temps, whatever that means [55º-65º]. Avoid extreme temperature fluctuations, direct sunlight, and minimize oxidation [This last one is direct more towards brewers]. Belgian tripels, stuff with wild yeast strains, and sour beers are also great to age.
John gets into a few details on his crazy cellaring adventures. He went a little nuts, initially [I did]. He admits it [I do]. He saw Bill’s cellar years ago and went bananas with The Bruery beers. It got out of control. Don’t do this [or, do]. Dr. Bill suggests a few styles to get you started (Barely Wines, Imperial Stouts, and so on). Then he provides a few specific beers: Big Foot, Old Guardian, Old Crustacean, and Old Fog Horn. If you’ve bought a case to cellar, try them every 6 months. When it peaks [you think it’s tasting great], drink them. Throw a party. Invite us [yes, do this].
[Insert this epic Thomas Hardy’s Ale from 1996 that Yvonne trollishly forgot to mention…]
Then Dr. Bill drops a bomb: saisons. You can cellar that shit. It’s risky, but potentially worth it. Matt disagrees [does he?]. He’s Matt. He does that. If you remember, we recently had a bad experience with an bad saison, but Dr. Bill explains it away: Nuance in brewing. A burnt kettle. It was unintentional. It was a bad side of brewing. These things happen you guys. Cool your jets [yes, do this].
If you want to learn more about cellaring beyond this episode, and you like to read, check out Patrick Dawson’s Vintage Beers book. It’s a great, scientific resource on cellaring. But, as Dr. Bill notes, it’s a practice. You should play around with it. Experiment.
BREW THE SHIT OUT OF IT.
Links to things from this week’s episode:
S2/E23 Show Outline
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