I rarely treat a trip to the liquor store as a smash-and-grab job. Like a bibliophile in a used bookstore, I slowly scan each cooler in the craft-beer aisle to find new brews, seasonal releases, and out-of-state rarities. When I've seen everything, I double back and scan the shelves again. I'll spend 20 minutes browsing.
I developed this laborious routine to ensure that my purchases were always stellar, but it means that I don't have a lot of brew lying around the house. So a year ago, when a friend whose beer brain I respect, suggested I buy a bottle and stick it in a closet for a year, I was a little thrown off. Why would I spend money on suds I can't enjoy for another 365 days? When stored under the right conditions, some beers, particularly those high in alcohol, age like wine, he explained. So I humored my buddy and bought a bomber of The Czar—Avery Brewing Company's Russian imperial stout—stuffed it in a dark corner, and tried to forget it was there.
On a recent weekend, my friend and I split the year-old Czar. I've tasted the stout fresh on a few occasions, and it's excellent, but this was a real treat. The scent burst with molasses and the extra year in the bottle smoothed the toffee and booze flavors into a drinkable blend. Avery's national sales director, Ted Whitney, told me the brewers aim for a toasted, almost burnt marshmallow flavor when cooking up The Czar, and that, indeed, my friend was spot on about the whole beer-ages-like-wine thing. Beer is "more complex" and "infinitely cooler" than wine, Whitney says.
All this means my friend's pitch has become my own. My beer runs aren't all in the name of instant gratification anymore. So next time you're at the liquor store, grab a Czar for the future (available November through February). Then forget about it.