This morning, I woke up craving a Detroit Dwarf from the Detroit Beer Company, an Alt beer that I had on my trip to Detroit (see my write up on it here). Is it a bad thing to crave a beer when you wake up? I am not sure, but I am pretty sure that it is a bad thing to give in to your craving for beer at breakfast....the Door's song notwithstanding. I am not there, really, I am not. The craving is made doubly interesting since I can't get one anyway.
It got me thinking again about regional and local beers. I like that you can't get everything everywhere, and sometimes lament that although you can get a lot of beers imported from around the world and across the country, you can never be sure of their freshness or be sure that you are tasting the beer the way it was intended to taste. I know from experience that the beer I brew ages, and improves with time. Most of my beer does not get older than 6 months, and is stored at a constant temperature in my basement or at a low temperature in my fridge, preserving it.
Hoppy beers are especially susceptible to change during aging. Any beer with a fresh hop aroma or taste loses that striking feature with age as the distinct hop flavors blend into the beer. It doesn't make the beer taste bad (as long as the beer hasn't been skunked by exposure to heat, sun, or fluorescent light), it just loses its hoppy punch over extended periods. IPA's, Steam Beers, and my Detroit Dwarf would not necessarily satisfy my craving for the fresh beer I know, love, and respect. Stocking up on a beloved beer may not be the answer here.
Of course, there are many beers that are intended to age and improve with time. Like red wines, those beers tend to have a lot of complex flavors from aging on wood (in barrels sometimes), or have specialized yeast strains, or other interesting spices or ingredients. The Biere de Mars from the Jolly Pumpkin that I served at the Rare Beer Tasting is an example. It is a Flemish Sour Brown Ale and was aged in oak for 27 months and aged in the bottle for a year and a half. It had a different taste than the same beer that was aged for 18 months in oak and in the bottle for less time.
So, know your beer. Age the ones intended to age with care, and enjoy the fresh beers directly from the brewery whenever you can. Craving beer you can't get is a good thing. It makes it all that more satisfying when you can get your hands on one. Don't save a beer that isn't intended to be aged. If you have an old beer on your counter or in the back of your fridge, do that beer a favor, and drink it. There is no better reason or special occasion or excuse necessary.
So, I can't get my Dwarf craving satisfied, but I do have some special beer in my fridge that is going to be drunk soon.