Tracking your alcohol’s expiration date is a crucial part of taking your bar's inventory. But, you may find yourself asking, “does alcohol expire?” If you're lucky, you won’t ever have to find out firsthand what happens when alcohol expires, but you can generally assume that certain types of alcohol will go bad.
What about beer? It might surprise you that the answer is yes, but with a few caveats depending on the type and quality of the beer as well as what type of container it’s in.
Keep reading to learn about beer expiration, how long it takes for beer to go bad, and how it tastes after it's expired.
Does Beer Expire?
Yes, beer does expire. However, this doesn't mean that the beer becomes unsafe to drink. If you take a sip of expired beer, you’ll likely experience unpleasant tastes and aromas. You won’t get sick. If you’re willing to stomach numerous beer faults in the name of consuming alcohol, you’re free to do so. This is very similar to the answer given when people ask, "can wine go bad"?
When Does Beer Expire?
At room temperature, beer lasts about 5 to 9 months beyond the expiration date listed on the label. In a refrigerator, beer can last up to an additional two or three years. This applies to bottled beer, cans, growlers, you name it. Unopened, of course. This means you can still offload excess inventory after the expiration date without worrying too much. Opened beer has a shelf life of about a day regardless of the expiration date listed. Thankfully, you can easily tell if your bottled beer has gone bad. Most beers have expiration dates printed on them or their package.
Does Beer Have An Expiration Date?
Yes, most beer companies are kind enough to print an expiration date either on the package or the bottles themselves. Exactly how far out these dates are from bottling depends on the brewer, the bottles used, and what type of beer it is. For example, if the beer is stored in a more transparent bottle, green or otherwise, the expiration date will be much shorter. This is because, just like wine and bottle shock, the light will speed up the oxidation of beer and deteriorate the flavors much more quickly. However, unlike bottle shock, this degradation can't be reversed, so the beer will continue to lose flavor even if you move it into a better storage location.
How Long Does It Take For Beer To Expire?
Most beer companies will mark their bottles with an expiration date anywhere from 3 months to 9 months from the day of bottling. However, the date listed and the actual point that the beer will start losing flavor are not the same. You can expect a beer to be good for at least 5 months from the date on the bottle if you store it properly. That means you still have time to run a happy hour promotion and offload that extra beer.
Does Beer Go Bad?
Yes, beers can go bad. That doesn’t mean it becomes unsafe to drink, though. It means that the flavor and quality are so degraded that it’s probably not worth knocking back. Don't let your bartenders pour beer that isn't quality and making sure your beer hasn't expired is a valuable part of a bartender's duties.
Does Beer Go Bad In The Fridge?
Yes, both opened and unopened beer can go bad in the fridge. In a refrigerator, an unopened bottle or can of beer can last up to two or three years. However, an opened bottle or can will generally only be good for a day before the oxidation destroys all the good flavors. If you find yourself putting opened beers back in the fridge, it may be worth looking into resealable containers like growlers or even a keg. Just make sure you understand the different keg sizing, so you don't end up with a giant aluminum doorstop.
Does Beer Go Bad In The Heat?
Yes, heat actually causes beer to go bad more quickly than if it's refrigerated or stored in a cool cellar. As a rule of thumb, you should approach beer storage using the 3-30-300 rule. This rule states that you can keep beer at 90°F for only 3 days before it goes bad. It will last 30 days at 72°F, which is around room temperature. Finally, beer will last up to 300 days at 38°F. As you can see, heat can easily lead to beer going bad rapidly, so it's vital that you store it at the proper temperature. A quality beer fridge or cooler will go a long way to helping you increase restaurant sales of beer.
Does Canned Beer Go Bad?
Yes, canned beer goes bad, but usually more slowly than bottled beer. This is because cans don't let any light in, so the oxidation process is much slower. However, you shouldn't expect a five-year-old can of beer to taste as good as the fresh one. That’s why you should always do inventory forecasting based on par stock levels so you don’t end up with a fridge full of dead stock cans.
Does Bottled Beer Go Bad?
Yes, bottled beer goes bad. Both dark and light bottles will go bad over time, but at different rates. Clear or lighter-colored bottles can become "skunky" due to light exposure. This is essentially what happens to all beer over time, but these bottles are particularly susceptible and will oxidize rapidly. Darker bottles will last for a much longer period of time, but should still be refrigerated or stored in a cool wine cellar. If you do happen to buy lighter bottles and are nearing the expiration date, you should look into some beer-based happy hour themes and happy hour drinks to offload it and purchase some longer-lasting bottles.
Does Ginger Beer Go Bad?
Yes, ginger beer can go bad. Like regular alcoholic beer, ginger beer does not become dangerous when it expires, the quality just continues to decline. An unopened can of ginger beer will be good for up to 9 months if stored in a cool place. Heat will shorten this time period, so pay attention to where you're storing it. An opened ginger beer has a slightly longer shelf life of four days if you keep it refrigerated. If you happen to have a lot of ginger beer on hand, you might want to use some restaurant marketing ideas that can help you offload that inventory.
Not-So Bad to the Bone
Like all the other alcohol in your bar, your beers have their own expiration dates that you need to be aware of. Always know how many beers in a keg and try to keep track of every bottle’s expiration date using a bar inventory template. However, if you have a larger inventory or don't have the time to manually update a sheet, we recommend having an inventory management system in place, like BinWise Pro. It automates the process and keeps track of your inventory’s shelf time for you.
BinWise Pro is an all-in-one inventory management system that helps you manage your alcohol program more effectively and successfully. It keeps track of every beer’s expiration dates and shelf time. The system will alert you when a bottle, can, or keg is about to pass its drink-by date, so you never waste your inventory again. Contact us to learn more about BinWise Pro and how it can help your bar.