Cleaning out the beer closet

And now, a guest post from one of my beer heroes, Ken Hilton.

What happens when you have been brewing for competitions for a couple of years? It is simple…..you have amassed so much beer that the closets have been overflowing for what seems a beer eternity. Meaning, no more brewing until you drink up the stashes of delightful delectables…..or pour out the crap.

Well, the last 2 weeks has been the latter….with a few surprises. Most of the stash is 2-3 years old, well beyond hope of redemption for the lighter varieties, but still within finding yet another “oh, wow, Dude” beer tucked away somewhere. Here’s the drill……take one of each of the 47 varieties and chill them down. Resist the temptation of falling back to the “standards” and drink 2-3 of the 47 each night with the ultimate aim of determining which ones stay in the closet for consumption, which ones get poured out, and which ones go to “Joe the next-door-neighbor who drinks crap beer anyway”.

Here’s the tally. Joe got the soapy tasting dunkelweizen and foamy English Pale Ale. The darker beers seemed to hold up fairly well, so saving them for BBQ nights seems appropriate. The Royale Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout hit the drains….went down kinda “chunky”. And then there were the surprises. One bottle left of the Sweet Spiced Kumquat Orange Tripel….poured nicely, darker than I remember, slightly oxidized sherry-like character. Oh My!!!!  What a wonderfully delightful beer. This one brings back memories of the competition in which it was entered in Charlotte…..the U. S. Open. As I recall fondly, a remark was made by one of the Best of Show judges….something to the effect of “anyone having enough balls to put kumquats in a beer”. Truly classic memorable comments. That’s what homebrewing is about…..pushing the limits of creativity. This one probably stays a memory…to difficult to even comprehend brewing it again.

And, there was the Belgian Dark Strong that was so hot and alcoholic and so overpoweringly “dark-fruit-prune” character that it was hardly drinkable. Now, complex, mellow, warming, lucious and exotic. Alas…..only 2 bottles of this one left.

And the tale goes on. The moral to the story…….put some brews away. Practice patience and self-restraint. Indulge yourself over the holidays with some old friends, some good music, rich foods, and surprise brews out of the closet. You might just surprise yourself…..and resurrect some fond memories of times past.

Oh, the real drill of this exercise is to make room for the 20 cases of meads made over the last year of competitions…..so that 2 or 3 years from now, I can do the same voyage of discovery with the meads.

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