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Throughout my years brewing beer and buying commercial beers I have seen a number of debates on what it best for a bottle of beer. Temps, color of the bottle, corks, caps etc… Most of those have a majority and minority camp, but one that seems to be split down the middle is “Should a corked bottle of beer be cellared laying down or sitting up?” I’ve seen some friendly conversations on this topic turn from …well friendly debate into a pretty heated argument.

I wanted to see exactly what some of the pros had to say on this topic. I proposed a few simple questions to each of them and below are their responses.

  • Speaking on corked Sour and Lambic styled beers what position should a bottle be stored in? I would suggest sideways for corked beers to avoid oxidation, but in the case of lambics, this is not as critical. –Jean-Xavier Guinard (Author of “Lambic” and Professor at UC Davis) 

  • Bottles at Cantillon

  • Should caged/corked Lambics and Sours be cellared laying down on their side or standing up? Laying down like wines. To stay humid cork have to be in contact with the beer and a large contact between beer and yeast are better for the conservation.- Jean Van Roy (Cantillon) 
  • Should corked and caged beers be stored laying down or upright?
    This is one of the contested topics for sure.
    For what’s it’s worth, we use the highest quality cork in our bottles
    and don’t believe they would negatively affect the flavor of beers left
    on their sides. That being said, we recommend storing our bottles upright.
    Since the corks have pressure pushing at them from behind, there is a
    great seal in place. Natural cork in the presence of no CO2 requires “whetting” which is why wine corks require that wine be laid on its side. This is also helpful for lambics and other beers using natural “wine type” straight corks (no hood and wire cages).
    –Speaking on Sour and Lambic styled beers, what would you say are
    the perfect conditions and position to store one in? Perfect conditions for aging beer require cool dark place (about 55
    degrees if yeast is present. 50F if the beer has been filtered and not
    bottle conditioned. – Tomme Arthur (The Lost Abbey) 

    Lost Abbey Bottles for sale

  • What are your thoughts on storing sour and wild style corked beers? I would say that you probably should store any corked beverage on its side so as to keep the cork moist and prevent air incursion. However, maybe air is what you want at some stage(s) in the life of a bottle conditioned wild beer. – Dave Miller (Blackstone Brewery, Schlafly Brewery and  Book Author )
The responses turned out pretty much like I expected. I could get some more answers from other brewers but to me it is obvious. Based on these responses…there really is no definitive blanket answer for corked bottle position storage. There will probably never be since there are just too many variables at play.
The brewer/brewery knows what is best for their beers. Some breweries such as Chimay (I know…not a sour beer) have the storage recommendation on their label. The brewers spend their days and nights with their products, they know them and they know how the beers should be treated. As Jean Van Roy told me  “a very important thing for me is to understand my beer”.   That is a powerful statement and something that shouldn’t be forgotten. The brewers understand the beer they have created for you.
I think the take away from this article is to find out what the brewery/brewer recommends.  To truly respect beer, I think one needs to respect the recommendation given by the creator of the beer.