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How can brewers not get freshness dating?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Ispeakforthetrees, Oct 29, 2012.

  1. I'm confused.

    Every day I get on here and people complain about the lack of dates/enjoy by/canned on/bottled/fresh by dates that breweries seem to lack on their labeling, and as a result many fellow BA's do not purchase what they do not know for sure to be fresh.

    They continually get complaints about their beers and a lack of freshness due to ignorance.
    How do breweries not realize this is more of a prevalent issue then they are willing to admit? I know many brewmaster, bottle shop owners, and influential members in the craft community are members on this site and must see the frustration of beer lovers alike. I feel like there is an underlying issue to why all breweries do not label some sort of indicator of freshness on their beers.

    What do you all think is the reason breweries continue to leave out a key part of information regarding their beer, and how often does it truly affect your purchase? I know since I've joined the site I've begun to pay far more attention to what I buy depending on the style and it plays a key factor in what I consume. I want it to be consumed at the optimal point in time and I'd like to know when the person who made that beer believes it is.
  2. CellarGimp

    CellarGimp Savant (430) Missouri Sep 14, 2011

  3. How is there money to be made by not having someone purchase your beer because they can't tell when you made it or when it'll be fresh till? All it adds up to is a loss of revenue.
  4. What I want to know is why brewers use green bottles.
  5. Green bottles=marketing ploy for people who don't know any better.
    Maybe its cheaper.
  6. I think its really VERY very simple...

    When they label their product with a "Best By" or an expiration date, they have explicitly stated when the product will no longer be "good".....
    Thus putting a limit on how long their product will stay on the shelf.

    If they dont put a best by/expiration date, then any unsuspecting nimrod (BA or not) can come up and buy a bottle at any time(even 10 years after a harvest IPA has been put out) and think its as fresh as can be.

    I'm surprised ANY brewer puts Best By dates on their bottles.
    Why would they tell you a date when you should no longer by their product, instead they could give no hint as to the date it was made or should be consumed by, putting an endless shelf life on their product.

    The only reason food manufacturers put best by dates are because they're lawfully forced too; they would love to have no dates on their products.

    I've known of many people who know a LOT about beer, go and buy an IPA with no date on it, only to taste a VERY old beer with no hop profile left at all.....If they had best buy dates on the bottle, they would have never bought them, but no dates caused more sales.

    /rant
  7. UT-Alex

    UT-Alex Initiate (0) Texas Sep 15, 2012

    If beer doesn't sell and the distributor is responsible to replace it with fresh product then you can see how money can be a contributing factor.
    FUNKPhD and brewbetter like this.
  8. PoopChute69

    PoopChute69 Initiate (0) Poland Oct 24, 2012

    1.) Implementing some kind of bottle/can coding is often an expensive endeavor - especially for a small brewery

    2.) The BeerAdvocate community represents a small portion of their clientele

    3.) Most start-up breweries are most concerned about selling the product that actually hits the market, and not as concerned about optimal freshness
  9. But, the average person purchasing an IPA tends to be somewhat knowledgeable. Least in my experience.
    Granted they won't notice any muted tastes or aromas, but they will notice something.

    Am I dumb enough to think non-beer lovers tend to not purchase beers with a short shelf life/high price tag, as many quick-to-loose-freshness hop monsters as there are in most bottle shops? I tend to think they avoid that shit like the plague.
  10. people who care about quality are outnumbered by people who don't. the latter keeps many breweries afloat.
  11. @poopchute,
    I totally agree with your points however...It's not hard to add a bit of extra ink to the label.
    I guess something I'm ignoring is distribution issues on the back end. You can't change much if they can't get your beer to the shelves.
  12. Damnit @playplaya,
    You edited your post before I could respond :(
  13. Blanco

    Blanco Savant (490) Pennsylvania Oct 11, 2008

    most casual beer fans I encounter (those that dabble in craft) have no idea about the freshness issue with IPAs. I've even noticed that educating them to the subject almost "ruins" it for them.
    afrokaze and Zach136 like this.
  14. I'd say with smaller breweries it's a matter of cost. If you had the choice of adding another 50bbl tank or buying a dating machine (stamping machine or some laser dater), I think most would choose the former.

    Vote with your dollars: you'll get a better product (buying something that is in date) and you're sending a message as well.
    stabbingcontest likes this.
  15. @Blanco, at first it totally ruined IPA's for me because I felt my flavor profile for what I'd expect had been tarnished in a sense. However as time went on and I became knowledgeable I found taking a bit more care with selection made it far more enjoyable rather than ruining it. I feel the general thought of about 6 weeks to 2 months is too long for an IPA is a bit overzealous for my liking. No more than 3 months and I'd call it good in my books.
  16. podunkparte

    podunkparte Initiate (0) Washington Nov 14, 2009

    I don't think your experience is very accurate regarding the whole of the population buying IPAs.
    beertunes likes this.
  17. Eh, I guess so. I just tend to think most of your run of the mill beer drinkers tend to steer clear of IPA's.
    Like I stated, in my experience. Not claiming it to be any sort of accurate.
  18. Envelopes

    Envelopes Initiate (0) Ohio Aug 26, 2012

    This wouldn't be a problem if it was just a 'bottled on' date. That doesn't imply that it's "bad".

    Cost of a date stamp labeler < being more honest about freshness of product
    Blanco likes this.
  19. I'd love to hear about your experience adding coders to brewery packaging lines.
    mikeburd1128 likes this.
  20. cavedave

    cavedave Champion (930) New York Mar 12, 2009

    As was pointed out, right here on BA, by the head brewer of a large brewery, the notch maker for dating labels with month notches was the least expensive piece of equipment he ever bought. Any brewer who tells you the equipt. to date is too expensive is lying.

    It is too expensive in other ways, but not the cost of the equipt. to accomplish it.;)
    papat444 likes this.
  21. Sounds like you could be referring to BBC's Jim Koch, quoted by Lew Bryson in an article in MBB (if not, it's still worth repeating):

    WoodburyMN, JimKal, smutty33 and 5 others like this.
  22. brewbetter

    brewbetter Savant (400) Nauru Jun 2, 2012

    As has been said, the cost comes from creating an expiration for your products whereby it will need to be replaced. The distinction that I don't think has been made is that some brewers know that their reputation is more important than the cost involved.
  23. cavedave

    cavedave Champion (930) New York Mar 12, 2009

    Yup, that's the one. Thanks for your encyclopedic nature my friend!
  24. drtth

    drtth Advocate (690) Pennsylvania Nov 25, 2007

    I don't buy undated beer unless I can establish age through some other information (e.g., a just released seasonal). So it always affects my purchase decisions, every one of them. In addition, if I find an undated beer I wanted to try and don't buy it, I take the time to send mail to the brewery whose beer I didn't buy, explaining to them which of their competitors' beers I bought instead and why. Sometimes it even has an effect.... :)

    I'd suggest that one reason breweries don't bottle date is that they trust the 3-tier distribution system which, while not perfect, actually works more often than not. (And I've been surprised at how responsive some breweries and distributors are to fixing the problem when its is called to their attention.) I think a second reason they don't bottle date is that even beer geeks who care don't agree on whether the dating should be "bottled on" which is flawed in at least one major way, or "best by" which is flawed in at least one other major way.

    But what really confuses me is why people who know enough to complain about a lack of bottle dating of either kind continue to buy undated beer.
    pjl44 and cavedave like this.
  25. Who knows. Laziness, money, both. All I know is that I don't buy anything hoppy that doesn't have a date, so they're losing my money. (Except Heady bc you know that's fresh from the cannery).
  26. I would guess there are a lot of craft beer drinkers who don't really care and aren't raising a big stink with the brewers. As someone said to me, "So many beers are so hopped up, they still have pretty good taste even after the freshness date." I rarely look at the date on bottles, and if I do, it's mostly out of curiosity.

    Over the past year, I bought a case of Ruthless Rye that was either close to or past the freshness date and also some Harpoon Rye IPA that had been pulled because it was past the date but when the store owner asked me if I wanted it anyway, I told him yes.

    I'm sure both beers would have been better fresh, but they were still pretty tasty IMO.
    jmw likes this.
  27. Keith238

    Keith238 Savant (290) New Jersey Jul 31, 2007

    That's true but as was pointed out earlier, the majority of consumers don't seem to care as much as many people here on BA and continue to buy their products. Clearly not enough people have complained about their beer if a brewery still isn't dating their product. So, they don't see the need to make a change, regardless of the costs (direct or indirect) and I can't say I blame them (although I do like dates). Without complaints and without a decline in sales, save the very small percentage of us that do complain or spend our money elsewhere, nothing will change.

    Sam Adams has led the charge and Stone made a big statement with their "Enjoy by" release but 2 things stand out here. 1) Boston Lager doesn't deteriorate/fade like an IPA so an 'out of date' beer won't stand out to most consumers and 2) Stone was very careful to release this latest beer in small quantities to limited areas in a very controlled manner so as to essentially ensure that the beer hits the shelves quickly and there isn't enough to stock pile in warehouses. Stone, who has never sold me a beer I didn't like, simply couldn't survive being so meticulous with this schedule for brewing and distribution of their whole portfolio. While I appreciate the statement being made, I don't know that it will have the desired effect of changing consumers' buying habits or other brewers' reluctance to date their beers.
    cavedave likes this.
  28. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Champion (930) Arizona Jun 18, 2002


    This quote belongs in every freshness related thread.

    It's not the cost.

    Brewers just want their stuff to still sell when stale, plain and simple. They don't want to hear about returned products, complaints about stores stocking expired products, distributors shipping out expired products, etc. Just make money and customer please... STFU. (That's the stance I perceive from the stubborn ones who still lack a freshness date).
    cavedave and SunDevilBeer like this.
  29. How can so many self-proclaimed "beer advocates" not get it? Some of the blame has to go to those hobbyists who "cellar" all kinds of beers that aren't meant to be aged (i.e., 99% of beers and not just hoppy ones). Intentionally creating -- and then touting -- the sherry- or honey-like characteristics through oxidation does precious little to help consumers recognize when a beer is past its peak, nor does it do much to encourage them to seek out only the freshest beers -- regardless of style.
  30. I think their distributors are a big factor, as well- since in many cases THEY are the ones that are going to have to eat the cost of pulling, replacing and destroying the old stock. (Even BBC's occasional programs share the cost 50/50 basis with their wholesalers, IIRC). They have got to be very, uh, let's say "influential" in the breweries that still resist consumer-friendly date coding.

    As the number of US brewing companies has increased more than 10 fold in the craft era, the number of licensed wholesalers has continued to decrease, resulting in a reversal of the old brewery/distributor dynamic. It used to be the BIG brewery pushing around the little "Mom & Pop" local guy - now the distributors (often part of larger chains like L. Knife here in the northeast) are often much bigger than the breweries. It also doesn't help that they usually carry dozens of different brands, so hundreds of different individual beers.

    Old beer on the shelves used to mean the possibility of losing one's Anheuser-Busch contract (aka "a license to print money" back then). These days, I was told by one brewer who I complained to about old stock on the shelf a couple of years ago, the distributor wouldn't even return their phone calls. :eek:
    yemenmocha likes this.
  31. As long as people keep buying up beer from brewers like Three Floyds who refuse to date then other brewers will look at the success they have had and realize they do not need to date. Their is only one solution, do not buy beer with no date. I saw Dreadnaught on the shelves recently even though Three Floyds pulled out of this area over 6 months ago and now they are gone so I am sure whoever bought those was just thrilled. A lot of brewers do "date" and it just hard to see it. New Glarus, Lagunitas and Tyranena all have black ink on the neck in either Julian(which I am assuming most BA's have had to learn) or a date in black ink... This can be very hard to see but it is there so I can still look in the store and if it says something like 2652 I know it was mid September when it was bottled. But I personally would like every brewer out in this grand country to go grab a six pack of Bells and take note of the date and do the same. Has the actual bottled on date and a system to know how long the beer is good for.
  32. Handle

    Handle Savant (345) North Carolina Mar 16, 2009

    It's as simple as that. For every one BA agonizing over three-month-old IPAs, there are probably 50 other people who would buy it without a second thought.
    5thOhio likes this.
  33. peteinSD

    peteinSD Savant (255) California Apr 25, 2010

    stone, green flash, firestone, and ballast point all bottle date because they (from my lay perspective) have confidence in their product and respect for their customers.

    as the craft market continues to be overrun with new brands AND the knowledge of the average customer seeking a craft product continues to grow, it will be the strong that survive and the folks with undated bottles of middling quality beer will be on the margins.
  34. drtth

    drtth Advocate (690) Pennsylvania Nov 25, 2007

    The problem with perception is that sometimes we see what we expect to see rather than what is out there. And sometimes we generalize to all from one or two cases.

    How does it fit with your hypothesis that there are also plenty of instances on record of distributors telling brewers to not put a date on their beer, otherwise the distributor won't buy it and distribute it?

  35. The number of people on this website represents a very small percentage of beer buyers. It's just like the news. You only hear about the "train wrecks" and not the successful endeavors. Therefore, there are millions of uninformed beer buyers who, like other posts here, don't pay attention to dates. And also like other posts, whether they are small brewers or multinational brewers, they aren't inclined to do anything until they're forced to - whether by legislation or the market.
  36. TMoney2591

    TMoney2591 Champion (895) Illinois Apr 21, 2009

    See, this is where the responsibility lies with not only the consumer to recognize that a given product is out-of-date, but also the distributors. It's the latter that will give out past-code Firestone cases and let Stone bombers sit on shelves and rot (two of (too) MANY personal experiences), 'cause, as jesskidden mentioned above, it's they who will likely be hit with the cost of getting rid of these "bad" products. Sometimes stores themselves will shoulder some of the burden, writing off the "bad" bottles as breakage or some such nonsense, but in the end they don't wanna be left holding the cost bag, either. So, everyone's gonna just keep the less-than-perfect status quo as long as it can be sustained due to fear of increased costs somewhere along the line. Not just in beer, but consumers are often the greatest victims of a general lack of a damn being given for either them or the product.
  37. Blanco

    Blanco Savant (490) Pennsylvania Oct 11, 2008

    I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying that brewers aren't putting dates on bottles because some beer geeks cellar the wrong styles of beers?
  38. I'm saying that, yes, beer geeks contribute to the problem. Self-proclaimed "beer advocates" are not only willing to drink many beers well past their prime, but also intentionally "cellar" them to achieve precisely the same effect that is achieved by leaving them on a store shelf. Then they review them generally highly (why, I'll never know) here on a popular consumer website. It's just one more reason why brewers see no need to truly worry -- except in cases of the one style where the majority of BAs have caught on: IPAs -- about freshness dating.
  39. Jfriz25

    Jfriz25 Savant (275) Wisconsin Jun 8, 2012

    I hate that Three Floyd's doesn't date bottles. Dreadnaught is one of my favorite beers but I rarely buy it anymore unless I know it recently came in.
  40. I've said it before and i'll say it again: Being a small start-up doesn't excuse not dating your beers. We have a few local ones that use a sharpie on their label, another uses a basic ink stamp (by hand). I've emailed every brewer that bottles and most of them DO care about freshness. It's a question of priority in their business plan. That said there are a few breweries that categorically do not have any info or worse, have a code and refuse to reveal what it means.

    By the way, if you want to know how to read the codes, i'm sure a BA will suggest somewhere you can find out about "fresh beer".

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