I'd read a few articles recently (like this) that suggest that some beers can be stored for several years like wine. I'd always thought that beer should be drunk fresh so this seemed like a novel idea.
According to some, the flavours can become more intense and complex over time and actually improve the beer. It's meant to work better with certain types of ale though. Pale ales wouldn't benefit but dark, spicy bitters might. Well, that's how the theory goes.
What luck then, that I came across a little cache of beers in my Father-in-Law's utility room cupboard that were over a year out of date. "Best Before May 2012" - Yummy! I'm pretty sure that I've personally never owned a bottle of beer for longer than three days before drinking it so this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Time for a taste.
There was a fairly standard amount of fizz when the cap came off and the beer poured with a reasonable head. It was very, very dark though - like tar and unfortunately I didn't know if this was normal or not. What surely wasn't normal was the rasping chemical taste that burned the back of my throat upon drinking. It smelled awful - a bit like malt and acetone mixed together.
Down the plug hole it went while I reached for the second one.
The cap popped off with quite a fizz, leading to a bit of foam splurting out of the top of the bottle and all over the kitchen worktop. I couldn't pour it into the glass slowly enough to stop an enormous head rolling up, as the picture shows. It didn't smell too unusual so I took a gulp.
For the first 2-3 seconds all seemed well but then an appalling taste came charging through, which I can only describe as being like wet leather crossed with liquorice. I spat it out and again chucked the foul brew down the drain.
A quick look through the sorry collection revealed just a few light ales were left that I now wasn't going to touch with a bargepole so I called time on my "vintage" ale experiment.
I'm sure there are probably some beers that can be cellared for a few years but it's not these ones and in all honesty, my motivation to try this again has gone.