I've recently had several conversations and questions asked about aging beer and the effect of time on certain beers over others and why time is of the essence when it comes to specific releases. When tasting a freshly kegged, wet hopped IPA and then revisiting it three weeks later, there is a noticeable difference. The beer is still very good and more than drinkable, but the subtle changes can be seen. "I thought beers got better as they age." SOME beers get better as they age, others are more like a ticking time bomb and the sooner they can be consumed and "gotten rid of", the better.

Hops were originally put into beer to not only offset the malt foundation and balance out the beer, but also as a preservative. The spectrum has shifted in how an IPA or an overly hoppy beer can be enjoyed, and when it should be enjoyed. Beers meant to age and develop might be spiked with hops to withstand time in a barrel or sitting in one's cellar. Different yeast cultures might be added to further enhance the developing profile over time, reacting with the hops to create nuances over the course of months to years.

In the case of a beer such as Zombie Dust, it's the fresher, the better that matters. Zombie Dust is a highly sought after Pale Ale that is overly hopped and something only tasting it can really explain. People come from places you've never heard of and line up for longer than one would tolerate to buy it by the case. The bright, citric tones really create more of an experience when you taste it. It's not like other pale ales you've had.

I held on to a couple of bottles from the April release of Zombie Dust at the Three Floyds brewery to see how this beer....for the lack of a better term, falls apart. This beer is definitely one that you want to drink fresh and the clock is ticking once it's in the bottle.

The smell is still very hop forward, but the initial brightness of the citrus and hop presence that is intended is underwhelming. Caramel and biscuit come to mind as the malts come through a lot more and you can pickup a bit of the sweetness of the grains.

The flavor resembles a west coast pale ale. Sweet, pale malt base but with a generous portion of hops. No, this is not a bad thing, but again we look at how this has changed and it is pretty significant. The hop presence has less citrus notes and more of a resinous quality. A lot of pine and a bit more vegetal. The life and initial zing you get when you get your first sip of fresh Dust is gone. Like the filament in a light bulb that is on its last few hours, just trying to hold on. Lemon zest and grapefruit rind are left in the aftertaste.

The mouthfeel is a bit more oily and less acidic. The carbonation helps maintain a bit of the bite on the tongue, but without the acidity of the hop bursts, it's fleeting.

Should you dump that 6 month old Zombie Dust that you have sitting in the back of the fridge? Hell no. It's still a great beer. Should you try to introduce one of your friends to "ZD" with that 6 month old bottle? Probably not. They'll think it's good, but just like trying to get someone into Star Wars by showing them Episode 1 with all of it's Jar Jar greatness, it won't be nearly as great as the original and the way it was supposed to be experienced.


Our CELLARED series aims to explore the world of aging beer and sharing the effects of time in the bottle. Bottles have been kept away from light and at temperatures between 44-60 degrees. Individual experiences may vary depending on storage environments.

Posted on September 26, 2014 .