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  • Writer's pictureSean Tinney

How Long Does Beer Last, and How Can you Tell if it’s Bad?

Updated: Jan 5, 2023

Sometimes we overestimate the amount of beer we need for a holiday or weekend trip. That beer can sit around for a bit. Forgotten. In any case, beer can pile up in the refrigerator and get lost only for us to discover them a few months down the road.

Do you have an old beer you’re hesitant to serve or drink? Are you wondering when your 12 Beers of Bridge City Beverage variety pack will be past its prime?

Beer lasts between 3-9 months in general. Light lagers that are kept cold since their production date will last the longest. Some stouts and high-ABV IPAs can have a shelf life of one year or more. Hazy and New England IPAs should be drunk fresh within a few months.

Read on for more information about beer and when it goes bad. We’ll cover:

  • How long beer lasts

  • How to tell if your beer is bad

  • How to properly store your beer

  • What old beer tastes and smells like

  • If beer lasts longer in cans or bottles.

Does beer go bad?

All good things must come to an end, including beer. That is, the ones you buy that need to be drunk before they go bad. Beer eventually spoils, but there’s plenty of time–at least three months–to drink it before it does.

Beer goes bad after nine months at the longest if stored properly. Some styles last less time or longer. The safe bet is to drink your beer before the six-month mark, ensuring it tastes how it should. Barrel-aged stouts can be stored for several years.

Beer starts to change in flavor after around six months. If you wait longer than that to drink it, you’ll likely be met with some undesired and unappealing flavors.

How long does beer last?

The length of which beer lasts depends on a few things: the type of beer, the date it was brewed, how it’s packaged, and how it’s stored.

Beer lasts longest in cans that are properly stored at 40℉ (4-5℃). Cans are airtight and minimize oxidation, which can spoil beer. The beer should stay cold, including during transportation, to maximize shelf life. Beer can be stored at room temperature but will spoil sooner. Beer lasts between 3 to 9 months in general.

Beer will always stay fresher if it’s stored properly; in the fridge and upright. That being said, some styles last longer than others regardless of how they're stored, and some styles, like high ABV IPAs and barrel-aged stouts, can be stored at room temp to enable an aging process. These beers can stay fresh and gain additional qualities after several years of aging.

How do I tell if my beer is bad?

If you came across a beer in your fridge that’s from last year’s Christmas party, it’s safe to say that it’s probably no good. Don’t be too quick to judge, though.

You can often tell if a beer is bad by smelling it, tasting it, and looking at it. If it tastes and smells sour, it’s bad. If you can see a buildup of sediment or any discoloration, it’s likely bad. Unfiltered beers always have some kind of sediment in them—open the beer to see if it’s spoiled.

If it’s in a can, you’ll have to open it to really find out. If it’s in a bottle, you might be able to see a noticeable buildup of sediment at the bottom—although this is typical with some IPAs and unfiltered styles, it’s generally a red flag.

What does old beer taste like?

Old beer tastes as bad as it smells. You’ll notice if beer is old by looking at it, smelling it, or tasting it.

Old beer tastes unusual and becomes oxidized, taking on off-flavors that can be characterized as sour, stale, cloying, and vegetal. Depending on the beer, these flavors can intensify and ultimately require the beer to be disposed of.

Different styles of beer take on different off-flavors when they go bad. For example, malt-forward beers can be excessively bready, caramelly, and sweet.

Does beer last longer in cans or bottles?

The age-old question. Some of us swear by drinking beer out of only cans or bottles, and we’re not here to tell you how to drink your beer. However, one thing is generally true about these two vessels.

Beer lasts longer in cans than it does in bottles. Unless a beer is aged in a bottle or barrel, it will stay fresher for longer in an airtight can. Beer styles like stouts and high-ABV IPAs can maintain their desired flavor with additional notes after an extensive bottle-aging duration. Cans will almost always keep beer fresher than a bottle.

Cans preserve beer longer than bottles because cans are airtight and prevent oxidation. Bottles are not airtight therefore they allow additional flavors to develop in the beer.


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