Nothing lasts forever, not even your favorite beer. Over time, beer will oxidize, giving it a papery or flattened-out flavor. The hop profile will mellow out, turning IPAs malty or caramel-flavored and higher-alcohol beers can take on a sherry-like taste. Beer does not “spoil,” or become unsafe to drink, just less pleasant. How long your beloved brews will remain drinkable depends on many factors, most notably the conditions under which that beer is stored, the style and whether they’re canned or bottled.
Light and oxygen are the enemies of beer, but how it’s stored will affect the quality as well. If your beer has gone from the brewery, to a hot truck, to a cold storage facility, to the floor of your local grocery store, it can lose flavor more quickly. Dramatic temperature changes can cause the character of your beer to change, so watch how you’re storing it at home, too. As a general rule, beer keeps longest when kept at a constant, cool temperature. Most styles stay well at about 38-42 degrees, the ideal drinking temperature in general. The bottom line? Fresh is best!
When it comes to storing beer, keep it in the dark. Cans are not susceptible to light like bottles, and dark glass bottles are best for keeping beer fresh, but all light will cause beer to “skunk” eventually, so if it’s not in the fridge, at least keep your beer safe from direct sunlight. Beer can skunk in as little as five minutes, so be careful where you keep it, especially if it’s in lighter-colored bottles.
Some styles are more volatile than others, too. Hops degrade over time, so the hoppier the beer, the less ageable it is. If you’re picking up an IPA, for example, drink it ASAP to get the best hop quality and highest flavor integrity. If you’ve got a stout or a porter, on the other hand, go ahead and sit on it. Maltier beers can wait for longer, although the caramel and butterscotch flavors may intensify, over time. The higher the alcohol content, the longer the beer is likely to remain drinkable. Barleywine, porters and stouts and German bocks tend to keep their profiles longer, some for years after their bottling date. Not to mention, many beers are barrel-aged, meaning they rest in that vessel for some time before being bottled or sold. These beers are brewed specifically to age and mature gradually, so the flavor will change as time goes on, but (hopefully) in a palate-pleasing way. The same goes for bottle-conditioned beers. Some have live yeast added to the bottle before it’s capped off, and some collectors have reported success storing these beers for five years or more.
Here at Resurgence, we’re big fans of freshness. While beer can keep for up to a month or more in cans and bottles, we recommend you drink yours as soon as possible to ensure the best taste.