This blog post will talk about the vintage beers of the last century, why many people collect them, and why some vintage beers sell for a lot of money.
What are Vintage Beers?
Interestingly, there is no set definition for what qualifies as a vintage beer. Generally speaking, anything that was bottled more than ten years ago is eligible, but some collectors might consider anything from the 1950s or earlier to be genuinely vintage. And while certain styles of beer (such as IPAs) tend to age better than others, any brand or type can become a coveted vintage bottle given enough time.
But as a general rule of thumb, vintage beers are beers that have shown further development of their flavor, texture, and aroma after an extended period of time.
Why People Collect Vintage Beers
There are many reasons why people collect vintage beers. Some collectors are interested in the history of a certain brand or brewery. In contrast, others may be more interested in the specific brewing process used to make a particular type of beer.
Some appreciate the unique flavor profile that can only be found in older brews, while others simply enjoy the challenge of tracking down rare or hard-to-find varieties. In some cases, collectors will pay top dollar for particularly prized bottles of vintage beer.
Why Vintage Beers Can Sell For So Much Money
Because there are fewer vintage beers on the market today (due to both waning popularity and changes in brewing technology), those that remain tend to be quite rare—and thus highly sought after by collectors. Bottle condition is also key: since these beers have been aging for so long, any off-flavors or oxidation will likely have had time to mellow out significantly. This makes for an altogether smoother drinking experience than with most modern beers.
Because the market for vintage beers is so niche, almost any bottle can sell for a considerable amount of money. For example, a bottle of Nail Brewing’s Antarctic Nail Ale sold at an auction for over $800. While most beers won’t reach these heights, they often command higher prices than their modern counterparts.
Some of the Most Sought-After Vintage Beers
Here are some of the most sought-after vintage beers of the last century that are considered prized possessions for any collector or enthusiast.
1902 King’s Ale
The King’s Ale is an English ale brewed in 1902 with the help of the newly crowned King Edward VII. A total of 400 casks containing as much as 36 gallons were brewed, and after a few years between 1905 to 1929, the ale was released to independent bottlers for the public to finally taste.
In 1977, the most recent batch of the King’s Ale was issued to the public. All the remaining beer was rebottled, recorked, and reprinted for this special issue. Today, the pre-1977 version of the King’s Ale can be purchased for as high as £200 for the magnum size. The 1977 version, on the other hand, can go as high up as £80 for the quart-sized bottles.
1929 Prince’s Ale
Similar to the 1902 King’s Ale, the 1929 Prince’s Ale was started by British royalty. Then Prince of Wales, Edward VIII was behind the mash for this vintage beer that was sold to the open market just a year after its brewing. The 1929 bottles were labeled with the seal of the Prince of Wales, the three feathers. Today, this vintage beer can be purchased for as much as £80 for the quart-sized bottles with the red seal wax still intact.
1997 Fuller’s Vintage Ale
Fuller’s Vintage Ale collection is a yearly ale that is brewed by English brewer Fuller. The 1997 edition of this collection was the very first that was ever brewed. Fuller brews this collection with ageability in mind. They want their products to appreciate and develop more robust flavors and aromas over time.
The 1997 edition of the Fuller’s Vintage Ale Collection can sell for as much as $300 for one bottle. Fuller promises that their yearly brews grow better and more flavorful over time. The most recent edition of the collection sells for as low as $8 a bottle. This just shows how much importance is given to this collection as it ages over time.
Many breweries have released their own versions of vintage beers. For the most part, these creations are inspired by the classic beverages that were brewed before they began business, and a few others even produce unique ales to be enjoyed now or in years to come. Today’s brewers often reflect on those who came before them and the craft and techniques they developed to produce some of their best beers.
Remember, these beers are only going to get more and more valuable as time goes on, so if you've been holding onto a bottle of vintage beer of your own, it might be time to start thinking about what to do with them!
Even if you only have bottles of vintage beers left, you can still enjoy the labels as an investment and for use as decor. Many people collect these labels and stickers, and there is an actual market for these kinds of things. You can check out some antique vintage liquor and beer labels in our shop.
There are still plenty of vintage beers that we haven't had the chance to talk about here. How about you? Tell us about your favorite vintage beer in the comments below.