The science behind beer degradation

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Snowcrash000, Feb 10, 2020.

  1. Snowcrash000

    Snowcrash000 Poo-Bah (3,141) Oct 4, 2017 Germany
    Moderator Society Trader

    I'm mainly talking about supermarkets and Getränkemarkts here. If you want your beer to be in the big retailers all across Germany then yes, you are basically at the beck and call of the retailers/distributors and there's nothing you can do about it. Of course I'm not an insider, but this is what various brewers have told me by now.

    Some of the smaller craft breweries self-distribute to craft bottle shops and bars, of which there still aren't many across Germany, and this is where you can get your fresh IPAs, although neither regularly nor cheap, unfortunately. But yeah, if you're looking to shift your beer at larger volumes you are basically screwed.

    Hell, I've been toying with the idea of starting my own, craft-focused beer distribution service, too bad I neither have any starting capital nor business acumen...
     
  2. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,127) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Brewery

    that hasn't stopped 1000s of breweries here from starting up....
     
  3. Snowcrash000

    Snowcrash000 Poo-Bah (3,141) Oct 4, 2017 Germany
    Moderator Society Trader

    Yeah, but how many of those have gone bancrupt within a few years?
     
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  4. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,127) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Brewery

    surprisingly few. don't you read the posts about "the more the merrier" and "it's all good"? :wink:
     
  5. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,595) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts
    Society

    Damnit, beat me to it!

    I know you put a winky face, but I was going to reply with the same thing, only seriously. MANY of them appear to still be thriving...but get back to me in like 10 years. :wink:
     
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  6. Ehen_188

    Ehen_188 Initiate (0) Nov 26, 2019

    Over super bowl weekend found a stone ruination 2.0 at a friends house...back of the fridge. Was dated best by 1-xx-2019. I was curious and about 4 beers deep so I gave it a whirl. Was still still good. Didn’t have a fresh 2.0 to compare it with. But tasted like a west coast ipa should
     
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  7. AWA

    AWA Disciple (322) Jul 22, 2014 California

    You people all need to rethink your drinking.
     
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  8. f8met

    f8met Initiate (68) Jun 27, 2014 England
    Trader

    Either drinkers in Germany drink everything really fresh so beer doesn't sit on shelves or they don't notice / care. For someone to tell breweries that have been in business for 10s if not 100s of years that they are doing it wrong because science says so is actually quite amusing. Drinker knows better than brewer would surely have put these breweries out of business years ago.

    Try doing a blind vertical of 4 beers with 3 months between them and see if the difference is really that noticable. If it is then you have your benchmark.

    If you have never had a beer before, you are always judging it on its age and it not being fresh enough without knowing if it is good or bad. For me life is too short to get hung up on it. If it tastes good, it is good. If it isn't, give it a second go then move on.

    Everything is subjective as the beer scores show.

    Now I better go and throw out that 2014 bottle of courage imperial stout as it is going to kill me!
     
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  9. Crusader

    Crusader Disciple (330) Feb 4, 2011 Sweden

    Commercial considerations can override quality considerations, as is evident by the use of green bottles by many breweries. It's not that breweries are unaware of the issues of skunking or staling, they simply have to, or choose to, adapt themselves to the market.
     
  10. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,509) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    Who would flame you, I’d be surprised if there wasn’t 100% agreement with you here. The best by dates are imo arbitrary and inconsistent, they vary by brewer within the same style if beer. And who knows this without googling it first? I suspect anyone dating their beer over a year out as still within limits are strictly looking at the financials. Imo even 12 months is depressingly optimistic and well outside of my buying date. If it’s over 4 months old no thanks, and then there’s storage conditions, perhaps not as critical in the winter vs storing beer in warm warehouses in the summer heat and humidity. I mean Jever dating their beers 15 months out is a joke, and at that I can’t find one in code, when I’ve checked dates they are over and should have been pulled from the shelf. Date the damn cans, don’t over buy, and store them properly, beers a perishable product.
     
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  11. f8met

    f8met Initiate (68) Jun 27, 2014 England
    Trader

    Beer doesn't perish, it degrades. Out of date beer won't kill you.
     
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  12. artisanalbrewworks

    artisanalbrewworks Initiate (115) Nov 7, 2018 New York
    Society

    Oxidation, Oxidation, Oxidation. No matter what the scientific study, I would want to know what was done to control oxidation.

    In my brewery, we do sooooo many things to keep our DO (dissolved oxygen) exceptionally low. DO is a HUGE factor in how beer ages.

    Here are some of the variables in the process to consider:

    How is a person dry hopping? Active fermentation, hop cannon, hop doser that's purged with CO2, after a soft crash, etc... All will have different impacts on DO pickup (or minimization of DO pickup).

    Is the beer transferred to a brite tank before packaging (every transfer = more DO pickup)? Or is the beer packaged from a Unitank (a fermentor which is also crashed and carbed)?

    Lots of variables the lend to the DO headed to packaging. Going to the canning line we're below 10 ppm (typically even below 5 ppm) as measured by an Anton Paar. This is well below "acceptable" DO levels of 50 ppm. Then we have processes to prep a hose to the filling line to minimize DO, and super tight control of carb levels and temperature, so you get good repeatability filling, which means your gonna be able to minimize DO pickup at the canner (the largest source of DO pickup, assuming you did everything right in your process leading up to packaging), plus a canner known for minimum DO pickup, which equates into a very low TPO.

    A customer of mine saves one beer from my rotating double IPA releases; we did a sensory of about 8 to 10 months of releases. I was utterly floored at how well my hazy juicy double IPAs held up. The fresh hop taste (grassy, spicy, floral) was obviously gone on the older beers (as one would expect), but there wasn't issues with malty, oxidized flavors. The juicy flavors were great...just not as "sharp" as a freshie.

    So long story short.

    1) Any study would need to control DO, and compare that variable over time before you can make an assumption about older beer = bad beer.
    2) Regarding "older" NEIPA, assuming low TPO (and hence long shelf life), if the biggest change is the "older" beer is more heavy on juice flavors vs the fresher, sharper notes (slighly piney, herbal), that necessarily isn't a bad thing...it really starts to play into a persons flavor preferences.

    As a brewer, of course I always want fresh beer, don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating for drinking old beer. Just pointing out that there are many layers to the story, one brewery's poor packaging practices shouldn't be reflected on the group as a whole.

    Regards,

    Kurt Borchardt
    Owner/Brewer
    Artisanal Brew Works
     
  13. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,595) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts
    Society

    But then I always think, "Man if it's this good when it's this old, how good is it when fresh?"

    No it won't.

    But if you pay $20 for a 4 pack of a New England IPA and you find out it's two months old and is literally falling apart and tastes off...it won't kill you, but you sure as shit aren't going to be happy.
     
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  14. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,509) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    Perishable and degrades are about the same thing, semantics, they don’t last in optimal condition forever, and they’re made for the most part to drink fresh. No one mentioned it turning to trash at any certain date, it’s just not as the brewery buyer intended, of course it’s still drinkable. But... at $12 a six pack, I’m picky about what I buy, and certain styles fall off very quickly. I generally won’t buy Lagers over 4 months old, and for big IPAs probably 6 weeks, are it still good at 2-3 months ? I’m sure they are, but there’s a difference between still good and peak. Besides there’s local options that allow me to do so.
     
    #54 nc41, Feb 13, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2020
  15. Snowcrash000

    Snowcrash000 Poo-Bah (3,141) Oct 4, 2017 Germany
    Moderator Society Trader

    I can promise you that it's the latter.

    It's precisely because drinkers in Germany DON'T know any better that these breweries manage to stay in business.

    Why would I pay top dollar for degraded beer though? Please don't answer that, it's a rhetorical question.
     
  16. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,127) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Brewery

    for every german everywhere? that's quite the declaration.

    also not sure about your extrapolations from the best-by dates. are americans eating old corn flakes because the package says they're good for 5 years?

    EDIT: as has been mentioned throughout this thread, big breweries (whose beers comprise the large majority of the ones sold at supermarkets and getraenkemaerkte) utilize methods, ingredients, and equipment that indurate spoiling (sterile filtration, hop extracts than can prevent skunking, low dissolved oxygen packaging). just think you're generalizing here
     
    #56 herrburgess, Feb 13, 2020
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2020
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  17. AZBeerDude72

    AZBeerDude72 Poo-Bah (2,124) Jun 10, 2016 Arizona
    Society Trader

    Great info.
    Cheers
     
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  18. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,827) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan
    Society

    I agree with your statements, but it should be ppb, not ppm. An easy mistake I've made in the past.
     
  19. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,595) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts
    Society

    An easy mistake to make but a HUGE difference in amount.

    It would be like mixing up grams and kilograms.
     
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  20. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,206) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Trader

    A two month old beer that's in that bad of shape isn't a dating problem, it's a brewing and/or packaging problem.
     
  21. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,660) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Given the verbiage of “literally falling apart” I can see why you reacted the way you did but I will reply with a contrasting position: there are indeed beer styles which are very sensitive to age and the ‘NEIPA’ beer style is one of them. And needless to say proper storage (e.g., store cold) plays into it as well.

    For example let’s consider Hill Farmstead Brewery and how long they recommend their beers are ‘good’ for. I suspect that they may vary their best by dates a bit based upon specific brands but it is my understanding that the best by dates they put on their cans are less than 2 months. If you go to their website they state:

    “What is the shelf life of your cans?

    Each beer style varies, but we recommend always storing them cold and enjoying within 2-3 weeks.”

    https://hillfarmstead.com/faqs/

    I personally disagree that using a short best by date means that Hill Farmstead Brewery has a “brewery and/or packaging problem”. They know how to properly brew and package their beers. They also know that certain beers (e.g., Hoppy beers) are best consumed very fresh and they ‘fall off’ relatively quickly and consequently encourage their customers to consume them quickly.

    Cheers!
     
  22. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,660) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    You provided some details concerning the aspect of DO on the cold side of the brewing operations.

    Do you take specific measures to reduce DO as part of the hot side of brewing? If so, what specific steps do you take? How do you monitor the DO levels on the hot side? What are your target goals here (e.g., the equivalent of being below a TPO of 50 ppb in the packaged beer)?

    Cheers!
     
  23. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,127) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Brewery

    since it hasn't yet been said here:

    nearly 100% of beer is best as fresh as possible.

    so, if possible, drink at the source, close to the source, and/or as hyper local as you can. even if that means traveling to get your favorites. then you almost don't have to worry about science while you're drinking

    prost y'all
     
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  24. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,595) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts
    Society

    Perhaps.

    But I've had plenty of New England IPAs fall apart (and lose significant flavor) after even just a month. I'll be honest, that's likely an issue with the brewery, but I try to drink mine in less than a month (for full flavor, not for fear of them falling apart).

    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/18/dining/drinks/beer-ipa-sam-adams-sierra-nevada.html

    This is a decent article, and they discuss it here (italicized part added by me).

    "For these companies, the move is both a logical next step and a big risk. Much of the appeal of the hazy I.P.A.s stems from their origins as small-batch, indie brews that are sold at the source. And unlike any earlier styles, these beers require freshness in the extreme. After a few weeks, they literally fall apart — the haze disappears as their proteins fall out of suspension, destroying the hop flavors and, in most cases, rendering the beer fit for the drain."

    Sierra Nevada even goes to the length of shipping kegs upside down to restore haze, and Hazy Little Thing isn't even a full on New England IPA in my opinion.

    "Sierra Nevada uses oats in its recipe for Hazy Little Thing. But it also employs other tricks for quality control, including one common among wheat beer producers: When sending kegs to restaurants and bars, the company instructs distributors to ship them upside down. That way, the bartender is forced to flip them upon delivery, stirring up the proteins and restoring the haze."

    I'll be totally honest, the "two months and they fall apart" statement by me was too generalized. I'm sure there's IPAs that hold up well enough after two months. For example, Sam Adams says in the article that their New England IPA has a best by date of three months.

    That being said, I personally think this style is at it's best within a month. And I want it as fresh as possible so I can drink it when I think it's at it's best. ESPECIALLY considering the hefty price tag many of these beers carry. And I'm sure there's plenty of New England IPAs on many shelves that are well over two months old.

    And this is all of course assuming the beer is stored cold for the entire time. And I can tell you that MOST DEFINITELY is not the case, at least here at stores in Boston.
     
  25. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (4,660) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Society

    Same situation at my local beer retailers in the 'burbs of Philly, There are some refrigerators for providing cold beer but the vast majority of the beer stock is sitting at ambient temperature which can be quite warm/hot during the summertime at the Retail Beer Distributors which lack air conditioning.

    Cheers!
     
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  26. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (2,788) May 30, 2005 Michigan
    Society

    There's a guy by the name of Santiago Gomez who writes brief scientific articles about beer for the Michigan Beer Guide (michiganbeerguide.com). His style of writing is very down-to-earth so that even I can understand this technical stuff.

    I googled his name and came up with a number of links to stuff that he wrote, so if you want to dig a bit you might find an article on beer degradation or related topic. (I'm pretty sure that he wrote about this topic.) He usually cites scientific sources for his writing, so if you can find a specific article on beer degradation you might also get other sources to go along with his data.

    https://www.google.com/search?rlz=1...hUKEwi0kMq9rM_nAhXDbc0KHUOtAVcQ4dUDCAs&uact=5

    I think you can also access and browse the archives of the Michigan Beer Guide at the website that I listed above, but if you try that, be aware the website will be going away in June or July.
     
  27. f8met

    f8met Initiate (68) Jun 27, 2014 England
    Trader

    Lol. Tell that to Cantillion. Or other lambic brewers. Or westvletren or rochefort which are far better with a couple of years plus on them. Hoppier beers maybe but that is a massively sweeping statement.
     
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  28. ChristopherProvost

    ChristopherProvost Initiate (111) Dec 24, 2013 New Hampshire

    I just clicked on the link jesskidden provided and clicked Download PDF at the top of the page and was able to download the paper for free.
     
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  29. unlikelyspiderperson

    unlikelyspiderperson Meyvn (1,498) Mar 12, 2013 California
    Society Trader

    Well lambic is maybe 1% of beer, strong ales and barleywines maybe another % or 2? The slice of stouts that genuinely improve with age we can call another 1% but that's generous.
    Lots of beer that doesn't collapse in 2 months but the vast majority of beer is definitely at it's best as fresh as possible and does not improve over time
     
  30. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,206) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Trader

    But you know that I didn't say that. There's a difference between a brewer "recommending you enjoy the beer within 2-3 weeks," a 2-3 week best-by date, and a beer "falling apart" in two months. How often do you see distributed beer with a best-by date of 2-3 weeks after packaging? That scenario would practically be a work of fiction. If someone asked Shaun Hill, "I have one of your canned IPAs that's a month old. Should I drink it or toss it?" I would hope that Shaun would respond logically. I know people who just get rid of their IPAs once they get over a month old. I'm a beer-obsessed picky guy and I just don't relate to their thinking.

    There's quite a large gap between a beer not being at its absolute best and a beer being something that you couldn't manage to drink. Why do people have to constantly characterize beer in such extreme ways... either it needs to be "at its best" or it's a "drainpour?" (It pains me to type that word.) Brewers sometimes put an exact recommended drinking temperature on the label too. Are these same drinkers taking temperature measurements to get their beer at the precise temperature? And then once the beer warms up a degree, do they put it back in the fridge until proper temp is reached again or do they dump the beer for getting beyond the recommended ideal?
     
  31. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,509) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    Completely agree here, I’ve bought Heady in May and it was perfect in July, plus I heard they don’t offer it up for sale until it’s canned 8 weeks. So do the math, I’ve never ever had a Heady that wasn’t perfect. I’ve had others that if it’s much over 45 days old you can kinda see the slip, it really shouldn’t fade perceptibly that quickly. Some do some don’t, but I hate that hop fade malty mess of a big ipa, you can smell it when it’s changed.
     
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  32. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (2,509) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    Well I’d guess 99% of the beers bought here in the US falls into the fresher the better category. Lagers, Pale Ales, Ipas etc, any beer that is nicely hopped is far better fresh no matter how well the brewer does with regard to TPO.
     
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  33. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Poo-Bah (1,595) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts
    Society

    In a vacuum, yes I completely agree. And my original statement was more hyperbole than fact (in some cases).

    And while I absolutely will not drain pour a beer after two months, I'm disappointed if I see a $20 4 pack of a New England IPA that's already two months old. For that price and that style you want it as fresh as possible.
     
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  34. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,127) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Brewery

    video of Malzmuehle (and other Koelsch breweries) and their brewing schedules...during Karnival and beyond. Hard to imagine with this type of production that folks are getting old beer. again, I might put a 6-month best-by date on our beers, but the way production is, almost 100% of it is consumed within a few weeks of packaging. best-by dates are not a tell-all (or even a tell-much) indicator

    https://www.facebook.com/116345190010/posts/10157886359295011/
     
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  35. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,827) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan
    Society

    I could follow most of it. The head brewer spoke fast and had the Kölsch dialect. The Frau doing the narration was easy. The packaging guy was in between.
     
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  36. Snowcrash000

    Snowcrash000 Poo-Bah (3,141) Oct 4, 2017 Germany
    Moderator Society Trader

    Can't watch that video as I don't have a facebook account, but I will say that Karneval is an absolutely CRAZY time in Cologne that absolutely cannot be taken as an indication of average beer consumption. According to newspaper Express, there are an average of 21 million litres of Kölsch consumed in Cologne per month, while it's 30 million during the 5 DAYS of Karneval, which is insane.

    Here's another interesting little tidbit related to this. A brewer from a different Kölsch brewery once told me that he would not recommend drinking at Päffgen during the Karneval because they have to lager their Kölsch for a much shorter amount of time to produce the capacities required during that period, which affects the taste negatively.
     
  37. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,127) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Brewery

    true about karnival numbers. they do address/mention regular annual numbers, too. and yeah, I was a bit surprised to hear the malzmuehle guy say they used a 3-week lagering time during karnival season. that said, most commercial koelsch brewers ferment under constant pressure, which expedites the process pretty significantly
     
  38. herrburgess

    herrburgess Meyvn (1,127) Nov 4, 2009 South Carolina
    Brewery

    thought it was interesting as well that he said each "top-fermenting" yeast strain in Koeln was different
     
  39. hottenot

    hottenot Disciple (349) Aug 13, 2018 North Carolina
    Deactivated

    1. Open
    2. Sniff
    3. Taste

    If 2 or 3 is off: drain pour.
     
  40. zid

    zid Meyvn (1,206) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Trader

    Yeah, but that hasn't stopped acclaimed US craft brewers from using extract. :slight_smile: