Does beer go off? Everything you need to know

Who doesn’t love a great tasting beer? We all have that special bottle of our favourite tipple that we’ve kept in the fridge for months as it stays cool and tempts us to take a taste. The only problem is what would happen if you popped the top, sipped off the foam, and it just didn’t taste quite right? You’re sat there scratching your head and Googling ‘can beer go off?’ as you wonder whether the rest of your collection will still be okay.

To save you hours of bouncing around online for answers we’ve compiled a quick and easy to digest reference guide that will talk you through everything you need to know when what to find out if beer can go bad.

Does beer have a best before date?

Absolutely! Every bottler and brewer knows that their product has a shelf life, and that’s no different to any type of food or drink. The great thing about bottled or canned beer is that it’s preserved for months and months. Most beers will last 6 – 9 months with no drop off in taste or flavour; with their optimal flavour experience being within about 3 – 4 months of bottling. Whilst too much beer will always make you feel a little sick, drinking beer that is a long time past its best before date may upset your stomach. Fortunately due to long shelf lives and advanced brewing techniques this is rarely something you’ll ever even have to think about. It’s not dangerous in anyway, it just won’t taste as good as it would have if you had drunk it sooner. 

What happens when beer goes off?

Anyone who ponders the question ‘does beer expire?’ would do well to remember the complex balance of flavours, aromas, and ingredients that go into every single drop. If you’ve ever tried a friend’s home-brew and been left thinking that it doesn’t touch what you can buy down the pub then it’ll come as no surprise to you that this fine balance has a time window where it will taste its best. Every brew is different, but all manner of things can happen if beer is left too long and starts to turn. The ingredients can separate and the carefully crafted chemical states of certain ingredients can change and combine in different ways. This all means that the taste, aroma, and mouthfeel of the finished product will begin to change. The question I’m sure you’ll now have on your lips is ‘how do I keep my beer fresh?’

Keeping bottled beer tasting better than ever: the do’s and don’ts

Now that you know the answer to the question ‘does bottled beer go off?’ you’ll want to know what you can do to preserve your delicious tipple in all its glory. There’s a delicate art to brewing so we need to make sure we treat it right so that when it comes time to pop the top and take a sip we can enjoy it to the full.

Do make sure to cool your beer

Storing beer at room temperature is fine for short periods of time (days and weeks) but if you plan to store it for several months or more then putting it in the fridge is the way to go. This will ensure that the delicate balance of ingredients is held at the optimal temperature for as long as possible.

Stella Artois Beer fridge from Argos £149.99

Don’t keep beer in direct sunlight

Keeping your beer out of the way of direct sunlight is just as important as keeping it at the right temperature. This can be a particularly big problem in the brighter summer months when we all love to sit back and sample a couple of cold beers. Exposure to direct sunlight changes the subtle chemical balance of the brew and can lead to an artificial bitter taste taking hold of the rest of the flavour. The unfortunate thing about such changes is that they’re not reversible, so when you do find a bottle that has been exposed for too long you may have no option but to pour it away.

Don’t let beer heat up

Leaving your beer to heat up may not seem like the worst thing in the world for it because you can always cool it back down again with a little help from your trusty fridge or beer cooler. Sadly the truth is that when people ask ‘does beer go out of date?’ one the most common answers is that it happens because beer has been allowed to heat up months before it was even drunk. The chemical changes your trusty brew undergoes when it is heated far above its optimal storage temperature are irreversible. This means that no matter how long you chill it for in your fridge you still won’t remove that curdled taste which can ruin any bottle of the good stuff no matter how good a mood you are in when you pour it. Avoid leaving your beer in the boot of your car for too long on your way back from the supermarket, particularly on a hot summer’s day, and this shouldn’t be an issue.

Don’t freeze beer solid

The final thing to say when it comes to keeping your beer tasting its best this summer is don’t freeze it! We’ve all run out during a BBQ and dropped a 4-pack in the freezer for half and hour to speed things up, and if you plan on drinking it soon after then there’s no harm in doing so. The problems come in when you forget about it and it freezes solid. If you’re lucky enough that it doesn’t crack the bottle or rupture the can, then you’ll have to defrost your brew before you can sample it. The problem here is that the melting ice will change the consistency of your beer and make it taste quite different. If you’re looking for a simple way to get around this last issue then to us it’s pretty simple: clear out the fridge and double up on your beer!

Hopefully this has given you plenty of food for thought and shown you that whilst beer has a super long shelf life, you need to treat it the right way if you want to enjoy every drop as the brewers intended.

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