Great Britain UK bottle dates

Discussion in 'Europe' started by jmw, Nov 27, 2012.

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  1. jmw

    jmw Initiate (0) Feb 4, 2009 North Carolina

    Acknowledged are those of you in this forum who do not waste time with bottled beers. This question is not for you. Frankly if I had the choice I would probably be among your ranks.

    That said, thanks to the blatant generosity of one of your own (step forward please mtbdonn) I am now in possession of a small collection of UK brews that I have been wanting to try. The best-before dates are blowing my mind however. A 3.5% mild BB March of next year. A couple 4.7ish ordinary pales BB June. Even an IPA with a BB date of October. Of next year!
    Is this common to provide a best date so far...afield? The US BAs would pop a vein over such a thing. Do UK brewers know something that we don't?
    mtbdonn likes this.
  2. ImperialStoat

    ImperialStoat Aspirant (246) May 20, 2009 Ireland
    Beer Trader

    Beers bottled in the UK are 90% of the time given an expiry date of one year since bottling. I don't know the reasoning, but that's certainly the way it is.
  3. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (4,887) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Beer Trader Subscriber

    Less work for the distributors checking for old stock? That might be tongue in cheek but who knows...
  4. jazzyjeff13

    jazzyjeff13 Poo-Bah (2,759) Nov 6, 2010 United Kingdom (England)

    Yeah, as mentioned above a one year BB date is typical. Sometimes more for really strong brews, and occasionally less. I suspect that it is simply convention (the fact that variation exists suggests that it isn't legally mandatory to be set at one year).

    If you look at Belgian beers you will notice that the vast majority have a 2-year BB date, and sometimes longer.

    As the US seems to have no specific requirements for dating, I guess each brewer can do whatever he/she likes. And while I appreciate that really hoppy brews fade, I do find the American obsession with bottle age to be a tad extreme.....
    jmw likes this.
  5. heygeebee

    heygeebee Poo-Bah (1,540) Aug 6, 2010 Australia

    of more a worry is the Poms tendency to send their beers half way round the world in clear bottles.... irrespective of BB, don't wait too long to drink (!)
    EmperorBevis likes this.
  6. reprob8

    reprob8 Initiate (94) May 22, 2008 United Kingdom (England)

    the main reason is that British Brewers do not use highly aromatic hops in the majority of beers. British hops are used more for bittering rather than aroma and it is the degradation of hop aroma that gets beer geeks knickers in a twist. We also have a tradition of letting a beer mature, or condition, before release, unlike, say, Bud who 'flash' age for 10 minutes.
    And it's mainly falling for advertising guff that has led us down the path of 'fresh' beers. A good 50% of the beers in my stash are over 5 years old, 25% over 10 and that's nothing compared with Belgian friends who have beers dating back 25 years or more.
    Beer doesn't suddenly change flavour over night, the best before date is a guideline, it doesn't mean that you'll die a horrible death if you drink the beer.
    jazzyjeff13, EmperorBevis and jmw like this.
  7. EmperorBevis

    EmperorBevis Poo-Bah (3,092) Sep 25, 2011 United Kingdom (England)

    Hey, Pom is a derogatory term
    I will thank you to use the proper term for my people which is
    No good slimey English bastard
    MikeWard likes this.
  8. CwrwAmByth

    CwrwAmByth Poo-Bah (1,708) Jan 24, 2011 United Kingdom (England)

    Yeah be nice you silly kangaroo fuc... *ahem*
    EmperorBevis likes this.
  9. Ruds

    Ruds Initiate (0) Sep 15, 2008 United Kingdom (England)

    Not sure they would bust a vein if they knew it was a generic year in 99.5% of cases!

    Akin to sticking a year on a bottle of Pliny or an imperial stout!

    Yes - it gives you a good idea (well certainly more so than a lot of US stuff) but as touched on above it's a generic year. Some beers will hold up fine, others will fade in that period, especially stuff brewed with new world hops.

    Kernel have it bang on in this respect and should be applauded. They provide the consumer with all the information they require to make an informed judgement. Bottling date and drink fresh by date - nominally 4 months after bottling for maxium freshness on their hoppy numbers.

    As in the USA where brewers don't have to state any date, brewers in the UK only have to state the best before, not the bottled on. Hopefully more brewers will follow the Kernel's lead and give us, the consumers, the best information possible for us to make our own judgements.
  10. Zimbo

    Zimbo Initiate (0) Aug 7, 2010 United Kingdom (Scotland)

    Tempest gives a BB Date of about 4 months or so from bottling and the same is pretty much the case for Cromarty.
  11. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,138) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Beer Trader

    I agree we are a bit crazy with freshness here, but how do you explain that every time I post about UK beers purchased here, I am told by English BA's I am getting the wrong impression of it, and should better try it fresh?
    jazzyjeff13 and Aye like this.
  12. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (2,909) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Because they are thinking of the beer served fresh. The beer will often come in a cask from less that a hundred miles away from where it is served. It will still be "live" in the sense that it is still in the process of maturation. It will be stored in a cellar and pumped up from that cellar but only after it has been judged to be "ready" by an experienced cellarman who knows his beer. It will be put in the glass before your eyes without having been bottled and then shaken (but not stirred :) ) as it gets put in a case (shaken again), loaded on a pallet (shaken again), loaded on a truck driven to the sea port (vibrated and shaken), loaded on into a cotainer and sent across the ocean (vibrated and shaken for days on end) where it goes through a reverse process of unloading to eventually get to the place where you buy it. (It might have even been refrigerated.) So think of the difference between your own homebrew served at the peak of its readiness to be enjoyed for what it is. Now imagine that you ship yourself several bottles of that homebrew by truck to someone in Georgia who holds on to it for a month or so and then ships it back for you to drink.

    That’s why.
  13. cavedave

    cavedave Poo-Bah (2,138) Mar 12, 2009 New York
    Beer Trader

    I was referring to the 1 year from bottling best by date on bottles, as I referenced in my post. I understand better than most how a fresh beer from the fermenter, or a week or two after bottling or from a keg, or even a cask is different. If a best by date is a year after bottling, and I get it two months after bottling, I guess I am getting a representation of bottled beer as the brewer in UK intended, not some old and non representative beer. And apparently, judging by this thread, plenty of folks drink and enjoy beer in bottles in UK. Why is my bottle experience not representative of the beer folks in UK drink in bottles, enjoy in bottles, rate highly in bottles, and continue to produce in bottles is my question, put in a longer but more accurate way. I now am assuming it is. Am I wrong?
  14. Zimbo

    Zimbo Initiate (0) Aug 7, 2010 United Kingdom (Scotland)

    I bet its between the hazards of shipping and difference in tastes. Seems like a lot of what gets to the consumer over there is very old which I'm afraid is no different from what we get hear with American craft.
    That all being said, I had a Samuel Smith Imperial Stout last night that was downright flat & dull despite bring fresh. Either the never's been dumbed down or my beer memory was having a very rare moment of doubt
  15. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (2,909) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Fine take out of my description the shipping and serving of cask locally and substitute the shipping and serving of bottles that are consumed within 2-200 miles of where they were brewed. The folks at Sierra Nevada have reported and are convinced that even flying a bottle from CA to NY handled by one of their own begins to introduce changes because of the vibration, etc. I personally have found a detectable difference between bottles of Victory beers purchased at the brewery and those purchased 500 or so miles away even though the bottling dates are identical. I'm a firm believer that the hazards of shipping Zimbo mentions create a difference between beer consumed locally and at long distance from the brewery. You might not notice it on an occasional bottle or one not part of your regular line up, but for ones you are very familiar with the difference can show, and not to the benefit of the beer that has been shipped.
    cavedave likes this.
  16. Zimbo

    Zimbo Initiate (0) Aug 7, 2010 United Kingdom (Scotland)

    Sorry about the typos folks which came about with thanks to my S3's bloody prescriptive texting. Just to repeat:

    That being said, I had a Samuel Smith Imperial Stout last night which was downright flat and dull despite being fresh. Either the brew's been dumbed down or my beer memory was having a very rare moment of doubt.
  17. EmperorBevis

    EmperorBevis Poo-Bah (3,092) Sep 25, 2011 United Kingdom (England)

    very interesting this shipping damage theory

    was all :) when found some Shipyard IPA at £1.26 a bottle
    then o_O when I remembered expiry dates and 'freshness'
    went through :D when I saw it had BB aug 2013 so possibly only a couple of months old
    but now at :confused:
    cavedave and jmw like this.
  18. Zimbo

    Zimbo Initiate (0) Aug 7, 2010 United Kingdom (Scotland)

    It might just be that Shipyard IPA isn't a very good beer regardless of how fresh it is.
    cavedave likes this.
  19. EmperorBevis

    EmperorBevis Poo-Bah (3,092) Sep 25, 2011 United Kingdom (England)

    well that's what I gleamed from the reviews

    not drank it yet
    perhaps I should always take my laptop with me around the shops lmao
    Bitterbill and cavedave like this.
  20. jazzyjeff13

    jazzyjeff13 Poo-Bah (2,759) Nov 6, 2010 United Kingdom (England)

    If we take away one lesson from this thread, it should be: Don't drink Shipyard. ;)
    Bitterbill, cavedave and EmperorBevis like this.
  21. EmperorBevis

    EmperorBevis Poo-Bah (3,092) Sep 25, 2011 United Kingdom (England)

    ah, so that is why it was reduced lol

    three new places located to buy bottled beer from and still no closer
    to getting some
    Magic Rock

    Three Floyds/different Sam Adams, SN or Anchor than usual UK stock

    was tempted by some in a new Belgian/European beer shop
    Saison but played it safe and got McChouffe

    Might have to order online by the looks of it
  22. jazzyjeff13

    jazzyjeff13 Poo-Bah (2,759) Nov 6, 2010 United Kingdom (England)

    Heh - touché :) It's probably true that UK beers in the US (and vice-versa) are often past their best due to hanging around for too long.

    I agree with what Reprob8 posted above - it comes down to the 'typical' experience of beer drinkers where they live. In my experience many bottled beers over here can last for quite a long time without undergoing significant negative changes (assuming storage away from excessive light/heat); this probably boils down to lower usage of aroma hops in general. I guess this means freshness is more of an issue in the US than here, although this is changing as more UK breweries put out hoppier brews. Beer style and conditioning will also factor in to a beer's shelf life.

    The ideal scenario (again, above) would be for beers to come with a bottled-on date so that the consumer could decide whether they want to take a chance or not.....
    cavedave likes this.
  23. mtbdonn

    mtbdonn Devotee (416) Dec 15, 2009 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    I had a brain storm the other day and thought to check all online beer shops in UK I could find on the net and low and behold I happened across two bottles of Goose Island BCBVS from Ales by Mail. It appears we can come across some American "whales" once in a while. And if you're looking for Mikkeller, you need to check Beers of Europe (online or Kings Lynn), they have loads of Mikkeller! The place is a gold mine!
    EmperorBevis likes this.
  24. CwrwAmByth

    CwrwAmByth Poo-Bah (1,708) Jan 24, 2011 United Kingdom (England)

    BCBVS was in Beers of Europe as well, there seemed to be quite a lot of it around. At least what there was was spread out quite nicely around quite a few shops in the UK.
  25. mtbdonn

    mtbdonn Devotee (416) Dec 15, 2009 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    Missed that one! They don't even have it on their website. Normally, beers will be listed but will be marked "out of stock".
  26. CwrwAmByth

    CwrwAmByth Poo-Bah (1,708) Jan 24, 2011 United Kingdom (England)

    Not the one offs. Realistically it's "out of stock" if it's likely they'll be getting more in.
  27. ReluctantScoop

    ReluctantScoop Initiate (0) Apr 29, 2012 United Kingdom (England)

    IIRC Founders have practically stopped exporting to the UK. Magic Rock have only just started bottling again; they have their own plant now, the stuff ages ago was contracted. Usual UK stock for those US brewers is down to the same distributor / importer and what's on their list.

    Beermerchants sell a range of Mikkeller and Kernel.

    BBE dates on bottled beer are fairly meaningless in the vast majority of cases. Like the BBE 2037 date I'm looking at now on a bottle of Bateman's Vintage.
  28. Brew4two

    Brew4two Initiate (134) Jan 15, 2005 New Hampshire

    My personal take is that the typical British beer styles below 5% abv are past their prime after 4 months. The retailers more or less require the brewers to provide them with beer having at least a one year BB date.

    IMO the retailers in Britain do not care at all about the end consumer. If they can provide fresh produce and/or dairy products a 4 month BB date should seem easy. Not so according to them of course.
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