Storing Your Craft Beer
When my husband and I were college students, we had a good friend who adapted an old style, vintage refrigerator into a beer tap. It allowed him to keep fresh keg beer ready for the draw whenever friends dropped by for a visit. Somehow he rigged up a tap that extended through the door so we didn’t even have to open it to access an icy cold mug of beer. Not to date myself … but beer and beer storage sure has changed a lot since those carefree days! Our friend’s solution to keep his beer refrigerated and accessible was wonderful; but it probably would not fly for most of the brews we enjoy today.
The recent ‘craft beer revolution’ is so prevalent that even non-beer drinkers are aware! The Duluth area is home to eleven micro-breweries and craft beer tasting festivals are happening on a regular basis. February of this year, Mayor Don Ness declared Duluth the ‘Craft Beer Capitol of Minnesota’. At a recent gathering, a friend brought two growlers of beer from a local brewery in lieu of the usual 12-pack for the community cooler. Guess which beer went first?
All beer is best stored in a cool, constant temperature environment, away from direct sunlight and sources of heat, and the general rule of thumb is: “the lower the alcohol content, the colder the beer”, which translates to the unfortunate news that your standard refrigerator is too cold for anything but the lightest of beers – your basic ‘PBR’.
There are actually three distinct temperature ranges for beer, making ideal storage a little tricky. The strongest beers (barleywines and dark ales) do best at 55-60 degrees F. Most craft beers – IPA’s, stouts, dobblebocks – store best at 50-55 degrees F. And lighter beers, such as pilsners, lagers and wheat beers are best stored at 45-50 degrees F. If your home features a basement cellar, you might have the perfect environment. Aside from that, if you’re serious about your beer, you may have to consider investing in a special ‘beer’ refrigerator. And that’s where things get tricky, because, currently, ‘temp-zoned’ beer refrigerators for residential use do not exist!
BUT … with a little resourcefulness, there is a solution … and it’s the wine refrigerator. Many people are familiar with wine stewards as they have been readily available over the past decade or so. Many of them feature at least two temperature zones and some can be adapted to store your fine beer collection. Before purchasing, however, scrutinize the wine unit be sure it will work for your beer. Check that the shelves will adapt to storing your beer upright, as wine is stored on its side. It’s nice to have a glass door – you will want your friends to admire your beer – but be sure it’s tinted to filter out UV rays. And since it will be showcasing your prized craft collection … choose an attractive unit because … well, this is your beer we’re talking about! Next … we’ll figure out how to store all those oddly shaped, variously sized beer glasses! Sláinte!
I am a columnist for Duluth Superior Magazine, a monthly publication dedicated to the finer attributes of life in our Northland. My column appears in the Style section and is titled ‘Living by Design’. The following column was published September 2013.
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