Thursday, February 16, 2006


A Good Old Beer (or Two...)

Time can do wonders with a good beer. It might well be the final judge of the quality of a beer, making it a life-time tasting event or an undrinkable affair that you would want to forget as soon as possible.

All the top five beer bars in Belgium offer cellar-conditioned beer. The grandfather of them all is Bierhuis Kulminator in Antwerpen. Run by Leen and Dirk van Dyck for 26 years at its present location, where they also have a good cellar. Recently they have trebled their cellar capacity here, allowing them to bring some goodies from an old cellar nearby their former café south of Antwerpen.

I was lucky enough to taste a thirty year old Liefmans Kriek that Dirk had fished out of his old cellar. An amazing experience - the beer was in a perfect condition, still with a lot of cherry flavour, but becoming more raisiny. It will be exciting to see what "new" old bottles will work their way from the old to the new cellar and eventually into the phonebook-sized beer menu, updated annually. That in itself may take some time.

Meanwhile, it may be worth storing some beers for yourself, preferably in a cellar that is well out of daily reach. A very good article on cellaring beer can be found here. It recommends a storing temperature of 13-15 degrees Celcius, somewhat higher than the 7-10 degrees prevailing in the Kulminator cellar. But then again you may not manage to keep your stock for thirty years.

The best beers for keeping? Time seems to have a preference for the strong and the bitter, the acidic and the sweet and sour. Lager is definitely not for lagering!

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