Typically I want to age 22oz bottles, but I'm curious if I could get away with aging a smaller bottle. Is there any difference based on bottle size?
In theory, larger bottles mean that the little bit of air trapped at the top of the bottle is smaller compared to the volume of beer than it would be in a standard 12 oz bottle. However, I've been unable to find any research backing this up, and anecdotally it makes no difference.
Larger bottles are favored for aging beers mostly for practical reasons:
- Stores are more willing to sell a single large bottle (whereas many often require the purchase of an entire six-pack for smaller beers)
- It's easier to share a large bottle, which you often want to do with a good beer you're aging
- They're often (but not always) cheaper than the equivalent beer split up between several smaller bottles.
But taste and aging-wise, there's no benefit to larger bottles.
This is an incomplete answer, but I know that there are some smaller bottles of "old ale" beers which are made for aging. In particular, there are several from the UK which are sold in the 200-300mL range, such as Thomas Hardy's.
I'm afraid that I can't tell you anything about the effect (or non-effect) of bottle size.
Bottle size affects the aging process due to:
Oxygen Exchange: Larger bottles typically have a smaller ratio of wine surface area to bottle volume compared to smaller bottles. This means there is less contact between the wine and the amount of air in the bottle's body (assuming it is stored horizontally). As a result, wine in larger bottles tends to age more slowly because there is less oxygen exchange. Considering also that the amount of air exchanged by the cork is almost the same for all the bottle sizes.
Temperature Stability: Larger bottles tend to have more stable temperatures because they have a higher thermal mass. This means that temperature fluctuations in the wine cellar or storage area can have a slower and less pronounced effect on the wine inside the larger bottle.