As all good beer geeks know some beers can be aged to bring out the flavours while other beers are meant to be drunk right away. Generally light beers like lagers, fruity beers and hop heavy beers like IPA’s need to be consumed as close to the bottling date as possible to preserve the best possible taste. But can you really tell the difference? How long is too long to leave your favourite light summer beer?
In order to put the ‘fresh is best’ affirmation to the test I did a blind tasting with two bottles of Russian River’s Pliny the Elder, one bottled in May and one bottled in July.
Here are my thoughts on drinking the two side by side:
Pliny the Elder (May) – Bright gold, effervescent with a minimal amount of white head. Lots of piney hop notes on the nose, resiny flavours and a bitter finish. Light-bodied and smooth.
Pliny the Elder (June) – Bright gold, effervescent with white head. Lots of piney hop on the nose, resiny and strong bitter finish. Light-bodied with a dry finish.
In terms of appearance these beers were almost identical with the fresher Pliny having slightly more head that seemed to stick around a bit longer. The hops on the nose were too close to tell for me but my beer drinking partner thought the July Pliny had more hop character on the nose. The older Pliny seemed less bitter and a bit smoother overall.
Two months are not a huge amount of time but the taste differences are discernible if subtle. Handed either of these Pliny’s on their own, I would say they were both very drinkable and I had no sense that one had been sitting on the shelf for a longer period. But I definitely think finding the freshest beer you can only enhance the experience and give the drinker the truest sense of what the brewer intended.
Check your labels people, ensure your beer has not been taking up real estate at the local liqour store, and if the bottle is dusty think twice!