Does Beer Expire?

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We’ve all cleaned out our fridge only to find a dusty, forgotten beer bottle in its depths. Should you reward your cleaning efforts and discovery by popping the cap and taking a swig? Or should you toss it to avoid a disgusting mouthful of expired beer? That’s what we’re here to answer.

Can Beer Really Expire?

You’ve probably seen an expiration date on your beer. Most beer bottles and cans have expiration dates on them nowadays, which means that beer can technically expire. But it doesn’t expire like other stuff in your fridge does.

Instead, beer quality typically declines over time, affecting flavor and body. If you notice that a beer loses its carbonation or no longer tastes fresh or flavorful, check the expiration date. It may well be expired.

Thankfully, drinking expired beer typically isn’t harmful, though it may feel that way to your tastebuds. As long as you store the beer right and it isn’t damaged, it should be safe to drink. The worst that usually happens is you get a stomach ache if the beer is months past its expiration date.

Some beer, including barleywines, lambics, and imperial stouts, actually taste better as they age, like a fine wine. Usually the darker or stronger the beer is, the better it ages. We don’t recommend trying to age your Bud Lite or Corona.

How Long Does Beer Last Before it Expires?

The amount of time a beer lasts after bottling really depends on the specific beer type and storage conditions. Typically, beer is at its freshest 3 to 4 months after bottling. After that, it should still be safe to drink. Its quality will just begin to decline.

Check the expiration date on your beer. Once the beer hits this date, it will usually taste worse and worse over time.

Bottle-conditioned ales with a 9% ABV or higher can typically be stored for over a year – and taste even better! Though these beers undergo the same type of “decline” in flavor and structure that other beers experience, they are actually designed to taste better with age.

How to Make Beer Last Longer

The way you store your beer can really affect how long it tastes good. Here’s what you can do to make your beer last longer:

  • Store beer at a temperature between 45 degrees F and 55 degrees F. This should make it last as long as possible. If you can’t store the beer at this temperature, keep it in the fridge.
  • Don’t expose your beer to light. Direct light hitting the beer for too long can change the chemical balance in your bottle, causing the beer to taste “skunky” and off.
  • Don’t let your beer get too hot. If you leave your beer in a warm place for too long and it gets seriously hot, it can overheat. This can give your beer a curdled taste and smell.
  • Don’t freeze your beer. Freezing your beer can make it taste off as well. If you freeze your beer, chances are you’re going to let it melt again so that you can actually drink it. The melted ice will change its flavor, likely making it taste flavorless and flat.
    Happy drinking!

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Carla Lauter was the founder of The Beer Babe and has been a beer blogger and expert for several decades. She's been interviewed in beer publications and podcasts about her favorite brews and the craft brewing scene. While she's ceased her involvement with The Beer Babe, her legacy remains in the various reviews and articles she has written.