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How Long Does Beer Last? Can It Go Bad?

Let’s be honest. We don’t always have the problem of storing beer and worrying if it will last long enough. But it is always good to know how long foods and beverages last before they go bad.

How long does beer last? Unopened cans or bottles of beer will last up to 24 months in the fridge. Beer on tap and kegged beer have a comparatively shorter shelf life. The key to making beer last longer is keeping it somewhere dark and cold.

Read on for detailed answers to all your questions regarding the shelf life of this extremely popular beverage and how to spot beer that has already gone bad.

Does Beer Go Bad?

Beer comes with an expiration date printed on the bottle or can. However, a lot depends on storage conditions.

Beer can still be good past its ‘Best By’ date and it can also be bad way before it if you don’t store it properly. After the expiration date you can find on the bottle, beer doesn’t necessarily spoil and become unsuitable for consumption. It simply loses its best qualities and becomes flat.

Unpasteurized beer is the one that goes bad most quickly. It is best to not drink unpasteurized beer past its ‘Best By’ date.

In short, beer has a limited shelf life and it does go bad. If you store it properly, beer will keep well for up to two years.  

How Long Does Beer Last?

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Some beers are consumed right when they leave the brewery. This when they are at their best taste-wise. Others, however, get better with time. These are generally stronger beers that have a long shelf life and benefit from ageing. The yeast and bacteria in these kinds of beers make them tastier as time goes.

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The flavor of beer changes while it ages. Ageing enhances some flavors. Sweet flavor notes, for example, become more pronounced. The level of bitterness, on the other hand, reduces.          

This doesn’t mean that storing beer somewhere in your kitchen will age them and deepen their flavor.

To age beer, you need to store it in a place where the temperature doesn’t fluctuate. Aging beer requires stable temperatures. You should store beer somewhere dark and cool so that it undergoes a successful ageing process.

The Shelf Life of Beer

The shelf life of beer depends on two things – the storage conditions and how it has been packaged.  

Bottled Beer

Bottled beer stored at room temperature will last up to 3 months. If you keep beer in a cool pantry, the shelf life will be extended to 6 to 9 months.

It is best to keep bottled beer in the fridge. Not only will it keep there for 6 to 24 months but also be away from light.

Canned Beer

Unlike bottled beer, canned beer is protected against light. Thus, it has a lower chance of spoiling if stored at room temperature.

Canned beer will last up to 9 months in the pantry and up to 24 months in the fridge.

Beer on Tap

Many bars sell beer on tap. It tastes great if you drink it fresh. As filling beer from the tap exposes it to oxygen, it goes bad significantly quicker.

Keep this beer in the fridge and drink it within 2 days.

Kegged Beer

Unlike bottled or canned beer, you can’t store kegged beer in the pantry. It should always be refrigerated.

The shelf life of pasteurized kegged beer is around 4 months. Unpasteurized varieties will keep well for up to up to 2 months.

If you have added a party pump to the keg and there is still some beer left in it after the gathering, it is best to consume it within a day.

Opened beer should be kept in the fridge and be consumed within 24 to 48 hours. It may not be spoiled after that time. However, it will taste flat and you will certainly want to crack a new one.

What Is the Best Way to Store Beer?

When storing beer there are two things to keep in mind.

First, you should keep beer somewhere dark. Light makes beer skunky. You may have heard the expression skunked beer. And you have probably tried it once and discarded it right away. But what is skunked beer?

It is only beer that is sold in bottles that can get skunky. The reason is that the process of beer getting skunked starts when UV rays reach it. And it is only bottled beer that is exposed to UV rays.

This is why beer bottles are usually brown. Brown bottles prevent the exposure to light to a certain extent. But you can also buy beer in green, yellow, or clear bottles. These are obviously more susceptible to UV rays. Thus, you should always store your beer somewhere dark.

Before beer gets skunky, it undergoes a complicated chemical process that results in altered taste and smell.

The second important storage condition for beer is that it should be kept in a cool place. If it is cool in your pantry, you can store unopened cans or bottles of beer there. If not, store the beer in the fridge.

Another helpful tip to store beer in a way as to extend its shelf life is to put the bottle in an upright position. This will inhibit your beverage from getting contaminated from the cap as well as slow down the process of oxidation.

Can You Freeze Beer to Extend Its Shelf Life?

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Freezing is a great method to extend the shelf life of many products. And it does work well in most cases.

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Beer, unfortunately, is not something you can freeze and get away with it without any changes. Low temperatures alter the taste and the molecular structure of proteins in beer. Freezing beer also affects its carbonation level.

In certain cases, beer may also explode as a result of being frozen. Given that water expands at lower temperatures and there is very little room in beer bottles for the beverage to increase in volume, by freezing beer you are also risking creating a mess in your refrigerator.

You can put beer in the freezer for a quick chill if you haven’t stored it in the fridge long enough before your guests’ arrival. This too can affect the taste of your beer. However, a few minutes in the freezer don’t produce very noticeable changes.  

In a word, you can freeze beer. If the bottle doesn’t break or explode, you can thaw and drink it. Frozen and defrosted beer is completely safe to consume. But the real question is, will it taste good? No, defrosted beer won’t taste as good as it did before freezing. Flat is the word to describe the taste and feel of defrosted beer.

Signs that Beer Has Gone Bad

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There are a number of signs to give spoiled beer away.

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First off, you should hear the well-known sound that is produced when opening any fizzy drink. Secondly, you should see the foam rising. Lastly, the beer shouldn’t be ‘dusty’.

If you inspect the beer but there seems to be nothing wrong with it, give it a taste test or the good old sniff test. Discard the beer if it smells or tastes off. If it still complies with your beer standards, there is probably nothing wrong with it.

What Happens If You Drink Expired Beer?

Generally, drinking expired beer doesn’t involve any health risks.

Having undergone a fermentation process, this beverage is quite immune to pathogens. So long as you have been keeping your beer somewhere dark and cool, it should be good for many months.

If the beer tastes good, then you have nothing to worry about. But if it has an off-putting smell or taste, it is best to discard it.

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