Aging Beer: Wax On or Wax Off? TELL US!

Local breweries have increasingly bottled their craft, and often, you’ll find a waxed top over the bottle cap. This is especially true for more expensive beers.
But is it just show? Or is there function?

While some folks think the wax is just an annoying barrier to opening a great beer, the thought has been that the wax provides an improved seal that impedes oxidation, which can lead to beer with, to put it somewhat elegantly, skunky notes of molasses.

My backgrounds are journalism and science (geochemistry/hydrology). The journalist in me asked around, and the result was anything but conclusive.

The journalist and scientist in me huddled and decided that an increase in the sample size would prove beneficial. So tell us, what has YOUR experience been? Does waxing bottle tops prove beneficial in aging? Be sure to give us specifics regarding important variables:

  • Did you try the same beer with and without wax?
  • How long was the aging?
  • What type of beer was it?
  • How/where was the beer stored?
  • What type of wax was used?
  • Did a wax seal cause the beer to age differently or just slower?

We really do want to hear from as many people as we can. My initial inclination is that the type of beer and especially the duration of aging would make the biggest differences. After a year, you might not be able to tell the difference between a wax-sealed and a non-wax-sealed beer, but after multiple years, I’ll bet wax would make a difference. Still, this has left the scientist in me contemplating experimental design. You need a lot of controls and unfortunately, in this case, years of patience. Here are the parameters around the ideal experiment:

  • Multiple types of beer typically good to age (e.g., holiday ale, stout, a barrel-aged beer, a non-barrel aged beer)
  • Consistent aging environment (e.g., on their side and in a fridge)
  • Openings/Tastings after one, two and three years (ideally, even longer, too)
  • Real wax (some places on the internet have recipes for crayons+plastic or glue)

With unlimited funds, I’d get four six-packs or even a case of bombers for multiple beer types and do this over the course of a decade (do I have any sponsors?). Unfortunately, I don’t think I can sell this to my wife as a jump-start on a science fair project for our eight-week-old.

In the comment section here and on Facebook, let us know what YOUR experience has been.

1 Comment
  1. 3 years ago
    JMAYSNC

    Sam, great article. I’ve recently started waxing some of my cellared beers so I don’t have the historical perspective to make an educated proclamation regarding the merits of waxing, but I would say that it probably does provide some added protection from oxygenation.

    While modern bottle caps provide a great deal of protection from air, I can only imagine that further fortification with wax can only help. To your point, waxing alone isn’t going to protect your beer. The way it was bottled (and purged of CO2), to it’s storage conditions, temperature, its handling, and exposure to light, et al, will all go into properly cellaring a stable beer. I would be intrigued if you find any sponsors for your experiment, and would gladly assist you in your sensory tastings. ūüôā

    Reply

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