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  1. #1
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    When mega-hoppy beers fall off a cliff, we all lose

    As we seem to be in the midst of the race for breweries to make the biggest, hoppiest IPA's of all time I have noticed a disturbing byproduct...when some of these beers are past one month (shorter?) in the bottle, they become undrinkable messes.

    Now as a consumer, the solution is rather simple...only buy these types of beers when you know that they are fresh. This can be done by going straight to the source (the brewery) or purchasing bottles that feature bottle dating and buying them within that short "freshness window".

    But what if you're a retailer? You get 4 cases of "Super Mega Hoptastic Ale". The first two fly off the shelf within a couple weeks. They are all the rage for the local beer nerds. Then suddenly sales of "Super Mega Hoptastic Ale" start to slow down. The savvy beer drinkers bought the fresh bottles but know to stay away from what is now considered "old" beer. The less savvy beer drinkers buy a bottle post "freshness window" and think "Wow, I heard this beer is really good but I am not impressed." Suddenly, you the retailer are sitting on a case and a half of past it's prime, "old" (1 month?!?) Double IPA. You know it's a shadow of it's former self but you have to leave it out there in the cooler. You can't just dump the 4th case and lose the money. If you're the brewery that made "Super Mega Hoptastic Ale" is this the product you want representing your efforts?

    I bring this up because I have run into this issue recently. I won't name the beers, but they were perhaps a month old, maybe slightly over that, and they were really bad. I thought to myself, is this beer just not very good, does in not agree with my tastes or is it a completely different beer one month after being made? I want to be clear this isn't every IPA or even IIPA out there that this happens to but I do feel as the hops race amps up, it's happening more and more.

    There are some brewery's that have made the choice to not bottle these types of beer. Instead, they've chosen to only sell them fresh at the source. I'm starting to really understand the reasoning behind this, more so than I once did.

    Thoughts?

  2. #2
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    Some IPA's age well, no they are not going to taste like what the brewer intended while fresh, but they might still be good.

    In my recent experience I held on to the Alesmith Summer Yulesmith from Summer 2012 until dec last year and it was fantastic.

    I think other breweries need to do what Stone has started doing and put a very large best by date on the bottle, that way if someone walks into a store and sees that the best by date has long since past they know to either avoid that beer, or lower their expectations if they purchase it.
    telling me to stay out of a former bombing range next to a dump while you build huge houses next to it? Screw you.-sandmangts

  3. #3
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    I thought the whole original intent of IPAs is that they were supposed to last a long time.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by pequin View Post
    I thought the whole original intent of IPAs is that they were supposed to last a long time.
    The original IPA's of the 18th century and today's 10%ABV Hop Monsters bear little resemblance.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by pequin View Post
    I thought the whole original intent of IPAs is that they were supposed to last a long time.
    Yes and no.

    They were designed to make the long journey from England to India and remain fresh yes, and the heavy hop flavor diminished during the trip, however the people of England began to develop a taste for the hoppier beer when it was fresh and thus the first love of the hoppy style began in England with people drinking fresh IPA.
    telling me to stay out of a former bombing range next to a dump while you build huge houses next to it? Screw you.-sandmangts

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by pequin View Post
    I thought the whole original intent of IPAs is that they were supposed to last a long time.
    Hops acting as a preservative, and not giving you scurvy, and hop bitterness/flavor fading over a period of time are a little different

    I love a hoppy beer, as long as it's balanced.
    If something is touting 100+ IBU's, and has the malt presence to back it up (and in-turn the ABV), it will hold up as something drinkable over time.

    See Hopslam, Dreadnaught, I Hardcore You, Double Crooked Tree, double Trouble, My Bitter Valentine, etc.
    A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject. - Winston Churchill

  7. #7
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    Good topic. As you stated, the modern crop of IPAs have complex, delicate hop aromas that fade surprisingly quickly.

    IPAs should be treated like good coffee. Best consumed fresh and stored properly.


    I think ALL beer manufacturers should bottle date. And they should do smaller batches more often, if that's possible. It's really up to the distributor at that point to ensure timely delivery of fresh beer, and to monitor supplies at retailers. Retailers themselves should refrigerate IPAs, although that's not always an option when craft brewers are competing for fridge space with the likes of Bud or Coors.

    As Mr. Klure mentioned, Stone's Enjoy By was a great way to market and sell their beer, emphasizing the fresh factor. As a company, it is clear they care about freshness and they work with their retailers to ensure beer isn't sitting on the shelf a long time.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Klurejr View Post
    Yes and no.

    They were designed to make the long journey from England to India and remain fresh yes, and the heavy hop flavor diminished during the trip, however the people of England began to develop a taste for the hoppier beer when it was fresh and thus the first love of the hoppy style began in England with people drinking fresh IPA.
    I see. Well, that does present a modern problem then.
    Personally I would prefer an aged IPA, as overly hoppy beers tear my stomach up. I like the idea and the flavor of them, but I can't drink 'em. I'm a malty to balanced beer kinda guy. For example: McEwan's Scotch Ale was my fave - big, bold, and 8% ABV. I'm hosed, though; it isn't imported into the US anymore.

  9. #9
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    Beers age like wine, the flavors will blend and mellow over time. While they don't expire they will become smoother. In particular intense hop flavor ,aroma and bitterness will diminish over time. If you like a strong hoppy beer, drink young. A heavy malt dipa could become too malty tasting if not overhopped. Of course that would make for rough drinking when young.

  10. #10
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    Also keep in mind that light exposure can damage a beer. Fresh out of the keg or can will likely be better for big hops. Beers otherwise age well and high gravity beer can age for many years. Bud and the like, on the other hand have little flavor, very little hops to preserve them and therefore don't last. Go to a craft bar and fill up some growlers !!!

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hophead1 View Post
    Beers age like wine
    Some beers age like wine...Imperial Stouts, Barleywines, etc. But some beers, hoppy beers especially, can become barely drinkable after a month in the bottle. I have had some of these recently and they make me less likely to purchase from the brewery's involved in the future. That's my point.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carl Hungus View Post
    Some beers age like wine...Imperial Stouts, Barleywines, etc. But some beers, hoppy beers especially, can become barely drinkable after a month in the bottle. I have had some of these recently and they make me less likely to purchase from the brewery's involved in the future. That's my point.
    Hey, wine can age like crap too


    After having a whole mess of aged beers over the last few years, I can say that most "cellarable" beers may get better with a couple years, but long-term aging doesn't really turn out well. The sweet spot for most beers IMO are 1-3 years for stouts and 2-4 years for sours and barleywines. Longer for simpler beers, like traditional gueuzes or lambics...those ones are interesting after 5+ years.

    Most beers, however, shouldn't be cellared.

    And hoppy beers should really never be cellared, unless the intention is to kill the hop flavor. I like to cellar hoppy American barleywines because I don't really like that flavor combination - BA Bigfoot, for example...I won't open any bottles of that until at least a year in the cellar.

  13. #13
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    I hold my nose up and refuse Pliny the Elder if the date is not to my liking. Haha, well, not really. But the flavor certainly changes. It's a shame not to drink Super Mega Hoptastic Ale fresh.

    If you've tasted enough Hoptastic Ales, and you have a basis for comparison, you can certainly tell when they've sat on them for a little too long. We had an IPA tasting last night, and Ale Smith was a let down, but then I've also had a bottles from them before that were delicious, and a couple that were worse. Like CH mentioned, if I had a bad bottle to start with, I may never have gone back.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by jtmartino View Post
    Hey, wine can age like crap too
    I drink more wine than beer these days, and have for a number of years. I can say with great confidence that most wine sold at a Safeway will age like crap. The majority of "New World" wines made in the Americas (North and South) as well as wine made down under is made to be consumed within 2 years of bottling with fresher being better. There are plenty of New World styled wines being made in Europe, as well. Having said that, the issue is more pronounced with hoppy beer, as Carl has interestingly pointed out. Rather than a shelf life of several months to a couple years, some of uber hoppy brews start to go downhill in a matter of weeks. In all honesty, I think that the marketing plays to their advantage in this regard: limited production at specific times of year. Pliny the Younger is one local to me that follows this strategy. I'm sure many others do, as well, but I honestly don't care so much about uber hoppy beers and tend to drink locally brewed stuff most often that has more of a malt backbone.

  15. #15
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    Yep...I've had a few IPA-ish beers that have aged well, where the hops have mellowed, yet the flavor has remained complex/interesting, but it's a sad experience opening that bottle you've been holding onto just to see what might happen, and finding out that what happened is very, very bad.

    +1 on Stone's "Enjoy By" date -- wish more brewers would do that. I also like Deschutes's "Enjoy After" date they've been putting on beers intended to age, like Dissident. Back in the days when I had more time on my hands, I toyed with the idea of building an app/service that could track my cellar inventory kind of like Brew Vault, but it would have built-in calendar reminders for when stuff needed to be drunk....

  16. #16
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    As someone who really enjoys a great IPA I will say that I hardly ever buy from a merchant in bottled/can form unless I know that I'm getting a sixer/bomber on the very day (or thereabouts) that they received it from the distributor. I will say this, social media has really helped various liquor stores around me in this regard as they can now put it out there when they've received their shipment. From there it's up to the consumer (granted, the experienced one) to be aware of what they're purchasing and when. For instance, this is what I picked up the very day it arrived several weeks ago:



    I do agree that the general timeline to many of the hoppy IPA's out there tends to hurt a lot involved (the breweries themselves, and of course stores and the inexperienced buyer).

    In my opinion, if you're out to try an IPA, and the like, the way the brewer intended, you really should be sorting out which pub around you has it on tap and when. Granted that's my opinion and outside of a short list of brews, that's the way I prefer to enjoy an IPA.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by providence View Post
    In my opinion, if you're out to try an IPA, and the like, the way the brewer intended, you really should be sorting out which pub around you has it on tap and when. Granted that's my opinion and outside of a short list of brews, that's the way I prefer to enjoy an IPA.
    Wisdom, unless it's bottle-conditioned like the 750s of Weyerbacher's Double Simcoe. Delicious.


    tburger and I are Younger snobs - we can taste the difference after 1 week.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by providence View Post
    In my opinion, if you're out to try an IPA, and the like, the way the brewer intended, you really should be sorting out which pub around you has it on tap and when.
    I have a lot of respect for Shaun Hill/Hill Farmstead because he makes incredible hoppy beers but you will probably never see one in a bottle. He's making it impossible for people to not have it "the way the brewer intended".

    I feel like too many breweries put stuff out there and it's like they know it's going to be a totally different beer in a month but oh well, that's the consumer/retailer's problem.

  19. #19
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    Re: When mega-hoppy beers fall off a cliff, we all lose

    Quote Originally Posted by tburger View Post
    We had an IPA tasting last night, and Ale Smith was a let down
    I had a bottle that was purchased at the same place and time and it was delicious. I wonder if it was handled differently at some point, or if the other came from the refrigerated section.

    Unrelated, I picked up a couple Sculpin at Costco, and the one I opened was terrible. Then I saw they had a very small drink by date on the bottle that had passed.

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