Does Beer Have an Expiration Date? Who Knew?


Friday, June 12, 2020

A New Reality


From the college years, through the military years, especially in the business and community service years, and joyfully in the retirement years, we have enjoyed entertaining.  As interesting and engaging people come to our home and into our lives, we try to greet them with a warm welcome.  And, to us, that means preparing and serving good food and drink.  That’s why the fridge and pantry are always well-stocked with foods for meals, nibbles or hors d’oeuvres.  And, of course, a bar with spirits, wine, sodas, and beer.

So, who knew all that pre-planning and ready-for-anything stockpiling would be overcome by a pandemic!  As we realized that social distancing was changing the dynamic of entertaining; we also noticed our food consumption was no longer keeping up with food’s tendency to spoil.   We started loading up the freezer.  Problem solved!  Whew!!!

But what about the spirits, wine, soda, and beer.  Ah, there’s the rub.  It appears some of this stuff expires!   It should be consumed in a timely manner.  Who knew?!?

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Expired libations. This is only the tip of the iceberg regarding drinks stored for entertaining. But beer and soda seem to be the most susceptible to light, heat and most especially age.

Did you know that beer has a “Freshest before” date on every bottle and can?  Yeah, we didn’t either.  It’s not like the notice is hidden, but it is, none-the-less hard to find.  (At least, the cans have the date stamped on the bottom!)

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Lookee here, can you spot the dates indicating, expiration?Well maybe not expiration, but definitely a stop use date. The industry calls it a freshness date. Basically, this is expected to be interpreted as a “use by” date.
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The “Freshest Before” date can be hard to find. The location of the notice is different on every brand. Some are on the bottleneck. This new purchase of Coors Light will expire on July 27, 2020. Now that is getting pretty specific! Also, pretty quick!
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Some notices are on the label itself. (Samuel Adams has a notch designating the “Freshest Before” date.) Our fresh supply of Samuel Adams will last through July 2020.
Michelob Ultra has the best life expectancy: good 'til November 24, 2020!
Michelob Ultra has the best life expectancy: good ’til November 24, 2020!

I was prodded to go on the hunt for facts after reading about the “expiration dates” in a newspaper article.  This is what I learned:

Beer is either pasteurized of filtered.  This eliminates bacteria.  It’s always safe to drink.

Beer contains a minute amount of oxygen.  This causes the aroma and flavor to oxidize over time.

Oxidation will affect the flavor: either flat, stale or too sweet depending on the alcohol content.

Heat will accelerate the oxidation process.  Keep beer refrigerated.

Light will cause skunky beer.  Ugh!!!  Beer should always be stored in a dark place.

After learning all that, we tried an out-of-date beer.  And it tasted just fine!!!  We detected no degradation.

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We checked the websites of several breweries and learned that beer will, in fact, never be unsafe to drink. The brewing process itself kills bacteria. It is the aroma and taste that will degrade with time. We can confirm: this beer was still good.

So, in conclusion:  an expiration date warns consumers of potential health hazards; a best by date informs consumers of potential taste degradation because of aging; and freshest before dates mean exactly that—drink before this date for full fresh flavor.

Beer does not have an expiration date!!!

Good to know.

Bottoms Up!!!
Bottoms Up!!!

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