I recently bought a bottle of beer (imperial stout) which is "best before" 2033. It's more than 13 year from now. I know that strong beers have a high longevity and I even have some Belgians expiring in 3-4 years. But 13? Is it possible that a beer can be stored for 13 years without loosing its quality or is it rather a typo (and it's not 33 but probably 22 or 23)?
I recently acquired a book called "Vintage Beers" by Patrick Dawson. The subject of the book is about aging beers and what characteristics of beers lend themselves to cellaring.
He lists 14 rules for aging beers. He clearly states that most beers are not good for aging and that they are best consumed fresh but if a beer meets certain criteria than it can, and will, benefit from aging.
I will not take the time to paraphrase the whole book but i will include a few quotes.
You cellar and drink 10-year old beers? Are you crazy?
Aging beer allows time for flavors not immediately present to develop and meld.
Rule #3, Darker malts create sherry and port flavors with age.
Beers should be cellared bellow their fermentation temperature.
The bottom line is if you love a particular beer and it falls withing the guidelines set forth in his book then you would be well advised to age it properly and enjoy it at a quality and taste level not available unless it is aged in a cellar.
I was trying to find a study, which would prove if it is true or not, but I was not lucky. At least I found a few resources, that say, that especially imperial stouts can last even 10 years.1,2
In one article, there is even written about imperial stouts, that
Bolder flavors and mouthfeel tend to smooth out after several years.3
In that case, I do not think, this would be a typo. Still, there certainly can be some change in quality.
I'm not an expert on very old beers but it doesn't sound too unreasonable. Heavy beers with lots of hops and alcohol would usually stay good for longer than lighter beers. The way the bottles are stored may become a factor if you are going to store them for longer periods of time. The way the bottles were stored might affect their value if you were to sell them later on.
Usually beers intended for long storage would have cork and muselet, rather than a metallic cap. You can mitigate the effects of the metallic caps by storing the bottles in an upright position so the beer makes as little contact with the cap as possible. High quality beers would typically be in dark bottles to protect them from light. Storing the bottles in pitch black would probably be a good idea if you wanted them to last for that long. Not sure what would be a good temperature.