Whether you’ve bought bottles of ale or cans of lager (or vice versa), the chances are you’ve seen a best before date on the side of the pack. This naturally leads to the all-important question: Can beer go off?
The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. In short, yes, beer can turn bad. After all, there’s nothing worse than cracking open a cold beer anticipating refreshment, only to taste a beer that’s lost its edge.
However, different styles of beer have vastly different shelf lives, and in most cases, the expiration date you see is merely a rough guide. When stored in the ideal conditions and at the optimal temperature, beer can last far beyond the date that’s stamped on the packaging. So, here are the need-to-knows on keeping great tasting beer exactly as it’s meant to taste.
When does beer start to lose flavour?
There are two big things that can make good beer go bad: exposure to sunlight and oxidation (which is sped up by heat). And while we at Greene King strive to make tasty long life beer of all descriptions, nothing can prevent oxidation spoiling beer after a long time. Here is how both of these things can impact the flavours in your beer.
It’s not just any kind of light that can make beer turn, so don’t worry about the one inside your fridge. No, we mean ultraviolet light – that’s right, the same kind of light that’s bad for our skin is also bad for beer. UV light reacts with the chemicals in the hops contained in your beer when it breaks through the bottle. This exposure to light breaks down the flavours you want to taste in your beer and ultimately ruins the look and smell, too.
Whether you’re an IPA fan, a lager lover or big on any other type of beer, the best thing you can do to prevent this kind of spoilage is to keep your beer out of direct sunlight and avoid moving your beer quickly from hot to cold environments, and vice versa. And, whatever you do, don’t leave your beer out in the car on a hot day!
Oxidation is a slow process that mainly affects cask beers. Over a period of time, oxygen interacts with the chemical compounds in your beer and changes the taste and smell. It happens as a result of leaking air, which is why cans are more resistant to this chemical reaction than beer, since the seal is tighter. If you’re storing beers for a long time, there’s no way to prevent this reaction from happening. However, at Greene King, the level of oxygen in our cans and bottles is strictly controlled, so it shouldn’t be an issue!
The best way to store your beer
If you’ve ever had to throw a beer or two away because they’ve spoiled, you’ll know that some storage conditions just aren’t hospitable when it comes to keeping your lager and ale tasting fresh and flavoursome. There are a couple of things you can do to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
Put it in the fridge!
Want to shut out UV light and grind the beer ageing process to almost a halt? Your fridge is the answer. 10-12˚C is the ideal temperature range for most beers. However, pale beers, like Ice Breaker Pale Ale, are best enjoyed at even cooler temperatures. Just don’t put them in the freezer, though.
If not the fridge, then find a dark spot
Sometimes, there just isn’t enough space in the fridge to house all your weekly groceries as well as your supply of beers. But that still doesn’t mean your beer needs to be exposed to the elements that can ruin it. If you must store your lager and ale cans or bottles at room temperature, the best option is a dark spot in a cool room that’s able to maintain a consistent temperature. Keep your beers away from the sunlight and move them to the fridge when you’ve got the space.
Can beer go bad in the fridge?
The truth is, most beer tastes best when it’s at its freshest, and the fridge can’t prevent good beer from spoiling after a long period of time. However, it’s still the best way to keep your beer tasting as it should for the longest time. The cool temperature slows the spoiling process down, and when stored in the ideal conditions, you can enjoy a lager or ale for a long time.
Those are a few simple tips and tricks you can put into action so your beer stays fresh, with that incredible, complex flavour and aroma that it’s known for. Don’t forget, we’ve got a huge range of beers and craft beers of all descriptions for you to explore and enjoy. And, if you like to experiment and try out new flavours, treat yourself to a mixed beer case. You may just find your new favourite lager or ale – just be sure to store them correctly.