According to Joshua Bernstein, beer is the new wine. In his new book, “The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp for Beer Geeks: From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Classes”, Joshua takes readers on miniature courses in beer education. Some courses include: the Bitter Truth, Turn on the Dark, and Around the World in Eighty Pints. Joshua is a Beer Journalist and Critic writing from Details, Savor, Bon Appetit.com and the New York Times among others. Joshua now joins New Day to discuss how craft beer is bringing women into the fold.
You can meet Joshua tonight at 5:00pm at Full Throttle Bottles for a tasting and book signing.
TEN GREAT BEERS TO STASH
***Reprinted with permission from The Complete Beer Course © 2013 by Joshua M. Bernstein, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
The nation’s preeminent expert on aging beer is Southern California’s “Dr.” Bill Sysak, a certified cicerone (a sort of beer sommelier) and Craft Beer Ambassador for Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens. A walking encyclopedia of fermented knowledge, Sysak, who earned his nickname as a combat military medic, has spent the last 30-plus years crisscrossing the globe, visiting more than 1,000 breweries and amassing a collection of more than 2,000 bottles stored everywhere from a three door cooler in the garage (the unplugged convenience-store artifact maintains temperatures between 62° and 65°F) to a cabinet beneath a bathroom sink—and beneath his home. Rare beers are popped during his extravagant private parties, but anyone is welcome to attend his Sour Fest and Oakquinox festivals. Here, he imparts his wisdom on 10 beers to stock your cellar.
“When I’m first starting to guide people, I tell them to look to beers that are 8 percent ABV or higher and are darker. They pick up fewer off flavors,” Sysak says. “What’s great about imperial stouts is that as they oxidize”—and all beers eventually oxidize—“they became vinous, or wine-like and get a little tart. But that adds a complexity that works well with the style.”
1. NORTH COAST BREWING COMPANY OLD RASPUTIN RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT:
“This is a simple, relatively inexpensive beer,” Sysak says. “I like to recommend to people that they, if possible, buy a case to drink one fresh, then monitor it on a three- to six-month schedule. There’s nothing worse than waiting two to three years and saying, ‘Oh, I have 23 beers that have gone bad.’”
2. ALESMITH BREWING COMPANY SPEEDWAY STOUT:
“It’s 12 percent ABV, which is perfect, and the coffee adds an extra nuance,” Sysak says. “As the beer ages, the coffee and chocolate notes really blend together. In fact, all of the big Ale Smith beers are great for aging.”
3. STONE BREWING CO. IMPERIAL RUSSIAN STOUT:
“Of all the Stone beers, the imperial stout is best for aging. It’s 10.5 percent ABV, so it’s in the sweet spot, and it’s also fairly affordable.” barley wines “I break barley wines into two major categories. West Coast barley wines are hoppier, with a lighter malt profile up front,” Sysak says. “English-style barley wines start off sweeter, but as they age, more flavors come out. I believe that English barley wines have longer legs.” Ample hops are never ideal for the long haul.
4. ROGUE ALES XS OLD CRUSTACEAN:
“It’s a legendary example of a West Coast barley wine,” Sysak says. “When I used to do the Toronado Barleywine Festival [in San Francisco; see page 213], the 1994 Old Crustacean was the best of show year in, year out. I remember we tried Old Crustacean in 2001, and we said, ‘Oh, the 1994 peaked.’ A beer will not stay great forever.”
5. ANCHOR BREWING OLD FOGHORN BARLEYWINE STYLE ALE:
“It’s just a classic English-style barley wine,” Sysak says. “It’s widely available and affordable as well.”
“When you’re cellaring nonsour, barrel-aged beer, brandy and bourbon barrels offer the best longevity, and bourbon is the most readily available,” Sysak says. “They work perfectly for the imperial stouts and barley wines because they have complementary flavors of vanilla or toffee that, given time, create a really warming, enjoyable digestif.”
6. GOOSE ISLAND BOURBON COUNTY BRAND STOUT:
“In 1992, it was the first bourbon barrel–aged beer, and it has continually been a top performer for aging,” Sysak says.
7. THE LOST ABBEY THE ANGEL’S SHARE:
“Aged in bourbon or brandy barrels, this strong ale”—named after the spirits that evaporate from wood casks during aging—“is 12.5 percent ABV and has wonderful flavors of caramel, oak, and vanilla. It’s a classic.”
HIGHER-ALCOHOL AMERICAN WILD ALES AND SOURS
“Sour beers usually take years to make, and many bars want to carry them, so it can be tough to find readily available sours to buy,” Sysak says. The silver lining is that higher-alcohol sour beers and wild ales inoculated with yeasts such as Brettanomyces can be cellared— with careful monitoring and sampling. Brettanomyces does not obey boundaries, and given too much time, it may turn a transcendent beer into an undrinkable drain pour. Beers soured with a blend of wild yeast and souring bacteria are a better bet, Sysak says.
8. RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING COMPANY CONSECRATION,TEMPTATION, OR SUPPLICATION:
“One of the great things about these classic Russian River beers is that since they’ve been in the
market so long, you can usually find them at the store,” Sysak says. “They don’t age into the 10- to 20-year range, but they do grow complex and amazing.”
LAMBICS, FLEMISH REDS, AND OTHER LOWER-ALCOHOL SOURS
With aging, rules are meant to be broken. “Lambics are one of the few beers that don’t need to be over 8 percent to age for 20 years,” Sysak says. If you can find it, look for anything from Cantillon or perhaps New Belgium Brewing Company’s celebrated annual sour ale La Folie.
Belgian beers “Many Belgian beers work well for aging because of the yeast strains that the country’s brewers use as well as the fact that most Belgian beers are bottle conditioned,” Sysak says. “Go to your local beer store, talk to your local beer seller, and find out which Belgian beers they have in stock that are 9, 10, 11, or 12 percent ABV. They lay down beautifully.”
9. TRAPPISTES ROCHEFORT 10:
“Strong Trappist beers like Rochefort 10 are great for aging and are also usually available,” Sysak says, “but you can go for secular breweries,” he adds, such as the Scaldis beers from Brasserie Dubuisson Frères and De Dolle Stille Nacht from Brouwerij De Dolle Brouwers.
SCOTCH ALES/WEE HEAVIES
“There are a lot of great Scotch ales that have the right ABV for aging,” Sysak says of this nuanced, somewhat smoky style. “If you find a nice Scotch ale, go ahead and age it. It’s a darker beer with a malt complexity that’s suited for aging.”
10. FOUNDERS BREWING COMPANY BACKWOODS BASTARD:
“It’s more than 10 percent ABV, which makes it ideal for aging,” Sysak says of the lightly peaty ale aged in bourbon barrels. “Seasonally, it’s a great wintertime beer.”