Monday, March 17, 2014

Book Review: Vintage Beer by Patrick Dawson

Book: Vintage BeerIn most cases, good craft beer is meant to be enjoyed fresh from the brewery. But there are several examples of beer that take on a whole new character after a year or more of controlled cellar aging. While it might be fun to tuck away some of your favorite beers for a year or so, unless you know which beers are meant to be aged and how to properly age those beers, you might be in for a less than pleasant surprise when you open them up later on.

This is why it is important to know which beers work best for aging. Luckily for us there is a new book that was just published by Patrick Dawson called "Vintage Beer - A Taster's Guide to Brews That Improve over Time". This book is being published by Storey Publishing in March 2014. Fermentedly Challenged was offered a promotional copy to review and I was happy to read it and give a review here.

So you think you know beer cellaring?

That's what I thought prior to reading this book. Once I was done, I realized that I had made several mistakes in the past about how best to age a beer and even which beers work best put away. This book gives a concise guide to how you can make the best of the special beers you choose to cellar.

"Vintage Beer" is organized into six main chapters plus a reference section, a glossary and an index.

Chapter One is dedicated to what Dawson calls his 14 "Vintage Beer Rules". These rules, if followed, should help you best experience and age certain types of beers you select. Some of the rules may even surprise you a bit. They certainly did for me. For example, did you know that it doesn't necessarily take a high ABV beer to benefit from aging? A few exceptional beer styles don't have to be above 8% ABV, but the vast majority do.

The second chapter goes into determining which beers have vintage potential and how the various ingredients and elements can affect a beer over time. Choosing beers with certain malts, hops, yeast esters & phenols, alcohol content, wood characteristics, oxidation vulnerabilities and microbiota can greatly enhance or degrade the flavor or your beer years from now.

Chapter 3 then suggests Dawson's top 6 beer styles that age best. He also mentions a few other styles, while not in his top 6, that can also be beneficial to cellaring. Does your favorite beer style fall into this category? You'll be surprised which styles don't age well.

Once you understand his concepts in the first 3 chapters, Vintage Beer then dives right into specific examples of each of Dawson's favorite styles of beer to age and describes how certain specific examples of these beers taste over time in Chapter 4.

The last two chapters in the book tell you about how to select and manage a beer cellar and what are the best environments for storing and aging beer. Plus he gives some tips on how to track the beers you age with various tools and aids. These tips are just as important as the beers you choose to select for aging.

Vintage Beer - Chapter 2 Vintage Beer - Chapter 3

Overall Impressions

One nice element of this book is that each chapter had a variety of full page color photos of some of the beer beers for cellaring. There are even several Colorado craft beer examples from breweries such as Great Divide, Crooked Stave and Odell Brewing Company given. In addition, there are dozens of other beers that you've probably already know and love mentioned in here including many imported beers.

"Vintage Beer" was well written by someone who is a BJCP certified beer judge and also lives in Colorado. The book is written in an easy to understand manner. I felt that both new and experienced craft beer drinkers would have no trouble understanding his suggestions. There are 150 pages filled with great references, tips and suggestions.

After reading this book, I will stop aging some of my beers longer than a year or two and consider aging some of them even longer and in slightly different conditions. As a writer who also enjoys cellaring some my own beer, I found this book fascinating and can't wait to open up and taste some of the beers I've stored away.

The book gave some great examples of how a particular beer style changes over time. I've had some experiences with vertical tastings of certain beers and I agree with much of what Patrick Dawson is saying in this book.

There's even a handy list of Vintage Beer Bars in the USA and overseas that he lists that he encourages you to visit. Did you know that the Bull & Bull Pub in Denver, CO is not only known for the beers they produce, but also as an establishment that ages a wide variety of beers (not just their own) as well?

I was able to read through this entire book in a fairly short time. I would deem this well worth the suggested retail price of $14.95. For those who love great craft beer and who tend to buy up extra bottles of certain beers and stash them away, it will be well worth your time reading to help refine your selections and best protect them for optimal taste.

Look for this book in bookstores this month. You can also find it online on Amazon or at

Vintage Beer: A Taster's Guide to Brews That Improve Over Time
Published: March 11, 2014
ISBN 978-1-61212-156-7
Publisher: Storey Publishing

Other articles you might enjoy:
- Book Review: The BrewDogs of Colorado II.
- Book Review: Drinking and Driving in Colorado.
- Other articles about cellaring beer.

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