Beer freshness question

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by PGHPABeerdrinker, Jan 11, 2020.

  1. PGHPABeerdrinker

    PGHPABeerdrinker Initiate (20) Aug 21, 2018 Pennsylvania

    Good morning. I'm pretty new to this website, so please bear with me if this has already been discussed.
    In general, which beer styles have a longer shelf life than others? From what I've gathered, IPAs seem to have the shortest time frame before their tastes go south. I just drank a sour that I had in the fridge since summer, and it still tasted fine to me. Not all of the beer that I find has a "best by" date, or even a "canned/bottle on" date, so I don't want to bother trying them, unless I would know that they are likely still ok, even if months old.
    Also, can anyone give a general time frame of how long styles are fresh after the "canned/bottled on" dates? Thanks so much-I've really enjoyed this forum so far! Cheers!
     
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  2. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (2,568) May 30, 2005 Michigan
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    In general, any beer where the hops are supposed to shine are the beers that you need to watch. In my opinion, different hops have a different length of time that they will taste fresh, so it's difficult to put any length of time on the freshness. Whether a beer has been refrigerated is a factor that can change that answer too. Most people use a date of 90 days as a cutoff for purchase, but I have had IPAs that tasted great after that date. Consider any hoppy beer that is not dated to be outdated or you could be disappointed.
     
  3. DEdesings57

    DEdesings57 Zealot (561) Aug 26, 2012 New Jersey
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    I sense a Graph inbound shortly from a particular BA member.
     
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  4. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,669) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
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    Hops tend to fade quickly, so beers that feature them should go on your list of 'as fresh as possible'. Also, really delicate and light beers will show signs of aging sooner than others.

    Other than that, freshness is always preferred but not so essential.
     
  5. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,381) Feb 15, 2010 New York
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    The timeframe that qualifies as “fresh” will vary from person to person, but should not vary from style to style.

    Keep in mind that voices on this forum are often extreme - from beer should be no older than a month on one end and intentionally aging beer for years on the other. There’s nothing wrong with either approach, but do whatever works for you and realize that rules are made to be broken and there will always be exceptions.

    People generally subscribe to the idea that the following elements in a beer can help a beer age gracefully: high alcohol, dark color, bottle conditioning, sourness. Hops are also on that list, but people today tend to forget this because they are entirely focused on getting maximum hop character. The modern rise of barrel aged stouts and stouts with added ingredients for flavor have rocked the boat a bit. Experience has caused some people to want to drink such beers sooner rather than later.

    There are many variables that will change how well a beer can hold up over time that have nothing to do with the style or characteristics of the beer. Was the beer refrigerated for the entire time it sat in a bottle or was it exposed to extremely high temperatures? What are the cleaning procedures of the brewer? Did the brewer move the beer from tank to tank frequently? Does the brewer’s canning line introduce more oxygen than their bottling line? Etc. @JackHorzempa told a great anecdote recently about a brewer saying that cans filled with one head on their line having oxygen levels in spec while cans filled with another head were out of spec. All of these things will influence how well a beer can hold up... and you won’t find any of this information on a bottle or can.

    Lastly, don’t underestimate yourself as the final variable. For example, a beer could taste hoppier to you one day because of how you are perceiving it rather than the age of the beer. Your frame of mind and things you've recently eaten can influence this.
     
  6. denver10

    denver10 Poo-Bah (2,619) Nov 17, 2010 New Mexico

    I agree with all of that but would add the qualifier that many people do find a benefit in aging wild ales/brett ales. And others can prefer aging the mammoth stouts/barleywines/malt forward beers.
     
  7. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,913) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
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    But that is one of the problems with beer freshness conversations. A beer can still taste "fine" and can be purchased and consumed at a certain length of time after packaging, but still might not be considered "fresh". Without having a truly fresh example - 'right off the bottling line' sort of fresh - and doing a side-by-side with that beer you just thought was fine, you don't really know the changes that might have occurred, even if you don't necessarily find those changes (or the loss of certain aspects of flavor) as negatives or worthy of not purchasing or drinking the beer.

    Well, I'd say that what varies from person to person is one's individual choice of what's "(close enough to) fresh (to buy)"...

    (In an ideal world, "Fresh" should have a pretty strict time period for beer, but, hell, good luck with that. But should a 3 month old beer of any style from any brewery really be called "fresh"? It's in no way "bad" or "stale" but "fresh"?)

    Hmm... the same style of beer can be packaged differently (keg, cask, can, bottle), processed differently (pasteurized / sterile-filled / unfiltered or filtered to varying degrees, etc) - all of which can have an affect on "freshness" or, at least, the perception of same.
    ________
    There's a relatively long (months, maybe) when many beer styles might not be fresh but have yet to approach bad/undrinkable. But, as @zid implies, that, too, might even vary person to person.
     
    #7 jesskidden, Jan 11, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2020
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  8. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,669) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
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    Definitely! And I just may be one of those people, too. :slight_smile:
     
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  9. officerbill

    officerbill Devotee (434) Feb 9, 2019 New York
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    I learned about freshness the hard way, by ignorantly buying lots of out of date beer.

    I don't drink hoppy beers, but “the hoppier the fresher” & “higher ABV longer storage” are good general overall guidelines.

    Freshest is bestest and I try to stay under three months, but I'll go out to about 6 months for most American lagers and about 9 months for imports.

    Regular porters and stouts are good for about a year while Baltic porters, Imperial stouts, and BA versions can be good for several years. An exception is coffee versions, the coffee fades rapidly

    For bottle conditioned beers, gueuze, and anything listed under Strong Ales in the style section storage conditions are what matters; these beers can be good, often better, several years after bottling.

    TL:grinning:R fresh is best, but
    hoppy and coffee flavored <3 months
    Lagers <6 months
    Imports <9 months
    Porters, stouts, Scottish <12 months
    BA, bottle conditioned, dark ales, strong ales, wild ales (properly stored) years
     
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  10. PGHPABeerdrinker

    PGHPABeerdrinker Initiate (20) Aug 21, 2018 Pennsylvania

    For bottle conditioned beers, gueuze, and anything listed under Strong Ales in the style section storage conditions are what matters; these beers can be good, often better, several years after bottling.

    TL:grinning:R fresh is best, but
    hoppy and coffee flavored <3 months
    Lagers <6 months
    Imports <9 months
    Porters, stouts, Scottish <12 months
    BA, bottle conditioned, dark ales, strong ales, wild ales (properly stored) years[/QUOTE]
    Thanks to everyone who has replied so far! To this poster, can you elaborate on "proper storage" ?
    Please keep the replies/experience coming!
     
  11. Claude-Irishman

    Claude-Irishman Champion (842) Jun 4, 2015 New Jersey
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    Usually a high malt bill with minimal hops and a hefty ABV. Eg; Imperial stouts,Belgian quads etc.. Hop freshness is the keynote with most IPa's. Barley wine can be kept literally for decades. I have proven that-
     
  12. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,381) Feb 15, 2010 New York
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    I’ll explain what I meant. Fresh beer is recently produced beer. Someone might consider 1 week recent while others might consider 1 month recent. A beer can taste good outside of that window of time but that wouldn’t make it fresh. I’m obviously not saying anything that you don’t know. In my eyes, if someone states that a 3 month old IPA isn’t fresh, then they can’t say that a 3 month stout is fresh - they are both the same age even if one is more acceptable to them. In my opinion, people here sometimes misuse the word. You’ll see someone state that beer in a can is “fresher” vs the bottle. It can taste fresher, but doesn’t make it fresher... that depends on the packaging date and nothing else.
     
  13. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,381) Feb 15, 2010 New York
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    Hops are a preservative.
     
  14. RickBelgique

    RickBelgique Initiate (66) Jul 16, 2014 Illinois

    For me, the coldest, darkest part of my finished basement works very well. And, stored in a box, so light doesn't get to it. I imagine that a wine fridge would be ideal, but I don't feel like investing that kind of money.

    For me, the dark Belgians, such as Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue), St. Bernardus Abt 12, and Gouden Carolus Cuvée Van De Keizer Imperial Dark do better with aging. My minimum is one year. I write the purchase date on a piece of masking tape and put that on the bottle, so I know. The Gouden Carolus has the year printed on the bottle neck, to make aging even easier.

    In fact, the Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue) tastes "raw" when it's fresh. I know that may sound weird, but it just tastes better when it's aged.
     
  15. Claude-Irishman

    Claude-Irishman Champion (842) Jun 4, 2015 New Jersey
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    Hop freshness is not important and can act as an anti-oxidant, wrong the myth that IPA' loaded with hops helped preserve the beers is true only to some extent. It increased the freshness- level,but sorry to say Hop forward beers lose their flavor after about 100 days-
     
  16. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,318) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    Budweiser is a lager and IMO AB has premium QC/QA in their brewing and distribution process. AB recommends that Budweiser, when stored at room temperature, is 'good' for 110 days (less than 4 months). When those beer are at retailers are near or exceed 110 days, AB dictates that their Wholesale Distributors remove those beers from the retailers' shelves.
    I am uncertain why you think imports as a class last longer. When it comes to a given beer style I consider beers brewed outside the US and the same as those beers brewed inside the US.
    Yes, those sorts of beers tend to be 'good' with extended durations (a year or more) but this is predicated on an individual's palate and whether they enjoy how these beers 'evolve' with time in the bottle.

    Cheers!
     
  17. meefmoff

    meefmoff Devotee (435) Jul 6, 2014 Massachusetts
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    Do you know if this only (or largely) applies to those added to the boil? Would an entirely dry hopped beer give you the same preservative quality?
     
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  18. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,318) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    Generally speaking proper storage is: a cool (cold) dark place.

    For those beer styles that you intend to cellar (purposefully age) the suggested temperature is cellar temperature (e.g., 50's F).

    For beer styles that are not intended to be aged/cellared then cold (refrigerator) temperature is best.

    Below is the graph that was 'requested' in a prior post:

    Yes, cold storage is another variable (among others). How a beer will resist staling is based upon the Arrhenius Equation (see graph) below. Decreasing the beer storage temperature by 10 °C will extend the shelf life of a given beer by a factor of 2-3 times since cold slows down chemical (oxidative) reactions.

    [​IMG]

    Cheers!
     
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  19. officerbill

    officerbill Devotee (434) Feb 9, 2019 New York
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    Hey Jack, those were excerpts from my post
    <6 months for most lagers is my rough cut off. I prefer fresher, but I'll go to 6 months for a quality beer. The huge brewers have the clout to pull beers at three or four months, but the brands I drink don't.
    <9 for imports doesn't have so much to do with them as a class, but as recognizing that, generally, I'm not likely to find Germans much fresher. I won't buy a weißen more than 3 months old, but my options are severely limited if I refuse to buy a German lager over 6 months old.
     
  20. Mister_Faucher

    Mister_Faucher Defender (633) Dec 3, 2014 Washington

    Green bottles vs brown bottles/cans is another variable that matters. Most Euro pales that we get here are skunked because of the green bottle option.
     
  21. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,318) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    Well, I personally would refuse to purchase any lager (including German brewed lagers) that are over 6 months old. If I have a hankering for a Helles, German Pils, etc. and all of the German brewed versions are old (over 6 months old) I choose to purchase a US craft brewed Helles (or whatever) instead. Just my MO here.

    Cheers!
     
  22. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,318) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    A 'work around' here (if possible for you) is to open a sealed case and make sure you take all steps necessary to mitigate exposure to light (e.g., request a bag from the retailer, store the beer in the dark (inside a box) at home, etc.).

    Cheers!
     
  23. Mister_Faucher

    Mister_Faucher Defender (633) Dec 3, 2014 Washington

    There's a Euro deli right up the road and the owner tells me what's coming in and when. I'll go out of my way sometimes to get offerings as fresh as he gets them and then throw them in the far back of the fridge. Green bottles are a cancer IMO.
     
  24. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (3,253) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
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    My go-to beers are dark, high-ABV, and often Bourbon/Rum barrel-aged. For that reason, I generally haven't had to worry about them going bad in my cellar for a few months to a year. That being said, even though some folks swear that such beers can and should be aged and somehow improve, about the best you can hope for is that any changes will be to your liking.

    For instance, I like what happens to Founders CBS and Prairie Pirate Bomb after 6 months aging. On the other hand, Oskar Blues BA Fidy loses its boldness within a year, I've had Founders FBS taste like green peppers after a year, and I had a seven year old Deschutes Abyss that tasted like cardboard.

    Just last summer I read on the forums that six-month-old BCBS Midnight Orange was losing the orange flavor. I cracked one, and indeed, it was barely there. On the upside, the orange fading revealed more chocolate flavor. So - it comes down to what changes and whether YOU like it. I no longer intentionally age beers except for regular BCBS, Founders CBS, and Prairie Pirate Bomb because I like how they change. YMWV.
     
  25. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,019) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    Agree almost to the letter, but I’d put in 60 days not 90, but there are beers like Heady that seem obvious to canning date. I think the individual hop plays a huge part as does proper storage. Imo the worst offenders are single Hop citra ipas. Pils seem to be hardy as well, then there’s styles that really don’t matter at all. Agree no date no buy.
     
  26. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,381) Feb 15, 2010 New York
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    Hop character will change with age, and you might prefer your hoppy beers fresher, but that doesn't change the fact that hops are antimicrobial. People are constantly misinterpreting the "IPA myths." Pale ales prepared for India were highly hopped due to their preservative character. That's not a myth.
    That's a good question. I'm too dumb to know the answer, but dry-hopping does inhibit bacteria.
     
  27. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,318) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    A person who knows a lot about brewing took a personal tour of The Alchemist brewery and he learned that they take extraordinary measures to mitigate oxygen ingress during transfers and packaging. In my opinion this is the reason that their beers (including Heady Topper) hold up so well with age.

    Cheers!
     
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  28. officerbill

    officerbill Devotee (434) Feb 9, 2019 New York
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    Not much to add to @JackHorzempa post #18.
    Light is the enemy of bottles. Temps above low-mid 60's for bottles and cans
    Don't buy beer that's been sitting behind, especially a south facing, window. In the summer avoid beer that's been sitting in a hot warehouse.
     
    #28 officerbill, Jan 11, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2020
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  29. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (6,990) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
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    Are any warehouses air conditioned? Just curious.
     
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  30. RickBelgique

    RickBelgique Initiate (66) Jul 16, 2014 Illinois

    Beside Costco, probably not. :wink:
     
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  31. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,318) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    The Wholesale Distributors are HUGE warehouses and they should be air conditioned. I have no idea whether this is the case for all of the hundreds of Wholesale Distributors out there.

    Cheers!
     
  32. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,019) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    Not many can stand up to time, but HT can, and I wish other breweries would do the same. I think SN fills the bill here as well if I’m not mistaken. It’s sad when 2 month old beers suck.
     
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  33. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,318) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
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    I attended a presentation that Ken Grossman gave at a past HomebrewCon (NHC). During that presentation he showed a photograph of the DO Dissolved Oxygen) meter they have at the breweries. He made a quip of "that machine costs more than my car".

    Unfortunately Sierra Nevada still bottles lots of their product (>50% of the packaged beers are bottles) and while they have 'better' cap liners for their caps they still permit oxygen ingress (albeit at a slower rate than regular cap liners). During my tour of Sierra Nevada Mills River I asked the young fellow who was our tour guides about what Ken Grossman thinks about bottles vs. cans. He spoke to me quietly (so others couldn't hear?) and said that Ken would prefer to package solely in cans but there is customer demand for bottles. Maybe someday Sierra Nevada will solely use cans?

    Cheers!
     
  34. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,019) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    I don’t see I don’t see any advantage to bottles at all. I prefer cans, no reason not to imo. No light, no leaky caps, lighter. If there were advantages to bottles surely Alchemist, HF, Trillium, TH would
    offer up nothing else, after all if I’m producing a beer I want to present it in the best way possible. You can surely see the trend to cans over bottles almost across the board.
     
  35. Beer_Stan

    Beer_Stan Initiate (135) Mar 15, 2014 California
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    "Beer is fresh when I say it is" - Beer Advocates
     
  36. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (2,568) May 30, 2005 Michigan
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    I've seen the inside of two distributors warehouses, and both had a huge refrigerated area. One place was an A-B distributor, and I think all of the beers were in the cooled space, including any craft beers that they handled. I think the other distributor is exclusively craft beers and import brands but I don't recall how much of their beer was under refrigeration. They were in the process of purchasing a much larger facility, and they said they would install refrigeration equipment.
     
    #36 PapaGoose03, Jan 11, 2020
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2020
  37. readyski

    readyski Aspirant (253) Jun 4, 2005 California
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    The only question here is whether or not you bothered to check the date
     
  38. dbrauneis

    dbrauneis Poo-Bah (8,576) Dec 8, 2007 North Carolina
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    I think there is a set of folks that are not just BMC drinkers but some gateway craft beer drinkers that have the impression that bottles are better than cans (likely from anecdotal things like "better" beers were not in cans back in the day).
     
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  39. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,019) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
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    The trend to cans is really overwhelming right now, there’s still some hold outs, but the advantages are very real for both the brewer and customer. Any time a brewer can extend the life of his beers they’re going to make more money, and the better their beers are the more beer guys will buy. Cans are not foolproof, temp and storage conditions count, but light and oxygen creep are eliminated. My dads a hardcore bottle guy, don’t know I’ve ever known him to buy canned beer of any flavor, there’s always guys who come along slow.
     
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  40. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,318) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    And I personally agree with you here.

    The 'problem' here are consumers like your Dad who think that bottles are 'better'. My guess is that it will take some time (another decade?) for those folks to become accepting of canned beers?

    Cheers!
     
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