Skip to Content

Does Beer Expire?

Does Beer Expire?

Beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in the US. Beer is the favorite drink of so many, that it’s the third most consumed drink in the world – right after water and tea.

Despite the popularity, most people don’t know exactly how long is the shelf life of beer. If you have recently uncovered a few beers in the back of the pantry, you must be asking yourself whether it’s safe to drink them now, are they spoiled or it’s still safe to drink them?

If you’re wondering does beer expire, how long does it last or how to store it – we have your back. Read on to find out the answers to these questions, and more!

Does Beer Expire?

Beer is a drink perfect for any occasion – a BBQ, party or it can be a go-to drink when you want to relax after work. Either way, nobody really wants to think about beer going bad. But, if you’ve found a 6-pack in the basement from god knows when you must be wondering: does beer expire?

Luckily, beer does not expire. However, it does not last forever in a way hard liquor does (like whiskey or bourbon).

The can of beer will gradually lose quality over time and it will taste different, even bitter. However, it will not expire or go bad – but it won’t be tasty as usual, either. Beer should be consumed while it’s fresh but there is really nothing stopping you from drinking that old can.

Still, there is an exception. Most beers are pasteurized, and that is why they virtually don’t ever expire. Pasteurization is a process of partially sterilizing foods and drinks to extend their shelf life and remove pathogens.  

On the other hand, some manufacturers do not pasteurize their beer bottles. The reason behind this is that beer supposedly tastes better that way. Those cans or bottles can expire, so beware of that when you decide on buying unpasteurized beer.

With proper storage, your cans or bottles will retain the same quality longer. Make sure to follow the instructions on the label and the advice below to ensure you always have fresh beer when you need it.

How Long Does Beer Last?

The shelf life of beer is a little different than the shelf life of other foods and drinks. Beer will never go bad, but it will stop being fresh and savory at some point. The beer has a shelf life that depends mostly on the type of beer in question. 

So, beers are sold with a best-by date printed on the label. A best-by date means that the quality is guaranteed by the company that makes the product, up to that date (printed on the label). As previously mentioned, beer cannot go bad, but the quality may be compromised after the best-by date passes.

  • Normal beers, with percentages of alcohol on the lower end, stay fresh for around six months. That’s just a rough estimate – it can stay fresh longer, provided you keep it properly stored.
  • On the other hand, a beer with a higher percentage of alcohol, like an ale, lambic, or stout, stays fresh for longer than a normal beer – from five to ten years. Some manufacturers of stronger beers even recommend storing beer away for at least a year. Wondering why? It’s because it will develop a more distinguished taste as it ages.
  • Something else to keep in mind is the unpasteurized beers. Since this type of beer isn’t partially sterilized, it has a much shorter shelf life – it’s good for up to a month. After that, you might still decide to drink it. It will probably be fine – but it can be spoiled, as well.

Once you open a beer can, we recommend you drink it up as soon as possible. An opened can or bottle has a shelf life of around a day or two, at best. However, after a few hours, the beer will go stale and the taste will be blander.

How To Store Beer?

Proper storage is a very important factor when it comes to shelf life. It makes sure you get the most out of your purchased products. Following the guidelines in this article and the instructions on the label will secure the freshness of your beer.

  • The most important thing about storing beer is the absence of light. Light will affect the quality of beer long before its time. That is why the beer is usually packed in opaque containers like cans or kegs. When buying beer in glass bottles, always choose brown bottles over transparent or green ones as they are less affected by the sun.
  • Light will affect the taste of beer and it will turn skunky. Just 15 minutes of direct exposure to the sun can make your beer go skunky. So, make sure to always keep it covered – even on the way home from the store.
  • Beer should be stored in a cool and dark place, like the pantry or the basement, and transferred to the fridge later. Keep it away from any sources of heat like an air vent or the heater, and it should be fine.
  • The beer isn’t normally kept in the refrigerated area of the store. Beer will go through a few temperature changes before it’s consumed that won’t affect the freshness. However, if it’s exposed to heat for extended periods of time, it may differ in taste.
  • An opened bottle of beer should be consumed immediately, but it will be fine in the fridge for a few hours. Make sure it isn’t refrigerated too long, though.

Extra tip: if possible, always store the beer bottles upright. That way, the beer is less exposed to oxygen and it will stay fresh longer.

How To Check If The Beer Has Gone Bad?

This part is very important for those who found an old six-pack in the basement. You think it looks fine, but you’re not quite sure whether you should drink it or trash it. Read this part carefully to learn how to check if the beer has expired.

  • Checking if the beer is still good is a fairly easy task. Firstly, check out the cans or bottles. If they’re leaky or rusty, the quality is compromised and they definitely belong in the trash now.
  • Next off, open a bottle and pour the contents into a transparent cup. If the color has changed drastically (mild changes are fine), the beer has expired, unfortunately. If it looks fine, do a sniff test. If the smell is no longer pleasant, even putrid, you should throw it out.
  • If everything seems fine by this point – take a little sip. Beer can develop a different taste over time, as we mentioned. However, if you find the taste revolting, the beer is spoiled.
  • The beer may also develop a skunky taste, due to sun exposure. But, if it passed the taste test as well, there is nothing left but to sit back and enjoy a can!

Does Beer Expire – Conclusion

Beer is an ancient drink, adored for centuries. There are so many different types and added flavors fitting everyone’s needs.

The mere thought of having to throw out beer because it spoiled would make some people cry. So, does beer expire? Luckily, it does not! The quality is affected by time, but beer is still safe to drink, even years later. The only exception is the unpasteurized kind of beer, as we mentioned above.

When opened, the beer can go bad – so make sure to drink it up. It will stay good for a day or two, but it will go flat in a matter of hours.

To make sure you get the most out of your beer, store it correctly. Choose a dark and cool place, away from the window or heat. The fridge is great, but the pantry works, too.

If you’re not sure about the wellness of your beer, and you’re worried it’s no longer fresh, take a few moments beforehand to check it out. Examine the packaging, and pour the liquid into a transparent cup. Examine the liquid’s color and do a sniff test.

If the color and smell are fine, continue to sip a little of your beer. If you find the taste to be horrible, or skunky, it’s time to trash it. It will not make you ill, but you will not enjoy drinking it, either.

On the other hand, if your beer looks, smells, and tastes like beer, it’s completely safe to drink! Kick back and enjoy your ale!