2013 Beer Cellar

The problem with the lack of a tasting group and having no other hobbies means that I accumulate a lot of beer. I’m not alone in this unintentional cellaring group. After only a year in beer as a hobby, I have hundreds of fermented beverages in my basement. Homebrewing doesn’t help make things any easier but I have decided to back off home brewing for a while so I can drink things down. Guys who maintain beer cellars of at least 50 beers fall into four different groups:

  • Guys who buy 2 of every potential cellarable beer to drink one now and see how the other improves.
  • Guys who buy / trade more than they can drink because a store they step into has so many great beers they’ve been wanting to try
  • Guys who are Pokemon collectors and have to collect a series of beers or try the top 50 beers in a certain style
  • Finally, hoarders who simply surround themselves with beer and psychologically, the reasons for this are always different

I fall into all 4 of these categories. I want to try many different beers, a new store I visit has different distribution than my home place so I end up buying more beers than I need. I also trade a lot and, in some cases I am actually aging 50 or so beers that I enjoyed fresh and want to see how they turn out. Most of these intentionally cellarable beers are Lambic.

The first thing is admitting to yourself and a loved one that you have too much beer and asking them to be your sponsor in reducing the cellar. They don’t have to be a beer drinker but they should encourage you to reduce the cellar as often as possible. Here’s a few things I’ve been doing:

  • Hosting more tastings “Throwaway beer night”. Everyone gets an ounce and if we don’t finish a bottle because it sucks, that’s totally fine
  • Constant re-organization and cataloging of what you have down there and maintaining a “drink now” pile that you’ll give priority to
  • Extra beers in trades every single time
  • Do cellar cleanings every couple of months and try to ship out 12-24 bottles at a time for 1-2 great beers in return. Reducing through trading is a great way to clean house

If you’re a beer ticker who must try everything, sending out beers you haven’t yet consumed yourself can be a challenge but, if your beer gut is growing and you don’t hold regular tastings, it’s a good idea to get over the fact that you can’t tick everything in your cellar unless you are a jerk who grabs 20 bottles and drinks 1 ounce at a time and drain pours perfectly good beer just to get rid of it.

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Most important in all of these is knowing what beer you have. This helps you manage what’s down in the cellar and is great if you’re regularly trading. A lot of pro-traders keep Excel files on Google Docs of their cellars. These docs are highly customizable and allow for the greatest flexibility especially when a cellar is always changing.

RateBeer offers a cellar feature but adding and removing beers from the cellar is a lot of work. Beer Advocate has something similar. I was using Cellar HQ for a while but their design and flow for adding beers was cumbersome and slow. Over the weekend, I moved all of my cellar to The Beer Cellar. It’s a brand new site and I’ve spoken with the developer quite a bit giving my advice and hearing some great things from him on the future of the service.

So, after using the site for about 7 hours to get all of my large format beers included, it’s a nice service but the beer database is lacking a lot of common beers. So, expect to add a lot of beers manually to the database before you can add them to your cellar. That’s my biggest gripe.

Other than that, the service has a nice mobile web app for smartphones and the interface is very fast. Currently, there are only a couple of hundred users.

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If you’re going to create a cellar Excel file or using one of these services, it takes a long time to go through all of your beers and add them. My advice for you is the keep this up to date. An out of date file is annoying to trading partners and to yourself when you want to know what you have downstairs without going through boxes or shelves. I added all Bombers and 750s to my online beer cellar for a total of 305 beers. I didn’t include over 75 – 12 oz bottles.

For a heavy trader like me, maintaining this list is hard but worth it. I’ve fallen behind on those duties before. In december, I added 100 beers to my cellar but mailed out 75 or so. That’s a change in my beer cellar by over 40% in a 30 day time frame. This is very hard to keep track of if you’re not thinking about updating the cellar documents every time a box goes in or out. This is why I’m going only covering larger format bottles. 12 oz bottles I consume more regularly and most of them aren’t of interest to any potential trader so they stay off the cellar doc and are organized downstairs by style so I open whatever style I feel like and don’t have to worry about removing 3-5 bottles from my beer cellar every day.

Although, over Cellar HQ, The Beer Cellar is nice because the mobile app I have bookmarked on my iPhone and can mark beers as consumed right alongside checking into Untappd and taking some notes for a RateBeer review.

We all manage our hobby differently but maintaining documentation for what’s in the cellar is always a good idea. Recently, someone took a few beers from my cellar during a tasting but I can’t remember the exact count they took because I don’t know how many beers there were total downstairs. To cross-check the document, I could have seen exactly what was taken. While an uncommon occurrence (theft has only happened to me twice at beer tastings), documentation is key.

I have 30 or so more beers to add from Belgium but here’s my latest beer cellar listings online. I re-arranged everything downstairs organizing by style and manually took down brewery, beer, style, vintage and size in NotePad and then spent a few hours adding them online. Well worth the effort.