Most beer doesn’t age gracefully. Those lovely hop aromas and flavors degrade. CO2 begins to release, and beverages go flat. Malt will acquire weird veggie flavors due to oxidation (dimethyl sulfides!). Yeast can even naturally mutate and acquire bacteria (sometimes making bottles explosive).
But some beers can be aged. Cellar rats usually stick to the three Ss — strong, sour or smoked. Of course, those aging risks aren’t scaring Innis & Gunn. Big demand for Innis & Gunn’s latest limited edition beer has seen the Scottish craft brewer take an interesting step to preserve a bottle for posterity before stocks disappear. The 7.7 percent ABV beer named Vintage has been placed in a time capsule with instructions to be opened in the year 2116.
Of note: Beers over 7 percent ABV with strong flavors (like smoked malt) tend to handle age better than others.
Vintage is a bottle-conditioned strong ale that becomes richer and more complex the longer it is left, according to the brewery. Although the beer is brewed to be drunk on the day of release, time is on the beer’s side as the yeast contained in the bottle continues to condition the beer beyond its official “Best Before” date. Innis & Gunn plan to test the aging boundaries by placing a Vintage in a time capsule at its Inveralmond Brewery in Perth, Scotland. The time capsule will be opened in 100 years.
Will it actually age well?
The absence of food spoilage bacteria in the beer will mean the century old Vintage will be drinkable, with a flavor profile far different from how it tastes today, said Innis & Gunn. Vintage comes in 500-milliliter bottles, and the last few bottles are available for purchase nationwide. The beer is matured in American Bourbon casks, and only 8,000 bottles were produced for sale.
Created with Super Styrian hops, Vintage’s malt profile includes Innis & Gunn Ale Malt, Crystal, roasted barley and raw wheat. Innis & Gunn brewers describe the beer’s taste profile as “buttered toast, creamy toffee, a little sharpness from the yeast and a creamy full mouthfeel.”
Dougal Gunn Sharp, founder and master brewer, said in the press release:
“I’ve been brewing beer for the past 30 years and with each new recipe there’s always something new to learn. This was certainly the case with Vintage which has been a labour of love that takes another giant step in our innovative approach to beer. The fact the beer continues to mature and change over time inspired us to preserve it in such a unique way. We want the time capsule to serve as a reminder for us to keep innovating, keep pushing boundaries and keep expanding people’s ideas of what beer can be. Just like Vintage, we’ll continue to get better with time and I just wish I could be there in one hundred years when the brewers open up the capsule and taste the beer.”