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Beer cellaring – a new perspective and a re-think

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To be honest, I never had any interest in cellaring beer until about 2003-04. I read some articles about this relatively new idea, and also became acquainted with kp. Keith (kp) is a pretty interesting fellow, and it’s a shame that I don’t get to see him nearly as much as I used to, but anyone who is familiar with him, his history on Rate Beer, his ‘cellaring antics’ and his general demeanor, would appreciate how a person deeply interested in beer (me), could begin to acquire an interest in cellaring after meeting him.

I’m a little out of touch with the Atlanta beer scene these days (at least in terms of the specifics), since in the last 2-3 years I’ve found it to be increasingly less appealing (that’s material for another post), but I know for a fact that there are more than a few people with comparable collections to kp’s in and around ATL, and definitely others in other parts of the world with ridiculous collections.

From approx 2004 up to 2010, I built my cellar up to (at its peak) something just short of 1000 bottles. Another acquaintance of mine that I haven’t seen in forever, Jeff Holland, even wrote a Creative Loafing article about my modest cellar. Since that time I’ve reduced the number of bottles by almost 30%, and I’m continuing to whittle it down it quite substantially. I will certainly keep a few, mainstream verticals going for the foreseeable future, but lots of other beers are being consumed or traded away.

There have been a few factors that have influenced me in pulling away from cellaring, but a couple that really stand out. The pathetic, total loss of perspective amongst very, very large groups of the beer geek community has driven me underground. I’m just not interested in ‘tastings’ that become binge drinking, MASSIVE crowds at beer events, and hopeless panic purchasing of beer by people with no idea about beer culture or beer class. The incredible hysteria that’s now associated with beer in so many situations is the antithesis of what beer culture is, and I have basically dropped out of the Atlanta scene as a result of it. The second thing was a conversation that I had with Andy Kluboc of Summit’s Taverns here in Atlanta.

Andy opined that no matter how carefully one takes notes and records each vintage experience (which I do), ones palate development renders all of that largely useless. As a result, even though the notes that I take on any beer may very accurately reflect my experiences on each occasion, because my palate has changed in the interim, the questions become, ‘Can I make meaningful comparisons, and do these notes have much relevance and meaning over time?’ I’ve come to the conclusion that the answer is probably ‘no’, or at least ‘not much’.

All of us have a bit of the ‘collector’ in us, that’s human nature, but I’ve never been keen on those that apply that particular trait to beer. Beer is for drinking, and collecting has become increasingly counter-intuitive to me. I find that I have increasingly less in common with those that do it, and for those reasons I’m just not cellaring like I used to.


2 Comments

  1. I really appreciate this article. In fact, when I read it a few weeks ago, it inspired me to re-evaluate the way I have approached craft beer, particularly the high-profile beers. I think you’re right–somewhere craftbeer has lost its way. The beer tasting that are really binge drinking parties in disguise resonates with me. It’s sad.

    Check out my article on the rising costs of craft beer as I think it coincides with some of the points you make here. http://www.thebeerapostle.com/2013/01/this-aint-your-grandmas-beer-clique.html

    Cheers!

  2. Best article I ever read by you. Nice point of view. I don’t have a cellar nor room to store much beer. Plus even though I bought back over 30 plus cases of Westvleteren 8/12 over the years, none has lasted more than 2 months, tops. Beer to me is to be consumed, not aged.

    Not sure I agree with palate development though, at least not as written. I do though agree with memory. Still I do prefer the snapshot point of view of the beer at the time. I never had a bad beer that I thought years later was good, and vice-versa.

    As for the fad part of beer, I never got into it in the 1990′s and I am not into it now.

    Still nice piece.

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