Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by searsclone, Jan 8, 2013.

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  1. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,106) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    The two BIG ‘killers’ of beer is temperature and age. Light can be a problem but as you noted that can be easily ‘managed’ by proper packaging and store handling. Unfortunately the retailers in the US often present the beers in stand-alone six-packs either on shelves (under fluorescent lighting) or in glass door refrigerators which have fluorescent lights within them. Skunking is a genuine concern under these store conditions.

    Here is a thread I just posted which discusses the Pilsner Urquell Freshness Initiative and the steps they take to combat the three enemies of temperature, time and light: http://beeradvocate.com/community/threads/recommended-euro-lagers.60232/#post-813333

  2. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (200) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    Concerning the age beer here has a best before date set to one year after bottling or canning. I have never had a beer which is close to the best before date but certainly beers that are 6 months or slightly more into their designated shelf-life, just as you find beers that have a best before dates that are set to a year from the month you bought the beer (the former happens more often with smaller brands, the latter with bigger selling brands, as can be expected).

    Another thing worth noting though is the fact that the monopoly only has a set number of product launches in a year that are the same across the country, and brands that don't sell will see a decrease in the number of stores that carry them over time. So there's a limited flow of new brands coming in and the established sellers keep their slots. I can remember several imported lager beer brands that have disappeared from the shelves in the last years (well the span is more like the last decade, it went by rather quickly I guess): Fosters, Miller lite, Bud light, Coors light (only sold in a few monopoly stores at the moment). This business model I think also contributes to the freshness of the beer (though you might think that 6-7 months is way too old).
  3. ericj551

    ericj551 Initiate (0) Apr 29, 2004 Alberta (Canada)

    To me, it's superior only because of price. PBR/Highlife/Narragansett are all pretty much the same as any other macro beer, just a small to dramatic difference in price.
  4. Onenote81

    Onenote81 Poo-Bah (1,879) May 27, 2008 North Carolina

    I really enjoyed their Bock. I will have that in my fridge (and my belly) each and every spring here on out.
  5. Providence

    Providence Initiate (0) Feb 24, 2010 Rhode Island

    I hear that. I think it'll be here sooner than you think, I remember it getting released in February, could be wrong....
  6. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,106) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    So, let’s discuss dating of beers. If a brewery choses to date their beers there are a number of options: a brewed on date or a best by date. My personal preference is that a brewed on date is ‘better’ than a best by date but the ultimate would be both. Some breweries chose to utilize a ‘secret code’ of Julian dating where the brewed on date is ‘embedded’ within a series of numbers: for example:

    “Sierra Nevada: Uses a bottling date. Bottles: Example: 106311448; 1=2011; 063=day of year, or Mar 4; 1=bottling line 1; 1448= 2:48pm.”

    How long a beer will be fresh tasting is dependent on the factors I already discussed (i.e., was the beer stored cold since it came from the brewery, was the six-pack exposed to light (sunlight or fluorescent light), etc.) but let’s just discuss time (age) for now. When does a beer get to the point where it is too old? A variable is how well was the beer packaged? In other words, were conscientious steps taken during packaging (bottling/canning) to reduce the amount of oxygen introduced during packaging? Too much oxygen introduced during bottling will result in accelerated staling of the beer. A brewery close to me (Victory Brewing) has an excellent bottling line where they perform a multi-step CO2 evacuation of the bottles prior to filling. Then then cap right away. Even though they have a ‘super-duper’ bottling line they have what could be perceived as short recommended best by timeframe of 5 months for their ‘standard’ gravity beers:

    “5 month "enjoy by" date:
    Victory Lager
    Prima Pils
    Hop Devil

    You make mention of: “you might think that 6-7 months is way too old.” Well, that is highly dependent on how well the beer was packaged and stored. Given the above discussion with Victory Brewery and the fact that they likely have the best packaging line in the industry I would likely not feel too good about drinking 6-7 month old lager beers.

    Permit me to whine a bit about imported to the US German beers. A number of German breweries do not have dates on their packaging. As a general rule I refuse to buy undated German beers. I recently purchased a single bottle of Schlenkerla Marzen beer; I actually had that bottle in my hand, put it back on the shelf and then ended up buying it. Schlenkerla refuses to date their beers!:angry:

    When I do find German beers that have dates they are invariably dated with a best by date and to the best of my knowledge they use a 1 year timeframe. Having a 1 year timeframe is too long! I refuse to buy any German imported beers that are over 6 months old. I wish I could state that I have purchased many German lagers that are only 2-3 months old but I would be a liar. Due to poor distribution aspects I consider myself lucky if I can find a German lager that is only 4-5 months old; I just pray that it was not exposed to high temperatures in transport. I don’t buy many German lagers.

    Crusader likes this.
  7. Tut

    Tut Initiate (0) Sep 23, 2004 New York

    It was poor beer 40+ years ago, when there was a real brewery and it's not any better now. The hipster term effectively describes an attitude/look/style and is therefore useful
  8. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (200) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I wonder though if Victory's beers are pasteurized or not. Also craft beers tend to sell on their hop profile, which most craft beer drinkers seem to think degrades within a limited timeframe, requiring the beer to be drunk as close to the bottling date as possible. I don't think my taste is calibrated to the point where I can catch a degradation in the hop profile unless it starts to take on off-flavors. And certainly not in a macro lager. I will readily conceed however that people are different in how developed their sense of taste is, I doubt I'd be found to have superior tasting abilities.

    I actually bought a Schlenkerla Märzen myself not that long ago, and I remember it being stamped with a best before date on the bottom of the back label (it wouldn't be allowed to be sold without a best before date, or without disclosing the alcohol percentage here, which might be different from how it is in the US). At least with a 1 year time frame, and if it's to make any sense, you should be able to use it as a born on date (since I interpret the American born on date as the date of bottling) by checking the day and month of the BB date (which is standardized in Sweden as day-month-year, might be month-day-year in Europe as I seem to recall that a standardization is on the way in this area across the EU).

    But I can certainly appreciate the problems that you describe, and perhaps it's in part down to the size of the US market and the sheer volume of brands that distributors and retail, and the consumer, has to deal with. And this might be difficult to adress in an efficient way across the board (with the freshness initiative by Pilsner Urquell an example of a limited effort to rectify some of the problems for one particular brand). The kind of freshness demanded by craft beer consumers seems rather extreme to me though, with maintained number of brands, and even more still, retailers and distributors would have to throw out a ton of stock, a ton of beer, continuously. Some might think it is worth it to increase freshness and as a service to the consumer, but I can't help but feel it is wasteful (unless freshness could be combined with less wasteful measures like not stocking so much beer or having smaller bulk purchases across channels and tiers, and perhaps get ridd of the second distributor tier).
  9. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,106) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Response to Crusader:

    I am 99% sure that Victory does not pasteurize their beers. The vast majority of US craft breweries do not pasteurize. The BIG mega-breweries do pasteurize their bottled beers. Anheuser-Busch started the advertisement of “Born On Dates”. Budweiser has a best by timeframe of 110 days (less than 4 months) even though it is pasteurized. I have read many times that the Anheuser-Busch wholesalers are extremely conscientious in removing old beers from retailers. This obviously costs Anheuser-Busch money but they are serious about maintaining fresh product!

    The Schlenkerla Marzen bottles exported to the US do not have any dates on them. It is not a requirement in the US that beer be dated. It is somewhat disappointing that Schlenkerla has the ‘capability’ to date their bottles but choose to no do so for the US market.:slight_frown:

    You mention: “retailers and distributors would have to throw out a ton of stock, a ton of beer, continuously.” Well, this is exactly what Anheuser-Busch does with their beers. If a retailer has Budweiser on their shelves that is over 110 days old, it is pulled.

    In the meantime, the US consumer has to do their best (with limited information at times) to ensure that the beer they are purchasing is fresh. It is indeed as the Romans stated it millennia ago: caveat emptor!

    Crusader likes this.
  10. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,106) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    I am very reticent to get into a PBR discussion but …..

    Ok, I have not had a PBR in many years. PBR was the cheap beer that all of the fraternities provided at the frat parties in college. I would be ashamed to admit how many barrels I consumed of PBR during my college years. I vowed to never drink PBR again once I graduated from college; I then started drinking good beer like Rolling Rock!:wink:

    Below is something that BA DogTown (the owner of Lagunitas Brewing Co.) mentioned about PBR in a recent thread:

    “I'd like to offer a closing note with a little inside info on Pabst Blue Ribbon... A few of years ago I wanted to offer some of my (Lagunitas) original shareholders a way to sell some of their shares to get their original dollars back and still stay in with their appreciated shares. The cool and very old-school beer guy who controlled Pabst (until they had to sell it a couple of years back because it was a 'charitable trust' entity) actually lived down the street in the little town of Corte Madera in Marin County. He had become a friend and when we did the little stock market for ourselves, he took some of his winnings from the sale of Pabst and invested it with me. I'd had more than a few Blue Ribbons over the years (I've got a 32oz'er in the fridge for today!) and noticed that the flavor had been cleaned up and the hops nicer and so I asked him about it and he said yes, they had improved the malt content, the lagering times, and the hopping considerably. He also owned Old Style, Hamm's, Stag, Schlitz, Oly, Old Milwaukee, Black Label, Special Ex, Acme... the legions of the mostly deceased brands. He was a sort of an undertaker, and he said that when PBR began to grow in Portland that he had no idea what was going on and morerover, it made him uncomfortable! He was not used to his recently deceased patients sitting up in the morgue and talking back to him. So, reluctantly at first, they decided that if craft drinkers were digging it, they ought to 'experiment' with improving it a little and see what happens. This is the best example ever of the tail wagging the dog. Craft brewers and their customers were helping large brewers find the motivation to actually improve their own beers! So, if you like PBR now, it is your own fault! It is better because you willed it to be so.”

    So, maybe I should give PBR another try!?!:confused:

  11. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (200) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    I found that post to be very interesting as an example of a brewer which adjusts the recipe of a brand towards "more taste" rather than "less taste" to suit the tastes of the beer drinkers of the day (another example would be the article about Anheuser Busch and their tinkering with the Budweiser recipe over the years). There's a Swedish macro brand which I'm suspecting to have adjusted its recipe somewhat to increase the hop profile in recent years along with several changes to the design of the labels, but I have no proof of it. It's an aspect of the brewing industry which we as consumers rarely are made aware of, which makes the little tidbits of information like the one above that much more intriguing (at least in my book).

    Concerning PBR the Swedish importer for it claims on its website that it's an "extra flavorful version of Pabst Blue Ribbon brewed especially for the Swedish market" (despite it being 4.5% instead of 4.7% as per the requirements by the monopoly for a 4.5% or below beer for that particular product launch), but I have yet to get a straight answer as to what exactly it is that distinguishes it from the original PBR. So did they improve or adjust the recipe once more on top of the changes mentioned in the post above, or is the extra flavorful part merely marketing speak, I guess we will never know (until I get my hands on an original PBR for comparison).
  12. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (3,106) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Pabst is a ‘virtual’ brewery in that they do not own any breweries and instead have them contract brewed at breweries such as MillerCoors breweries. I suppose that they could have a ‘special’ beer made by the contract brewery for export purposes but the ‘cheaper’ answer would be that they just market it to Sweden as being ‘different’ beer. I should apologize for being cynical here but lately the marketing crap that the BMC type breweries (and I consider Pabst in that mix) have been doing is getting me very irritated.:angry:

  13. Crusader

    Crusader Aspirant (200) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    Yes, I've checked the stamps on the bottles (different from the best before date which is also marked) and it suggests the beer is being brewed at the Millercoors plant in Albany Georgia.
  14. sunkistxsudafed

    sunkistxsudafed Initiate (0) Apr 30, 2010 New Mexico

    I had the same problem; try a straw. :sunglasses:
  15. Tut

    Tut Initiate (0) Sep 23, 2004 New York

    I don't buy that.
    By that timeline, craft drinkers were liking PBR before it was supposedly "improved". Why?? It was the hipsters who made it their retro-cool beer of choice, and they didn't give a shit how it tasted. They were into the image they thought it had, so there was no need to "improve" anything. They would drink piss if it came in a can with that "cool" label - and they did.
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