How Long is Beer Good for?

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Everyone enjoys a couple of brewskies on a hot summer day. All in all, beer is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages. But how long is it good for? How long until beer goes bad?

Well, with this in mind, we’ve compiled some storing tips. If your questions are “how long is beer good for?” and “how do I store it properly,” you’ve come to the right place.

Does Beer Go Bad?

In short, yes, beer does go bad. Leave it in improper storage conditions for a long time and it will turn into an undrinkable mess. However, store it correctly and under proper conditions, and it can last a long time.

As you’re no doubt aware, there are many different beer styles.

Well, some last shorter than others. Still, the best-by date chosen by the brewer is an over-exaggeration in most cases. Generally, a beer will have a shelf life beyond the best-by date.

When Does Beer Go Bad?

Commercially produced beer is tagged with a best-by date (also known as sell-by or best-before date) just in case. It’s a sign for the retailers to take the product off the shelf. Why is this important? Mostly in terms of safekeeping their reputation.

Drinking beer that has “expired” won’t kill you. It’s probably not even going to taste bad. If properly stored, beer can last for months past the expiration date.

So, how long is beer good for? The most straightforward answer is, as many as six to nine months past the best-by date.

And we aren’t talking about refrigeration here, but room temperature. Stick a beer in a refrigerator, and this period jumps to as much as two years.

How Does It Go Bad?

Beer is an organic substance, and like most other natural substances (food and other perishables), it’s made out of plants.

Plants eventually will decay, like any other living thing. During the brewing process, a brewery will do its best to prolong this process for as long as possible.

Various ingredients are added that slow down bacteria and different chemical reactions. Still, nothing can stop these processes, which ultimately leads to the degeneration of every beer, regardless of the type or style.

There are three causes that lead to beer going bad.

Exposure to Light

UV light overexposure is bad for beer, just as it’s bad for your own skin. When UV light hits a beer bottle, it penetrates the chemical compounds found in hops.

Hops are the material that basically gives your beer a complex set of flavors. It’s what makes beer – beer. As the flavor compounds are broken down by UV light, it produces a smell akin to that of the chemicals in skunk spray.

This is the reason why beers are shipped in darker bottles – to minimize the effects of UV light.

Exposure to Oxygen

Oxidation is completely natural – it’s an aging process that can change both the flavor and aroma of beer. Here’s what happens with beer oxidation.

Oxygen interacts with various chemical compounds found in beer, breaking them down. The typical result of beer oxidation is diacetyl, which basically gives beer a buttery flavor. Oxidation of other compounds can evoke various flavors, which range from cardboard to aged sherry.

Due to the packaging, canned beer is much more resistant to oxidation. This is why bottled beer is generally stored upright, so that beer gets the least amount of contact with the cap possible.

Exposure to Bacteria

Although the alcohol content found in beer acts as a preservative from bacteria, and despite the fact that you may store beer in the refrigerator, bacteria will get its hands on your beer at some point. Still, storing it away properly will help prolong its life significantly, especially if you refrigerate it.

The natural yeasts that are found in bottle-conditioned ales also slow down the bacteria.

How Long is Beer Good for

Common Factors That Affect Beer

The main reason why sell-by dates on beer over-exaggerate is the fact that there are many factors that influence how long a beer is going to last.

Distance

As you know, beer isn’t made in the supermarket that you buy it from. It’s distributed there.

Now, the distance that the beer travels during distribution obviously influences how old a beer is going to be once it hits the shelves. Plus, it may have been left in the sun or in the heat along the way.

Packaging

As mentioned earlier, cans are much better at safekeeping their contents than bottles. This is because cans (obviously) block out direct sunlight, and seal out oxygen, as well as other contaminants.

Popularity

The more popular a beer is, the quicker stores will replenish their shelves. This means that with popular brews, you won’t have to worry about the best-by date too much – they’ve probably got a long road ahead of them.

This is worth taking into account when buying rarer, more expensive beers – they may have expired best-by dates.

Temperature

Refrigeration and keeping the beer away from direct light is the way to keep the temperature as low as possible. This is the proper way to store your beer.

Well, that’s if you want to make sure that it lasts for a while. Even if you plan on drinking it all tonight, you’ll still probably want it cold. There’s a reason why beer goes so well with refrigerators.

In Summary

Beer is good for three months to 2 years after its best-by date expiration. This, however, is affected by its storage.

If you keep your beer in a dark place, away from direct sunlight and if you use cans, it will last for a long time. Put it inside the refrigerator, and you get to squeeze even more time out of it.

If you don’t store your beer properly, expect it to go bad within the best-by date limit. Still, a beer that has gone bad won’t kill you.

You’ll taste it, you’ll notice that something is wrong, and you won’t drink it. Still, keeping those beers cold and drinking them before they go bad is a no-brainer, especially for a beer lover.

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