Session #73: The Beer Audit

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Our 73rd Session, is hosted by Adam W., who writes Pints and Pubs (from beer to eternity). His topic is all about something he does at least once a year, which he calls a “beer audit” and he’s asking people to blog about their own efforts at managing their beer. Here’s what he means by a Beer Audit:

Once or twice a year I take a beer audit. I open cupboards and boxes and just have a good look at what’s there. Some beers get moved about, some make it from a box into the fridge, others get pushed further to the back of the cupboard for another day. Often I just stare at the bottles for a while and think about when I’ll drink them. Apart from the enjoyment of just looking at a hoard of beer, It tells me something about my drinking habits.

  • I store too many bottles – over 150 at the last count, which would keep me in beer for over a month, compared to less than a week’s worth of food – but evidently that’s still not enough bottles as I return with more every time I leave the house.
  • I have a tendency to hoard strong, dark beers – great for a winter evening, not so great when a lazy sunny afternoon starts with a 9% imperial stout and then gets stronger.
  • My cellaring could be improved. I found three beers from breweries that closed last year. I found these, not hidden away in a box under the stairs, but in the fridge. The fridge!!!
  • My attempts to age beer usually just result in beer that’s past its best.
  • The oldest beer in my cupboard is probably an infant compared to the aged beers people must have in their cellars.

So, I’m interested to know if you take stock of the beers you have, what’s in your cellar, and what does it tell you about your drinking habits. This could include a mention of the oldest, strongest, wildest beers you have stored away, the ratio of dark to light, strong to sessionable, or musings on your beer buying habits and the results of your cellaring. I look forward to reading your posts on Friday March 1st, leave a comment here when you do.

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Like Adam, I could probably do a better job managing my own stash of beer, which generally grows larger with the passing years, despite my constant efforts, and best intentions, to drink it all. Things have certainly improved because I also used to have whatever beer I had just scattered about wherever it would fit, and at out last home had four refrigerators for beer, in part because our garage was not temperature controlled. So I was constantly losing track of where bottles ended up and had a devil of a time trying to find anything. What I really have always wanted to do was but a numbered sticker on every bottle (a barcode would be even better — and geekier) and keep a file listing what each bottle is along with its location. Time being fixed, unfortunately, means that I never found enough spare hours to make that dream a reality.

But since we moved into the new house last year, most of the beer is now, at last, in one place. This house has a beer cellar built under it specifically for that purpose. The people who built the house kept wine in it, but I’ve repurposed it, although we do keep some wine there, of course. It’s built into the side of the hill, has a gravel floor, with a raised brick floor running around the four walls. There’s also a working sink in there. I wish it was a few degrees cooler, but it’s fairly constant at least. I may add a swamp cooler when summer reasserts itself this year. I put up one large shelf, one smaller shelf but most of the rest of the beer is in boxes.

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But at least it’s in one place now. Or most of it is. We still have two refrigerators in the garage, one of which is for food (plus the added freezer space allows us to buy in bulk) but the other one is where I put the beer for drinking, and where my wife’s stash is. Long ago, I used to put a dot, an orange sticker, on any bottle that she wasn’t allowed to drink so she”d know what was being saved and what wasn’t. That method proved unworkable because, although she usually respected the dot, visiting friends and relatives rarely did. So instead I began segregating the aging beer meant to be saved from the beer ready to drink now. Out of site, out of mind worked far better for keeping prized bottles of beer from being opened before their time. Now there in completely different parts of the house, with beer separated into three groups. Beer that’s meant to be enjoyed now is in the garage, in the refrigerator, or in boxes next to it — the on deck circle, so to speak — waiting for their tun in the cold box. Another group is set aside for my once monthly tasting — the Philopotes Society meetings — and because they haven’t been monthly lately due to being so far behind on finishing my book, they’re piling up. 22 cases at last count. Many will have to be moved into the “must drink now pile” before they perish. The rest go into the beer cellar.

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The big shelf in the beer cellar. It’s hard to tell in the photo, but they’re about four or five bottles deep. I’ve tried to keep like bottles together — Cantillon with Cantillon, Russian River with Russian River, etc. — but there’s still a lot that are scattered. I really need to do an actual audit, something I’ve never formally accomplished. I think doing one annually, as Adam suggests, is what I should do, too. But you see all the bottles on the shelf in the photo? That represents about a quarter or a fifth of what’s down there in boxes, so I really need to audit it all so I have a better idea of what I have. I also noticed I still have a couple of cases of LBV Port from 1994. I should open one of those soon, too.

The funny thing is, I never really set out to build a collection of aging beer, it just sort of happened. I suppose if it had been a planned event, I would have gone about it differently, picked up specific bottles, filled in collections of vintages, things like that. As it is, people give me bottles, or I happen to be in the right place at the right time where certain bottles happen to be. Over time, they accumulate, and now that I have a place to keep them — and equally important in a place that’s out of the sight of my beloved — I suspect the cellar will just keep growing, like wild yeast feeding on fermentables. What I really need, apart from a serious audit of what’s down there, is more excuses to open the bottles. I need more friends stopping by, because there are few things I hate more than opening a bottle by myself. If you know where I live, c’mon by. Let’s open some bottles. Every one we drink is one less that I have to audit later.

Westerham-Audit-Ale
Here’s one more bottle I’d like to add to the collection: Westerham Audit Ale. That seems like it would be the prefect beer to drink while I conduct my beer audit.

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