Beer Fact Friday: Beer Freshness
We’ve recently gotten a few questions about keeping beer fresh, so we figured we’d tackle the topic of beer freshness and give you a few tips for keeping your beers tasting better, longer.
To begin with: Beer is a perishable product. If you look on the bottom of our cans or on the shoulder of our bottles, you’ll find a “best-by” date—the date after which the beer will likely begin tasting markedly different from how it tastes when fresh. This date varies by beer, but is usually set for 4-6 months after packaging.
It’s important to note a couple things about best-by dates on beer. First, a best-by date is not the same thing as an expiration date. Unlike some foods—packaged meat, for instance—that become unsafe to eat past their expiration dates, the vast majority of beer is still perfectly safe to drink after passing its best-by date. It just won’t taste as the brewer intended. (We’ll get to why that is in a second.)
The second important thing to know about “best by” dates is that they assume refrigeration. A beer with a best-by date 90 days away will only remain fresh-tasting for 90 days if stored in a refrigerator.
Why does temperature make a difference? Well, one of beer’s biggest enemies is oxygen, and though brewers have gotten extremely skilled at minimizing the amount of the gas that ends up inside a bottle, can, or keg, every beer still has a little bit of oxygen inside it. Over time, oxygen interacts with beer ingredients, leading to diminished hop flavor and aroma, changes in malt flavor, and even the development of “stale” flavors like paper or cardboard. This process is called “oxidation,” and it’s affected by temperature—the higher the number on the thermometer, the faster the interactions between oxygen and other beer compounds occur.
That’s why we recommend that you refrigerate our beer at all times, if possible. Storing at room temp won’t ruin the beer immediately, but it’ll accelerate the oxidation process and lead to the beer tasting not-quite-right more quickly. A rough rule of thumb is that every day of storage at room temp is equivalent to a week in the fridge.
So will a day or two of room temperature storage ruin a beer? Nah. But the longer you go, the more quickly your beer isn’t going to taste the way you want it to.
Questions? Send ’em to firstname.lastname@example.org.