I’ve noticed increased chatter on Facebook groups about the freshness of IPAs. Of course, you should enjoy most styles of beer as fresh as possible because breweries release their beer when they feel it’s ready for you to drink it. However, what I’ve been seeing is the flat-out rejection of IPAs that are only a few weeks old. I decided to set out and see if that rejection is valid. After a year of waiting, a few friends and I sat down for a vertical of MadTree’s PsycHOPathy IPA.
The Tasting Panel
I pulled together a few of my friends to assist me. In the end, we had 2 BJCP Certified rank judges, one beer buyer for a local bottle shop, one general manager/beer buyer for a LaRosa’s, four beer enthusiasts, and one pregnant woman observing our antics. There was also a 2-week old baby and an overly affectionate Goldendoodle if anyone cares, neither of them drank any beer.
I purchased all cans cold and stored in a refrigerator after purchase. We had two cans from each date and before beginning I shuffled them thoroughly while keeping the pairs together. We then pulled one pair at a time. I created a simple sheet for notes, date guesses, and the actual results. Each person received 2 – 3 ounces of each beer then made notes if they chose to do so and recorded an estimate of the date. Half-way through the flight, we blinded a year old Sol Drifter vs. a fresh one as a palate cleanser, BIG difference on those two.
After recovering from the post-vertical bottle share, I started compiling everyone’s score sheets into Excel. I then consulted with a friend who does data analysis to figure out the best way to deal with this information. Here’s what shook out:
- Five people correctly identified the oldest can from August 2014. Two people thought it was October 2014 and one person thought it was December 2014.
- Three people correctly identified the can from February 2015. Other answers were April, July, and August 2015.
- Two people correctly identified the can from July 2015. The other six people thought the July 2015 can was from August 2015.
- No one got the cans from October, December, April, or August 2015 correct.
- Out of 56 total guesses by eight people, there were only ten correct answers. Just simmer on that for a moment.
If we step back and look at the chances of getting 1 out of 7 correct, it’d be 14.3%. All together we beat the odds and got 17.9% correct, but if you remove the can from August 2014, we only got 10.6% correct which is a less than complete chance. Bottom line, we all failed miserably. [footnote] Thanks to Mr. McNutt for that insight & analysis [/footnote]
Another interesting way to look at this was how far off we were. This chart shows the number of days we were away from the actual canning date on average. If we were 100% accurate, it’d be a straight blue streak on the 0 line.
The one can that most of us identified correctly, from August 2014, stood out because of oxidation. People left comments about “musty” or “cardboard” flavors and aromas, both clear signs of dissolved oxygen seeping into the beer and causing oxidation.
I reached out to MadTree, and they said that they made changes to lower dissolved oxygen (DO) levels in the fall of last year. It’s likely that the can from October 2014 had far less DO than the one from August 2014 due to those changes, causing it to hide its age far better.
As I said at the start, many folks lately seem to be rejecting any IPA that’s more than a few weeks old. I think we’ve shown here that, with proper storage conditions, you won’t notice a difference. All of these beers tasted very similar except for the oldest one which potentially suffered issues that MadTree has since corrected.
You should always drink beer as fresh as possible, but don’t get pissy or pour it out if it’s a few months old because you’ll hardly notice the difference. In the end, we are all Jon Snow.