Most of us are probably under the impression that something that is sealed and contains alcohol is unlikely to expire. And while that is technically true of craft beer, there is a time limit for an optimal flavor experience. Sure, you won’t be risking any side effects from spoilage if you crack open a beer that is two years old; but you might not like what you taste, either. Let’s discuss the longer answer to the question: does beer go bad?
Does Beer Expire?
Like any other consumable product, beer does have a shelf life. However, unlike certain perishable foods, beer doesn’t spoil or become unsafe to consume after its expiration date. Instead, beer undergoes changes in flavor, aroma, and quality over time. The extent and nature of these changes depend on several factors:
Different beer styles have varying shelf lives. Generally, lighter styles like lagers and pilsners have a shorter shelf life, whereas stronger ales and stouts can mature and improve with time.
The quality of ingredients used in brewing can affect shelf life. Beers made with fresh, high-quality ingredients tend to last longer.
Higher alcohol content can extend the shelf life of beer as alcohol acts as a preservative.
The type of packaging plays a crucial role. Canned beer tends to have a longer shelf life than bottled beer due to better protection from sunlight, which can degrade the flavor over time. Bottles also have a seal that can wear down over time, allowing air to get in.
A good rule of thumb is to consume your craft beer within six months of purchasing it. We can’t understand why you would wait that long, but you can. After that time period, expect a certain degree of change to the taste and smell of your beer.
Can Beer Go Bad if Pasteurized?
Mass-produced beer is often pasteurized, which extends its shelf life. It is still generally best if consumed within a year of the “drink by date.” Craft beer is mostly unpasteurized and made in smaller batches designed to be drunk within a certain time frame for the best taste.
What About Aged Beer?
Many craft beers, like some sour beers, are intentionally aged in barrels or by other means to impart various flavors. Once canned or bottled, however, you should still consume them within six months for the best taste.
Can Beer Go Bad if Stored Properly?
Beer can still “go bad” in the sense that its flavor profile is off, even when stored properly. That being said, taking steps to carefully store your brews can help them retain as much of their intended taste and aroma for as long as possible.
How to Store Craft Beer
Keep it Cool
Keep your beer at a consistent temperature. The ideal range is between 45°F and 55°F (7°C-13°C). Avoid drastic temperature fluctuations (i.e. don’t take beer in and out of the fridge).
Keep it Dark
Light is the enemy of beer. Store your beer in a dark place or in opaque containers to prevent “skunking,” a phenomenon where exposure to light causes off-flavors (also referred to as “lightstruck”). Specifically, UV light causes the acids in hops to break down. These acids react with the sulfurs in beer to produce a compound called MBT (3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol). It bears an uncanny resemblance in taste and smell to a skunk’s notorious secretion.
Keep it Upright
Most craft beers are best stored upright to minimize oxidation. However, some bottle-conditioned beers, like Belgian ales, can be stored horizontally.
Keep it Still
Store beer in a cool, dry, and vibration-free environment. Shaking can affect the taste and effervescence of your beer, since it can disturb any sediment that has settled at the bottom (another reason to keep it upright, too).
Keep it Rotating
If you have a substantial beer collection, make sure to rotate it so that older bottles and cans get consumed before newer ones.
Why Wait to Drink Your Beer?
At Diebolt, we’ve taken the guesswork out of when to drink your craft beer. That’s because our beers are so delicious, you won’t be able to wait long enough to drink them to worry about them “going bad.” (The above information was for educational purposes only. Nobody is going six months without drinking one of our cans). Don’t believe us? Stop by the brewery for a taste. Our latest and greatest is a quick sour with persimmon, kumquat puree, and a hint of vanilla. YUM.