Have you ever pulled a beer out of the back of the fridge and thought, “how long has this been here?” If you’re like me, you immediately consider whether to take the plunge and drink it. You might start to wonder, do craft beers expire?
The short answer is no, even old beer is drinkable in most cases, as long as the bottle or can is kept sealed to prevent bacteria from entering the beer.
There’s more to consider and understand, so keep reading to make sure you know everything you need to know about old beers.
Even if you buy fresh beer, you may be wondering if your beer will expire. If it gets old, is drinking bad for it?
Let’s talk about the factors that change beer over time and find out if beer expires.
ACE 1000L craft beer brewing equipment
Safety Versus Taste
There are two completely different topics but both apply to the question: does craft beer expire?
The first concern is safety – we all want to understand the health risks that may come along with drinking expired or old beer.
And it’s a reasonable question considering most food can spoil over time, which is why they have expiration dates. Spoiled food can cause illness and other issues.
Couple that with the common discussion about drinking beer fresh, and you’ve got a lot of reasons to believe that old beer isn’t safe.
According to all of the research I’ve done, beer doesn’t expire. In fact, people have been known to drink beer that is decades or more old without severe issues. Now that doesn’t mean they felt great afterwards, but it typically won’t cause harm.
But does this old beer taste good? That takes us to the next topic: will it be tasty?
Factors That Impact The Flavor Of Beer
So if beer doesn’t expire, we have to question how good it will taste after sitting for extended periods of time.
There are a number of factors that will impact the flavor, which we’ll go over next. But I want to make it clear that this article isn’t about aging craft beer. Aging or cellaring craft beer is the intentional process of letting beer get old to see if new flavors may develop.
While much of the topic is similar, this article is focused on what happens when beer sits for longer than you or the brewery intended it to.
A key factor is the beer itself. The style will have a huge impact on what happens to the flavors over time. Light-bodied, low ABV beers tend to have their flavor deteriorate faster than darker, high ABV beer.
So a 10% ABV beer will handle years of age while a 4% American Lager will see flavor changes in the first year.
How a beer is packaged is another important factor. This is because light and oxygen are two components that break down the flavors in beer.
For this reason, canned beer will do much better over extended periods than bottles.
Canned beer prevents light from entering the beer and maintains an airtight seal better.
Beer bottles can be dark brown, green, or clear. The darker the color, the better it is at preventing UV light from reaching the beer and “skunking” it. But even dark bottles still let some UV light get to the beer.
In addition, the caps on a bottle of beer have a seal on them. This seal can break down over time and allow air into the bottle.
Much like light and oxygen, temperature will impact how a beer’s flavor changes – especially the rate at which it happens.
First off, it is best to keep beer under 50 degrees when possible. For that reason, storing it in a refrigerator is ideal. And it is never a good idea for beer to get warm or overheated, which can happen if it is left out in the sun.
But it is also just as important to keep it at a consistent temperature. Allowing it to warm up and cool down multiple times isn’t good for beer.
For these reasons, I recommend keeping beer in a cool, consistent area or in a refrigerator. If you can dedicate a spare refrigerator to beer, then you are doing even better.
Does Craft Beer Expire?
Craft beer doesn’t expire. As long as it’s sealed, you can drink it years or even decades after it was brewed.
So if you want to drink the old beer that’s been in the bottom of your refrigerator for a few years, go for it – at your own risk, of course. Depending on the factors listed above, it will probably not taste as it was originally intended.
At best, it will have actually developed some new and interesting flavors that are pleasant. However, there’s a really good chance that the flavor won’t be appealing at all, but it shouldn’t harm you.
I’m not a doctor, nutritionist, chemist, or other expert, so there are probably better qualified people to ask if you are seriously considering drinking extremely old beer.
However, I’ve heard of many finding beer that is a few decades old and trying it just for fun, while others have had the chance to sample beer nearly 100 years old. And I haven’t heard of anyone getting more than a stomach ache from it.
Have you ever tried really old beer? Hopefully, it was an interesting experience, but I have a feeling it isn’t something you’d do on a regular basis.