Shelf Turd Spotlight: How Do Those Dusty Bottles REALLY Taste?

Ed M Morris Shelf Turd Tuesday

A Series By Guest Blogger Connor Wrenn

For those less familiar with beer trade terminology, a shelf turd beer can be readily found on shelves, thereby rendering its trade value near worthless. Given the context, it’s a bit of a harsh term. It also got me thinking about a literal shelf turd. The kind of beer that sits on the shelf way longer than it should, long past its desirable date of consumption. What might those taste like?

So, I sought to find out.

In perusing my local beer spots, I came across the perfect candidate; a 2015 bottle of Firestone Walker’s Wookey Jack. Sadly, the brewery is discontinuing this wonderful Black IPA to make room for some new offerings. What better way to send this beer off than with a final write-up.

For purposes of comparison, I’ll be referencing some common tasting notes from both RateBeer and BeerAdvocate to compare with my own notes.

Fresh Tasting Notes: A very dark brown, almost black but not quite. Tan, frothy head that leaves excellent lacing.
Aged Tasting Notes: No big changes here. Very dark brown color. Faintly tan, almost cream-colored head. Very frothy on the first pour, almost like a milk stout. A thick lacing lingers along the glass.

Fresh Tasting Notes: Hops smell of citrus (grapefruit,), pine, spruce, and tropical fruits. Malty smells of toffee, caramel, coffee, chocolate and roasted malt
Aged Tasting Notes: Some slight pine and spruce notes are left. Otherwise, as expected, the hops has dissipated. Roasted malts and some sweeter notes fill the nostrils, and they are very mild notes at that.

Fresh Tasting Notes: Similar to the smell. Lots of juicy fruity hop notes, along with some herbal notes. The malt backbone tastes of roasted malt, darker chocolate, coffee, some smoke and spice from the rye.

Aged Tasting Notes: Almost no hop notes left. Some slight bitterness is about all that’s left, and its vaguely reminiscent of pine and spruce. Malt notes are sweet first, with some roastiness. Sweetness is hard to place, almost like chocolate but not quite. With the mouthfeel, you might think it tastes like a mild latte.

Fresh Tasting Notes: Silky and sweet, medium feel. Finishes a bit dry. Some carbonation present

Aged Tasting Notes: Body leans more on the full side of medium. Silky is accurate here; as mentioned earlier, vaguely resembles a milk stout. No bite left in the finish, and it does leave the palate a bit dry at the end.

Black IPAs strike a fine line between richer flavors (smoke, roasted sweetness, etc) with bright hop flavors (fruits, citrus, pine, etc). To see one age out into the sweeter realm is a fun experience. In that respect, Wookey Jack ages with a surprising grace. It’s silky, creamy profile with linger notes of coffee, chocolate and toffee are quite pleasant. The little bit of bitterness that lingers keeps things interesting.

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  • JP on

    Hey JB thanks for the comment. “Shelf Turd” is a beer trading term for the most part. It refers to higher end, hard to find, beers that somehow have been left on the shelf at a local store. For example leftovers from last year that they still have stocked. Beers that are generally well past their sell date. You are correct that there are beers that age well and even many that are designed to be stored in a cellar like wine. Sometimes with a “shelf turd” it turns out that it was a great find that was supposed to be aged. It’s not necessarily a bad thing but in general the idea is it’s expired beer. Hope that helps :-)

  • JB Baxley on

    I have spent about 50 years with an interest in beer. Of course I like drinking it but I also sold beer for 25 years and I enjoy reading about beer and it’s history. In all of those years I was somehow lucky enough to not be exposed to the term “shelf turd”. My interest in your post is whether or not you are referring to beers that are not bottle conditioned. I know that some bottle conditioned beers last longer than others. From my experience and my reading, some bottle conditioned beers can have a very long shelf life, changing but often improving with age. I remember reading about an English ale that was good for 25 years. If you get a chance I hope to hear from you.

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