Tag Archives: really old ales

Historical Potables

Once again, my friend Ed alerted me to this story on beer. The short version: a firefighter at theĀ Hindenburg disaster found some beer that survived the event and a bottle is going up for auction now.

In a related tale, explorers have discovered some of the whiskey that Ernest Shackleton left behind on his failed journey in the Antarctic.

One interesting difference between these two stories is that the whiskey might still be drinkable. Granted, this is partly due to storage conditions and the preservative agents in whiskey vs. beer but to me this is also about the culture. Beer just isn’t meant to be kept forever; you sit down with people and you share it.

Whiskey, especially good whiskey, has that ‘save it because it’s precious’ vibe that has most people waiting for that moment. There are some beers that do this too; I’m thinking especially of the hype (and oh man, the HYPE) surrounding Deschutes’ Abyss stout, but other winter ales frequently inspire a ‘collector’s’ vibe to them too.

The difference between the first two stories and the collector’s vibe, to me, is simple; the former are historical artifacts. They tell us about the past and with study could further inform us about the effects of time upon these things. Collecting food just to have it strikes me as an act of the starving. Some people do store beers like Abyss (which is a fine stout, I just tire of the hype) so they can do ‘vertical tastings’ that is, samples from a beer over a range of time to see, for example, how the ’05 stacks up to the ’09 and these tastings are usually done in groups but I’m not sure what they prove.

On the other hand, they don’t have to prove anything, they can just be fun. My hope is that people are collecting for just such a tasting, as an excuse to get together and enjoy not just horde for another day.