I have to tell you a cool story. It started with an accidentally forgotten case of Göller Rauchbier left in my garage. I brought a few cases home a couple of years ago and lost one case. Of course, I blame it on my wife because she stacked some boxes on top of it. Anyway, when I recently unearthed the old case of Rauchbier, I realized it was probably a lucky mistake because now I could taste what an aged Göller was like. To my surprise, the mahogany-colored lager had no funky sour notes, and no cardboard taste. In fact the flavor had increased in complexity and had become slightly less bitter. I think it got better!
As you can imagine, this got me thinking about what all the Göller beers would be like when aged, so I had to start experimenting with the others. I don't have the final results for all of them yet, but let me share with you what I have so far. All the beers stay extremely stable for 12 months as long as they are kept out of heat. After that, they continue to age well, but in different ways. For example, the darker lagers like the Dunkel and the Rauch become slightly sweeter after 2 years. The smoky bitterness in the Rauch slightly diminishes. The Steinhauer Weisse gets slightly more wheat flavored and less pronounced fruity notes as the yeast clarifies. The Pilsners tend to loose the intensity of the hops aroma and also get slightly more bitter. Some people like the aged pilsners even more! I know the common wisdom out there says you should not age a lager at all, and especially never a pilsner. But my experience with Göller has been shown me that these quality-crafted German lagers stand up very well to aging. I asked the Göller brothers why this would be and they pointed out several differences in the way they brew at Brauerei Göller. Here are some things they do that contribute to a longer shelf-life:
No adjuncts that tend to go stale. Just the traditional 4 ingredients.
Quality barley, grown in nearby fields.
No pasteurization. Yes, you heard me right. (More about this below).
Carefully balanced hop levels.
Long conditioning at cold temperatures before being bottled, usually about 2 months.
Quality bottler that keeps out all oxygen. Bottles do better than cans for this reason.
Brown-colored bottles that keep out ultraviolet rays.
Doesn't pasteurization lead to longer shelf-life? Actually no. Although pasteurization can help with stabilizing the sweeter beers, it isn't necessary for a well-conditioned lager and only serves to cook the flavor out. It's actually better to preserve the slow acting lager yeasts that contribute to "aging with grace." The beers you get from Göller stay alive and fresh even after years in the bottle. Oh, and Göller even cold-conditions their Weisse ale for almost as long as their lagers, so even it has greater stability when compared to most wheat ales out there. I'll be sure to update you as the years go by, and tell you how these ancient craft beers continue to evolve in my cellar.