Does Beer Expire? Can You Drink It?

Can beer go bad?

Hell yes, it can go bad. Sometimes it’s bad as soon as it’s packaged, am I right?! Sorry, never mind the jokes, does beer expire? Yes beer can go bad or expire or both.

But only bad in the sense that it tastes awful, not bad like, you might die if you drink it. It’s the infected bottles you have to worry about and even then I would not worry too much.

Old beer just tastes bad. If you take a sip and it’s awful you can move on rather quickly and not be in any kind of trouble.

How do you know when beer goes bad?

Some things to look for, obvious or not

  • Check the date. Unfortunately not all beer as an expiration date or a packaged date. If it has a date and it’s a hoppy beer, you might as well put it back and move on if the date is more than three months old.
  • Look at the color. If it’s cloudy and it’s not really supposed to be a hazy beer, something ain’t right.
  • Is it sealed? Once in a while a bottle is not sealed right and there might be a little junk around the camp. Also, if you open it up and there is no “pachsst” sound or no carbonation leaving, probably not a good thing.

What is the shelf life of beer?

This depends on the style.

IPAs and Pales are getting old as soon as they are put into a can. Ideally they are best on day one. Realistically, you have a good three month window on hoppy beers – maybe a little longer if it is one that is high in alcohol.

Lager and Pilsners last longer. To me, they are already kinda skunked but that’s just personal preference. Unless it’s a hoppy lager, it does not make much difference as far as I am concerned. But fresh is always best.

Stouts and Porters are good ones to cellar if they are high in alcohol and are low in adjuncts like, say, coffee. So drinking an old stout is totally cool and even encouraged.

Sours can be better the older they get. They can also get worse. Drink it and take some notes in your beer drinking notebook.

Is it safe to drink after the expiration date?

Yes, mostly. Being there is alcohol involved, most of the bad stuff that could develop in old liquid, won’t get a chance to live. So yeah, it’s pretty safe to drink.

Really, all you’re risking is a possible slightly rough day tomorrow on your bathroom break. Totally worth it, I say. Heck, a really good hazy beer can mess up your system much more than an old beer can.

If your beer is infected, that’s another thing. If you want to be able to tell exactly what the infection is, you can read up on it at the Thrillist.

How to read beer expiration dates

If you’re lucky enough to be holding a beer with an actual date printed on it, you’re cool and we can figure this out.

  • Date it was packaged (when it was put in a bottle or can).
  • Best buy date. (The date the brewery wants you to drink it buy)
  • Julian date. Some breweries use this and I don’t have the brain power to explain it to you here. But Sciencing knows how to calculate the Julian date so I will leave it to them.

The best for us, the drinker, is the “born on” or packaged date because it lets YOU decided what is the best date to drink it.

Also good when the brewery markets the actual beer to be drank by a certain date like Stone does with its Enjoy By series:

Tip to brewers: I love when breweries get cute with the stamp/date on the bottom of their cans. But not when I cannot figure out if the date is a packaged date or a drink-by date.

Drinking expired beer

It is tough to throw out or “drain pour” beer. I know. I have a Pizza Port “Swami” IPA in the fridge that is over a year old and I can’t seem to let go of it. I really want to figure out how I can drink old IPAs and still enjoy them.

Like, be so good at tasting old beer that I can actually enjoy it. Maybe the Beer Temple has found a way to do that:

It’s something to try anyway. There are days I have used a gas credit card to buy beer so I can be desperate enough to drink old beer.

So, Does Beer Expire? Yes and No

Beer does expire. But it’s different from going bad and being infected. If it’s simply old, it’s safe to drink. You just might have to work at it to make it enjoyable.

Author: mikeytoppour

Lover of Indie Beer, blogging and podcasting. Star Wars is pretty cool too.

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