<Drafted Nov. 9, ’11.> Combining homebrewing with a packrat mentality can be a study in cross-purposes. Beer does not have the shelf-life of wine. While I think vintners have shown great marketing genius in the valuation of their product (given the public’s perception of aged wine), fermented grape juice generally adds value far better than beer does. As far as playing to a packrat’s strength, oenophiles have a clear advantage.
Personally, I’ve found that some beers do age well, for a decade or so. For instance, a decade after I learned how to brew I got together with one of the guys who taught me, surprising him with some bottles of our first half dozen batches. The verdict was surprising. Some of them, particularly ales, had improved over our memory of them.
In general, the lighter beers, such as my lagers and white ales, don’t age as well. People loved my first batch of white ale—but five or six years after I bottled it I noticed it had lost flavor.
So I have to battle my hoarder’s instincts. I like socking a few bottles away, enjoy the notion that I have samples left of earlier batches, and have to remind myself that the stuff doesn’t last for years—drink it now.
Thus I was raiding the stash, alarming the packrat in the back of my head, which I appease by selecting a few bottles from different batches, spreading out the take. Which means I’m bent over wrestling boxes in and out of an old, flimsy computer table that serves as shelving, and trying to stuff boxes back in place, damnit! Fit back whre you came from! And I’m oblivious to the teetering bottles on the desktop by my skull, one of which finally topples and crashes to the cement floor.
I have to say, if it hadn’t been something I valued, it was a most satisfying crash. The damn thing exploded into hundreds of splintering pieces with a wonderful smash. I wish I could play an audio file of it for you. That thought occurred to me the instant after the disaster registered, a combination of sharp glass breakage and the fluid muffling of beer foam. The third sensation was smell. Beer in a glass is a pleasure, but spilt beer on a dusty concrete floor is a foul waste.
This comes, I reprimanded myself, of being a packrat. As I mopped up and swept glass splinters away, I found a small grasshopper corpse back behind a box. Ha!
Remember the parable of the grasshopper and the ant? Well, I’ve got another moral for the story. Enjoy the moment, as nothing lasts forever. Especially not beer.