While beer can go bad over time, the alcohol in the drink can keep beer fresh for a long time and even expired beer can be safe to drink. There are many factors that impact whether or not beer goes bad and what is the best way to store it.
Beer goes bad in stages depending on how it is stored and where, with the first stage being the beer going flat and expiring. It can take several months for beer to expire and even longer for it to go bad, but there are a lot of factors to keep in mind when deciding whether or not beer has truly gone bad.
This article will discuss what these factors are, how they affect beer, and the best way to store beer long-term.
Does Beer Go Bad? How Long Does Beer Last?
Beer can go bad, just like any other food, but how you store it has a massive effect on its overall shelf life and quality.
How Long Does Beer Last Outside
In a pantry, cupboard, or basement, beer can last up to nine months but will generally go bad after six in most cases, as beer needs a specific environment to thrive.
In order to get the most out of your beer in these conditions you need to store your beer in the best available spot and make sure it is safe from heat, light, and moisture.
One way to tell if your beer is in a good location is to see if the container seems warm or wet to the touch, as these are signs that something is wrong with your current spot.
How Long Does Beer Last in the Fridge
The refrigerator is the best place to store beer long term since beer can last up to two years in these conditions and unlike a pantry the environment in a fridge is more controlled and consistent.
Because of this you don’t have to worry about factors like light or heat since your refrigerator should have a naturally cold environment which will stop the beer from chemically reacting.
Keep in mind, however, that any problems with the beer, its container, or the refrigerator can shorten the drink’s shelf life significantly, sometimes down to as few as six months before going bad.
How Long Does Beer Last in the Freezer
While beer would probably last much longer in the freezer than the refrigerator, this is actually a terrible idea due to how beer reacts to extreme cold, so you should never try to freeze beer for the following reasons.
Firstly, the chemicals in beer break down in extreme cold so freezing your beer will ruin the carbonation and flavor no matter how carefully you try to go about it.
Secondly, when beer freezes it expands but aluminum and glass shrink, so this can cause beer cans and bottles to break open or even shatter in the freezer as the expanding beer pushes against the shrinking container.
Depending on where you keep your beer it can last up to two years or burst open after two days, so knowing how long you want to keep beer in storage is essential.
How To Tell If Beer Has Gone Bad / How To Know Beer is Fresh
There are many stages to beer going bad, as the alcohol in beer keeps bacteria and other contaminants out and beer itself is sold in airtight containers. Even after expiring beer you can still drink beer, even if it has lost its flavor, but once beer goes bad you can’t drink it anymore so it is critical to know the difference.
Fresh Beer. Depending on the brand and type, fresh beer usually has a strong flavor and scent with a clear color and some carbonation when you initially open the container. As long as your beer still looks, smells, and tastes pleasant it should still be fresh and safe to drink, so always check your beer before drinking.
Expired Beer. Once beer starts to expire it will lose its carbonation and its potency, so the beer will go flat and stale over time. Expired beer also tends to lose its flavor and scent the longer it goes past expiration, so if your beer has a weaker taste and smell than you remember it may just be expiring, but it is still safe to drink.
Bad Beer. When beer goes bad it begins to develop new colors, smells, and tastes that are all awful compared to fresh beer. This is because bad beer starts to develop contaminants like bacteria that are harmful to your body and change the flavor of the beer, so you should throw out any beer that looks, smells, or tastes rancid.
How to Store Beer?
Beer, like most alcohols, needs a cool, dark environment to stay fresh, especially since beer comes in either metal cans or clear glass containers. Stored in the wrong place, beer can go bad in a matter of days even when sealed inside an airtight container, so knowing where to put beer is essential.
Somewhere dark, cool, and dry. Beer reacts badly to light and heat, especially aluminum cans which can heat up easily and clear bottles that let external light in. Pantries, cupboards, and dry basements are great places to store beer, as are the bottoms of refrigerators away from the bright lights at the top.
Can You Freeze Beer? How?
Beer can be frozen but this is the absolute worst way to store the drink since freezing can ruin the beer, the container its in, and the inside of your freezer if you are not careful. This is because of a few odd traits of the chemicals inside beer and how they react in extremely cold temperatures.
Freezing Ruins Beer. Unlike wine, which can be safely frozen for long term storage, freezing destroys the flavor of beer making it go bad faster. This is because the chemicals and compounds that make up beer break down in extreme cold, even if they are frozen and defrosted carefully, and this ruins the taste.
Beer Expands. Since most of the liquid in beer is water, and water expands when frozen, beer also expands in its container when you freeze it. Since beer containers are tightly sealed and are not designed to be resealed after opening, beer cans and bottles can burst open in the freezer when the beer inside them starts to expand.
How to Thaw Beer?
Just like with freezing you can technically thaw beer out the same way you would any other drink, but you are better off pitching frozen beer than thawing it.
When beer freezes, the chemicals that make up the beer break down and destroy the flavor, meaning that thawed beer is always worse than regular, unfrozen beer.
Frequently Asked Questions About Beer’s Shelf Life
With all the factors that go into determining how long beer regular beer lasts under normal conditions, it can be hard to figure out what to do when conditions are not normal. There are many questions that come up when dealing with different types of beer, so here are two common questions and answers related to the shelf life of beer.
What if my beer is past the expiration date? Generally speaking, you shouldn’t drink beer past the expiration date since that date refers to when the beer goes bad, not when it goes flat or stale. Use-by dates are much more lenient and beer can last several months past that date before going bad, as long as it is stored correctly.
How long does homemade beer last? As long as the beer is made and packaged safely then homemade beer should last just as long as regular, professionally made beer in either the pantry or the fridge. In either case, the key is that the beer needs to be safely made and kept in an airtight container, otherwise it will go bad quickly.
While beer can go bad like any other food, its alcohol content means that it can survive for months in the right conditions. In fact, with the right storage techniques, you can easily get a few years out of beer before it goes bad.