Many enthusiasts ask whether beer goes bad, especially when you find a bottle or can in your fridge or storage but can’t remember when you put it there.
Not all beers have expiration dates on the packaging, so you should make sure it’s safe before consuming that drink in your beer fridge.
Like any other food, beer is best when you drink it fresh, and after waiting for a while, the manufacturer’s intended taste will be gone. In this in-depth guide, let’s take a look at beer storage and their expiration requirements.
Does Beer Go Bad?
The short answer is yes, beer does go bad, but it’s hard to define expired beer. As beer ages, it does not go bad but will change its taste. For a beer to go bad, it must have been exposed to sunlight and UV rays or had early contact with oxygen.
Beer can go bad due to the following reasons:
– Light Exposure
In the same way that ultraviolet light adversely affects your skin; it can also affect your beer the same way. Whether your beer is in a bottle, can or cup, you shouldn’t leave your beer out in the sun for too long. During this, the UV rays will react with the hops.
As the light exposure affects the chemical compound from the hops, the hops flavor and aroma are meant to provide change. It doesn’t only tweak the flavor but also makes your beer skunky.
– Bacteria Contamination
Another reason why beer can go bad is because of bacteria and contamination. Unlike with other standard food and drink products, bacteria cannot survive for a long time in beer because alcohol is its natural preservative. Commercial brewing also reduces contamination, so mainstream beer is relatively safe.
But if bacteria manages to get into all beer styles, it will go bad, and it’s inadvisable to drink it. You can keep microorganisms away from your beer by storing them in the refrigerator. In the cold, the lifecycle will slow down, and even the yeast will become stagnant in ale.
What you refer to as aging in beer is oxidation. This process involves oxygen interacting with beer and breaking down the different chemical compounds to create new flavors in the beer. Sometimes, oxygen can lead to a butter-like flavor when it reacts with the beer flavors.
Oxygen can also react with other elements in the beer and make it taste like cardboard. This is more common for bottled beers than canned beers since the latter have limited contact with the air and have a better seal to prevent oxygen from seeping in.
– Beer Expiring
To understand the difference between beer expiring and going bad, it’s important to note that beer isn’t alcohol. The alcohol percentage in beer can be between 3 and 13 percent mostly. Beers with high ABVs stay fresh and can be consumed long-term, and it’s the alcohol that causes them to age as time goes on.
But beers with less alcohol have an expiration date, and you need to watch out for this because they would have lost their fresh taste by then.
How Long Does Beer Last?
How long beer lasts depends on the type of beer, but most beers last around 36 hours to 6 months, depending on type of beer and storage. Mostly, beer is consumed on the same day it was released from the brewery. When brewing companies make their beer, they sell it the way they want it to taste.
Fresh beer is usually more delicious and flavorful, with better color. Strong beers last longer because of their alcohol content, like barley wine and imperial stouts. Some of these beers even benefit from aging and get more interesting and rich flavors due to the yeast and bacteria.
While beer ages, the different flavor components will evolve. Oxygen will react with the different compounds, reducing the flavor. Bitterness will also be lower, but sweet flavors in the beer will increase.
– Proper Storage
For a beer to age properly, it needs to be stored in a cool and stable place, away from light. It is similar to aging wine, and you need to consider the different variables. It can also depend on how it was packaged.
But if you’re drinking a weak beer, you should be careful to do so early in its life so that it does not go bad.
Let’s look at how long beer lasts based on its packaging.
– Canned Beer
Beer cans protect light and oxygen, so the beverage has a low chance of going bad. With the small size of a beer can, the space between the beer and lid reduces, leading to lower oxygen in the can.
Aside from this, canned packaging also protects the beer from light. Canned beer can last for up to six months if stored cold and three months if it is warm.
– Bottled Beer
Like canned beer, bottled beer also lasts for six months if it’s kept in the fridge or any other cold and dark area, but when you store it in a warm place, it will go bad in three months. It’s important to keep beer bottles away from light.
Unlike cans, glass bottles have no protection against light. Leaving beer exposed to light will lead to a skunky flavor.
– Kegged Beer
As for kegged beer, it’s important to store it cold. If not, you will end up with off-flavors in your beer. Beer in pasteurized kegs will last for three to four months, while those in non-pasteurized kegs last for up to 60 days.
If you buy a commercial keg instead and serve it with a party pump, the beer will last for about 24 hours when it’s tapped. This is because of the air that gets into the beer when pumping, making it flat and stale in a short amount of time.
– Growlers and Crowlers
Most of the time, breweries and brewpubs serve their beer in growlers and crowlers so you can take a large container of beer home. This type of beer should be drunk fresh because it is exposed to a lot of oxygen while it’s filled.
Beers in growlers or crowlers last for about 36 hours before they go bad. This is because the beer will degrade rapidly due to the oxygen.
How Can You Tell if Beer Is Bad?
The easiest way to tell if beer has gone bad is by checking the expiration date. Many beers have an expiration date on the can or bottle, and in some regions, all breweries are required to do this based on the law. So you can check the “Enjoy by” or “Expiration date” and follow it.
Another way to know if beer is bad is by asking the brewery or brewpub. When you get beer in a keg, crowler or growler, you can ask the server how long it will last to know when it will go bad.
You can also tell if beer is bad by checking the appearance. For a hoppy beer, the color will look brown or purple, but pale beers will turn darker. Although they are safe to drink, the taste will be way off.
If you have a sour beer and it tastes like vinegar, you shouldn’t consume it as this is a sign that it is contaminated. You might also notice a bad seal on the bottle or can, which shows that the beer has lost its carbonation. You should also dispose of this beer.
Here are some other ways to tell that your beer has gone bad:
– Skunky Smell
If you open a bottle or can of beer and are immediately met with a skunky smell, this is the first sign that it has gone bad. Skunky beer is never a good beer, so you shouldn’t drink it if you notice this aroma.
– Popcorn Taste
Although this does not look bad, beer should not taste like popcorn. If the beer tastes like popcorn, it has too much diacetyl, which is harmful to your lungs.
– Stale Smell
Beer is not supposed to be exposed to oxygen until you first open it. But if it was, it would have a stale smell and cardboard-like taste.
– Weird Taste
Sometimes, a beer that has gone bad might taste like sewage, cooked cabbage, sulfur, or just weird. Once you taste it, it should be obvious that the beer is bad. The only downside here is that you have to taste it before you know that it has gone bad.
Can You Drink Your Bad Beer?
While you can drink bad beer, you shouldn’t. The only way beer can make you sick is if it is brewed with dirty or damaged equipment. You’re less likely to get sick from beer produced by a reputable brewery. If you’re making your beer yourself, it’s important to sanitize before brewing.
Bad beer will taste bad, but it won’t make you sick. But since there’s no point in drinking beer if you’re not enjoying the taste or flavor, you shouldn’t bother with drinking one that is bad.
Keep in mind that if you’ve already had a few bottles, you might not notice the taste.
Beer Packaging and Quality
The packaging of beer affects its quality in different ways. As mentioned earlier, a beer packaged in cans is better protected than those in bottles. When brewed, beer needs to be transported to different places, whether through online delivery or sent to retail companies. It can also be transported by flight.
A beer to be sent to different places requires packaging, first in the bottles and cans and next in the crate, boxes or wrap. Beer lovers usually have their preferences for bottles vs. cans, but they both have their pros and cons.
– Bottled Beer
Bottle packaging needs to be considered when transporting beer over long distances because it can be exposed to air and sunlight. Bottles are also easily breakable, which makes transportation even harder.
With the beer losing its freshness and the bottles getting damaged higher, most companies avoid using bottled packaging. Keep in mind that glass is not environmentally friendly and is infrequently recycled.
– Canned Beer
On the other hand, cans are much better and more convenient when transporting beer. They are becoming very popular and are taking over the beer market. Aside from the opportunity to design it aesthetically, cans are smaller and easy to take from place to place.
Cans will also retain the freshness and effervescence of beer since they are not exposed to sunlight. They also have a smaller carbon footprint than bottles and can be easily recycled.
How Long Does Beer Stay Fresh After Opening?
Beer stays fresh for one day or 24 hours after it is opened. It’s important to open a bottle or can of beer only when you plan to drink it immediately. Once you open the beer, it loses its foam quickly. The same goes for craft beer.
Once the foam dies down, the beer does not feel as sharp as a few seconds earlier, but it will still taste great while you drink beer. After 24 hours, however, you shouldn’t drink the beer again because it might have been contaminated. You can leave the beer in the fridge for a few hours, although it won’t taste great.
What Is the Best Way To Store Beer?
To properly store brews, set the fridge temperatures between 35 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit. This is easier to achieve with a beer fridge, but if you’re not going to use the fridge or have no space, you should keep the beer at cellar temperatures between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s also a good idea to check the ABV level of the beer before you store it since highly alcoholic beers age better than those with little alcohol. Also, beer should be stored upright and not lying down. This reduces the amount of beer touching the glass and also trapped in the bottle.
If you want to age beer, you should store beer at temperatures between 52 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit. It will slow down the aging process without stopping it completely. These guidelines will work regardless of the beer style.
Skunked beer is what enthusiasts usually call spoiled beer. It smells and tastes like what a skunk smells like because they have the same chemical composition. Some drinkers will also say it feels like burned rubber or has a musty character.
While some people think that skunked beer is caused by oxygen, it is because of light. This can come from either fluorescent light bulbs or the sun.
– What To Do With Skunked Beer
If you end up with skunked beer, you don’t always have to throw it out. You can do other things with beer as long as it’s not contaminated. You can drink skunked beer because it isn’t harmful but only tastes bad.
Cook With It
Using beer to cook is a widespread practice, but rather than going for your freshly brewed beer, you can use skunked beer instead. Skunked beer will help create some unique and exotic flavors when you cook.
Although take note that when you cook with skunked beer, you need to use it sparingly or it can ruin the taste with its smell. It’s great to use this beer to boil sausages or make marinades. Keep in mind that skunkiness in the beer matters; if it’s really bad, it’s unadvisable to use the beer.
Make Vinegar With It
You can make a unique vinegar style with beer, as many brewers have recommended. Vinegar is a wine that was left bad, so if you can control how the beer spoils, you can use it to make vinegar.
You can easily find a good use for the vinegar after making it. Vinegar is already known for its robust flavor, so you should control the skunk so that it isn’t too sour.
Use It to Bait Snails
If you’re having trouble with snails in your yard, you can bait them using skunked beer. Snails are pretty annoying for those trying to design their garden since they wreck your lawn. Luckily, snails are attracted to beer.
You can put the beer in a bowl or a wider bottle, so that when the snails feel drawn to it, they get stuck inside the bottle. You can leave the beer out overnight to capture the snails, and it doesn’t take a lot of beer to do it.
Turn It Into Fertilizer
Another way to use skunked beer is by using it as fertilizer on your lawn. Live yeast does not benefit your yard, but it and other nutrients will help your yard once the yeast dies. If you want to use beer for this purpose, you should let it get skunkier.
Unless the alcohol content in the beer is high, the beer shouldn’t damage your lawn. If you’re not sure, you should test the beer in a small spot and use a beer that has been left in the sun for a week.
Use It as Shampoo
It might surprise you that beer can work as shampoo. It can fight dandruff and even make your hair shine. You should boil the beer until it has evaporated to half of its original amount to use it. This removes the alcohol that will damage your hair.
Once it cools down, you should mix it with shampoo and other products that can make it smell better. Then pour it into a bottle before using it to wash your hair.
Make a New Beverage
You can mix the skunked beer with other ingredients to create a new type of beer. You shouldn’t leave your beer to get too skunked if you want this to work. Those who like experimenting with beer can create delicious results.
For one, you can make a bitter cocktail or any other beverage. The more bitter you want the beverage to be, the more you should leave the beer out to get skunked.
What Happens When Beer Warms Then Gets Re-cooled?
In most cases, the flavor will remain fine if a beer is warmed and then re-cooled. A cold pack of beer can be left out to remain warm, and when you put it back in the refrigerator, you won’t get any problems. The flavors will remain bright, and the bitterness and aroma will remain the same.
On the other hand, if you bring a cold pack of beer home but don’t refrigerate it, the beer won’t last long. On the other hand, if the place you were cooling your beer suddenly gets hot, the beer quality will diminish over a few days.
The beer might start tasting like soggy cardboard or become increasingly sweet. Regardless, it won’t give you a good outcome. It’s important to store your beer at a consistent temperature and avoid exposing it to light for a long time. Also, if your fridge is no longer working while you have a beer in it, you should drink it immediately.
Can You Freeze Beer?
You can’t freeze beer safely because beer can explode at a lower temperature because of the carbonation and liquid. While you can put beer in the refrigerator, it’s inadvisable to put it in the freezer as this cannot be done safely for a long time.
To explain further, the water in the beer will push the carbon dioxide bubbles at freezing temperatures. This creates a force that can break a glass bottle or knock the cork out, leaving you with spilled beer.
Also, if you take the beer out of the freezer before the explosion, you’ll have ruined beer when it’s time to drink it. Freezing beer will change the taste of the beer, especially when you have a bottle-conditioned beer with live yeast. The freezing temperature will kill the yeast and hinder the flavor from improving.
But this isn’t always the case when it comes to all types of beer. For instance, beer like German Eisbock is meant to be frozen while brewing so that the alcohol level is increased.
How To Make Beer Last Longer
Although the guide has talked about what makes beer go bad, it’s also helpful to know how to make it last longer. To lengthen the shelf life of your beer, you should store it properly and keep some tips in mind.
Here are some tried and tested tips to make your beer last longer.
– Refrigerate It
The best way to make beer last longer is with a fridge. You should put your beer in the fridge once you buy it, as this will slow the aging process and make the yeast grow slowly. It also protects your beer from UV light inside the fridge.
When keeping your beer in the fridge, you should use a temperature of 53 degrees Fahrenheit. If it’s canned beer, you should keep it colder.
– Store It Upright
Another way you can make your beer last longer is by storing it upright. Keep in mind that gas travels upwards, so you should always keep it upright, even if it’s in the fridge. You can slow down the oxidation process and keep the beer for longer by doing this.
– Choose a Dark Place
You should know this by now, but beer shouldn’t come in contact with UV light. The best way to solve this problem is storing it in a dark place. Whether you’re storing beer in a cellar, basement or the fridge, it’s fine as long as it’s dark. You can even put it in your closet.
– Go For Canned Beer
Finally, if you want your beer to last long, you should purchase it in cans rather than bottles. Cans are well-sealed and will stop oxygen, bacteria and other elements from getting into them. They also stop sunlight from touching the beer.
Frequently Asked Questions
This section tackles all your burning questions regarding beer that has gone bad.
– Can Old Beer Make You Sick?
No, it’s not possible to get sick from old beer or expired beer. It might upset your stomach when you drink flat beer, and since it tastes off, you won’t enjoy the beer.
– Can Beer Go Bad if Stored in the Heat?
Yes, beer can go bad if stored in the heat because storing your beer in temperatures higher than normal for a long time will spoil the flavor. It speeds up the process of oxidation.
– Does Beer Go Bad if You Take It Out of the Fridge?
Yes, if you take it out of the fridge and leave it out, beer can go bad. Once you start storing beer at one temperature, you should maintain it to prevent it from going bad.
– Is It Okay To Drink a 3-Week-old Opened Beer in the Fridge?
No, this is not safe as beer that is opened should be consumed within 24 hours. After this time, the beer is no longer good for drinking.
We have answered all the questions you might have about beer expiring or how to store it in this complete guide. Now, you can be sure that whatever you’re drinking is safe for consumption.
- Beer can go bad, but it does not expire; instead, it ages.
- Beer goes bad because of exposure to light, oxygen or bacteria.
- Beer can last from 36 hours to 6 months, depending on the packaging and mode of storage.
- You can identify whether the beer is bad by checking the color, aroma and taste.
- The best way to store beer is in temperatures of 35 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit.
It’s easy to enjoy beer as long as you drink it when it’s fresh or well-aged. If beer has gone bad, you should avoid drinking it and use it for other purposes.
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