The Art of Aging | Beers and Wrinkles

Dystopian State (also known as "the hungry baby") is 20 months, 14 days and 3 hours old. I am 15 years older than I was on our opening night in 2016.

Aging is a vital part of the craft. A skillfully aged brew with all the right malts, hops and yeast proportions is a complex and coveted concoction. Brains and hearts of the brewers have calculated every detail backwards and forwards and I know they gently whisper sweet nothings into those barrels when I am not watching.

dystopian state, lana adzhigirey, shane mcelwrath

There is a double IPA #helmetbreaker sopping up the residual traces of bourbon. Next to it, a high maintenance saison whose claim to fame contains the sought after and “polarizing” (also hideously expensive) Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand is lolling around in the gently used Sauvignon Blanc barrel. This one was lovingly named O.G. (Original Gangster) since it was hard to decide whether to love or to hate it. I am equally conflicted about my own aging. The mirror is starting to pick up on new lines around my eyes and my neck has literally aged overnight.

We did an exercise in nursing school which was undoubtedly designed for 20 some year olds to better connect with the elderly. I was given a letter sized sheet of paper and instructed to tear off pieces as the professor recited age related losses until there was nothing but a flimsy speckle of paper in my hand. If the aging does beer good, could there possibly be any pleasure in it for the humans besides the inevitable loss? The saison went into that barrel as a good beer but came out great. Could I possibly end on the other side better than I was before? I blame my premature accelerated aging process on the steady element of surprise and a never ending need for more. More time, more money, more patience, and taxes, which are securely attached with VELCRO to deadlines and late fees. And then I look up from my screen and into people’s faces. I see the smooth, glowing impatience of the young and the warm, balanced wisdom of the fellow wrinkled. Those beers emerge after their arduous, dark journey more balanced and flavorful. And it hits me that so will I.