Does Beer Expire?

If you look at the average beer can, bottle, or growler, you’ll find that there is an expiration date printed on the container. There may also be a “born on” date that lets you know when the beer was bottled. Because these dates are printed on the container, it means that beer technically does expire.

Be sure to read: What happens if I drink expired beer?

As with many beverages and food products, part of the reason why these expiry dates are included is to help retailers manage inventory. It is more of a sell-by date than it is a date that dictates one must throw out their beer.

Once the beer exceeds the expiration, there is a greater chance for it to have a reduced quality, freshness, and flavor when compared to a beer from the same manufacturer that is consumed before the date printed on the bottle.

What Happens to Beer as it Ages?

Depending on the type of beer that is being discussed, it can actually taste better as it gathers some age to it. Imperial stouts, lambics, and barleywines are beers that are like a bottle of fine wine. As it ages, the flavor profile deepens, leaving you with a very pleasurable experience.

In general, if your beer is dark and strong, then it has the potential to age well. You might even consider purchasing some beer to let it age in your basement or in a dedicated beer refrigerator to see what happens.

What you’re not going to want to do is let you light beers, ales, and ambers try to age. When lighter beers grow older, then begin to lose their carbonation. Their flavor profile begins to lessen. In some instances, the beer can even smell like a skunk when you attempt to crack open a cold one.

If you’re drinking Miller, Corona, or Budweiser, don’t let it age. Just drink it. Your taste buds will thank you for that decision.

How Long Does Beer Usually Last Before Expiring?

The average beer can usually stay fresh for about 90 days before its quality begins to degrade. It will still be safe to drink, but the flavor and experience of drinking it will begin to decline right around the printed expiration date.

If you don’t drink a lot of beer and want to maximize its lifespan, especially for the lighter beers, then here are the steps that you’ll want to take to preserve it for as long as possible.

  • Don’t freeze your beer. This can add water to it and will cause it to lose its carbonation. Frozen beer, once liquefied, will taste flat and have little flavor.
  • Store it at the right temperature. Most beers need to be stored at 45-55F. It is better to keep it out of the fridge for storage, but a beer refrigerator is a better option than a warm basement.
  • Avoid direct sunlight. If beer gets too hot, it can actually curdle. Drinking it afterward can make your stomach hurt – assuming you can even get past that curdled flavor. The sunlight can also change the chemical balance of the beer, altering its flavor.

Does beer expire? It is possible, especially for lighter beers, to get to a point where they aren’t worth drinking. For darker and stronger beers, you may wish to let them age so the flavor profile can better develop.

But if the beer smells bad, don’t drink it. Go grab a fresh cold one and crack it open instead.

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