Everybody faces the same problem when they return from the grocery store: How to fit everything they just bought in the refrigerator. But, for the beer-lover, the problem is more likely going to be figuring out how to fit any food in the fridge when there’s already so much beer in there.
Yes, your average beer fan is probably devoting more fridge space to cold brews than cold cuts. More room to ale than kale. More storage to lagers than… you get the point. That’s certainly to the consternation of his friends, her roommates, their significant others. Of course, the solution isn’t to not keep your beer cold—it’s to simply figure out a better way to manage your stock.
Your average person might only have one six-pack of their favorite brew in the fridge at any given time. However, a true beer geek knows she needs ample styles always cold and ready for whatever situation may pop up. Those styles should almost certainly include:
A crowd-pleasing macro
You may pooh-pooh them, but you’ll occasionally have guests that don’t want any of your “weird” beer. Just make sure you get one you can at least stand—maybe Miller High Life—because you’ll eventually end up drinking it yourself at 2 a.m. one night when there’s nothing else left.
Light, crisp, all-malt pilsners and the like that work perfectly for starting your day of day-drinking, or pre-gaming for night. Good options include Jack’s Abby House Lager, Threes Kicking & Screaming, and Suarez Palatine Pils.
You only buy enough milk to last the week, and that’s probably how much hoppy beer you should have in your fridge at any given time. Depending on who you are, that could be a four-pack, or four cases. Make sure it’s not just those 8% ABV, 500-calorie DIPAs either. Have some pale ales, a session IPA like Founders Ale Day, and a good six-percenter from some hot shot local place where nerds wait in line every weekend.
These will be mostly of the cheaper, kettle sour variety. Acidic crushers like Dogfish Head SeaQuench and other goses and berliner weisses that feel like they’re refueling your body with electrolytes after a hard workout. They aren’t, really, but it's better to tell yourself that instead of wasting precious fridge space on Vitamin Water.
More refined sours and saisons
This is the special stuff that you can pull out for the “I only drink wine” snobs who will inevitably come over. Think Saison DuPont, Boon Mariage Parfait, and Russian River Supplication.
I’m not just talking about ABV, but also flavor profile when it comes to big beers. These are the boozy barleywines like Firestone Walker Sucaba, imperial stouts like Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout, and candy-crammed pastry crap like that new beer with Oreo Double Stufs in it that, let’s be honest, is dessert, not beer.
Firstly, if you have a beer fridge, it’s probably in your garage or “man cave” and you can probably stock it however you damn well please. If it’s in your house, there’s a good chance you live in a frat and, well, the other people who live with you probably aren’t so picky with how you store your 30-racks of “Beast” either. For those of us in polite society, however, who live amongst other normal people sharing just one scant kitchen fridge, here’s how best to organize it with all your beer.
Upper shelf: saisons, wild ales, already opened beers, growlers and crowlers
The upper shelf of a fridge is typically where you store the non-alcoholic things you drink—your juices, milks, that weirdo kombucha your roommate likes. It’s also where most people store the bulk of their food—meaning, it’s not a great place to regularly stock beer (it’s also one of the warmer spots in the fridge). Still, its ample shelf height means it’s good for high-quality 750 mLs you take from your cellar to the fridge to quickly chill down just a little bit more before immediately drinking them. This shelf will more often than not also be called into action to stow that bomber of big, boozy stout you opened but couldn’t finish in one night. You won’t finish it the next night either, but you’ll still keep it here for a few days if not weeks, until you finally use it in a chili or stew just to clear some shelf space.
Middle shelf: nothing
The middle shelf is typically the shortest height, mean nothing aside from eggs and maybe some blocks of cheese will fit here. You could lay some bottles on their side if desperate, but why not just leave this space for the little food you keep on hand?
Lower shelf: pilsners, lagers, pale ales, IPA, fruit beers, kettle sours, some coffee beers
The coldest part of the fridge is best for beers that demand freshness. Hoppy beers, fruited beers, even coffee beers (that aren’t too high in ABV) are best stored here. This section is going to be your workhorse, the place where the bulk of your beers to drink are going to be pulled from and the bulk of newly-purchased beers to store are going to be added to. Stock mostly cans, as they can stack on top of each other, allowing you to to Tetris more into the available space. Make sure to keep the oldest beer toward the front—so you always grab it first—with the freshest stuff slowly progressing from the back forward.
Door shelving: stouts, porters, barleywines
The warmest part of the fridge is great for robust beers that don’t need to be chilled all that much. The continual opening and closing of the door likewise means you want your door beers to be able to handle frequent temperature fluctuations, which, thankfully, higher-ABV stuff does. The door also typically allows for taller bottles like 750 mLs and bombers, which, unfortunately is what many of these styles are still being released in. These beers will often remain in your door (too boozy to drink alone, too special to just open on a moment’s notice) until their weight starts causing the shelving to bend and bow, or you can’t find any space for that new jar of artisanal mayo you just purchased.
The crisper: whales and overflow
Screw that sack of wilting romaine and those baby carrots your kid likes, crisper drawers are great for hidinge rare beers you don’t want any slippery house guests to snag without your permission. Yes, the way crispers are designed means you will probably need to store beers on their sides like wine. This is not typically recommended, except in the case of those rare Cantillon and Drie Fonteinen lambics you brought back from Belgium. The crisper also works well for overflow cans you can’t fit anywhere else. Just toss ’em in there like the crisper is an Igloo cooler. You don’t really need your veggies and fruits these days any how (and if you think you do, they’re probably available in some of those kettle sours on the bottom shelf).
The freezer: WTF?!
You, of course, shouldn’t store any beer in your freezer, yet you inevitably will always have one can of beer in there that you put in the night before (after you’d already had a few drinks) to quickly chill it down, but then you forgot about it, so now it’s frozen solid and starting to bloat, and every time you open the freezer to get ice or a Hot Pocket you see that lost can and you’ve gone from angry that you ruined that beer to amused about your negligence and you won’t ever remove this frozen beer from the freezer until it finally explodes and covers everything in your freezer with its contents, causing your freezer to smell a little dank and malty for at least the next half-year.
On top: unopened boxes
You probably shouldn’t put anything on top of your fridge, either—it gets super hot and dusty up there—but if you’re throwing a party and you need to store some unopened cases ’til there’s more fridge space, you can consider it. But don’t you dare put that oversize magnum up here—open the fridge too aggressively just that one time, and it might topple over and fall on your head. A few hours later you’ll wake up with a concussion wondering, “Did the bottle survive?”
Illustration by Remo Remoquillo