Can You Drink Expired Beer?

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Many people don’t know that beer comes with an expiration date like any other drink. The purpose of the expiration date is to let you know the beer is no longer safe for consumption. But, can you drink expired beer?

This article will examine whether it is safe to drink expired beer.

Can You Drink Expired Beer?

You can drink beer even after the expiration date, but there will be off-flavors, and the hops flavor will fade as the beer goes past the date. Hops-forward beer might last long after the expiration date, while the flavor of other beers might change almost immediately after the expiration date.

Top view of black beer bottles

So, while it is harmless to drink beer after its expiration date, it has some downsides and it can significantly affect the flavor. Here is everything you need to learn about drinking an expired beer.

Expiration Date in Beer

Every beer comes with an expiration date or a best-by date which is mainly determined by the alcohol content in the beer. Typically, beers with more alcohol content last longer than beers with low alcohol content.

This is why many low alcohol content beers can go bad even in less than six months. Remember, how you store the beer will also determine how long it can last before going bad. The beer expiration date is always indicated on the sticker label on the beer can or bottle.

It is a legal requirement for all commercial beer producers to display the expiration date on the beer package. However, the location of these dates might differ as some might be on the bottle tops, bottoms or sides.

What Affects the Expiration Date in Beer

Beers are brewed using different organic plant ingredients, and eventually, these ingredients will decay. The oxygen in the beer starts the oxidation process, and as time goes by, the beer starts to change. It is also good to know the shelf life of kegs.

This oxidation and decaying is the main reason why many malty beers start to develop grainy, caramel, or toffee tones after the best by date. However, you can minimize this decay and oxidation process by storing the beer in cold temperatures like a mini-fridge for kegerators, especially if the beer has a low alcohol content.

A person a brown bottle of beer

For beers with a high alcohol by volume, they can last even three to four years. Some of these beers might even get better as they age. However, any beer can last up to two years after its expiration date if well refrigerated.

What Is a Beer Born-on Date?

Apart from the best by date or the expiration date, many commercial beer producers will also indicate the beer born-on date on the beer bottle or can. With the beer born on date, you can guess when the beer will expire.

That means you don’t have to throw away the beer once it reaches its expiration date. The beer might still be suitable for drinking depending on its ingredients, storage conditions, and born-on date.

How Can I Know That Beer Has Gone Bad?

The beer expiration date or sell-by date indicated on the beer bottles or cans is only a yardstick for spoilage. It means that beer can still retain its taste and flavor even after its official expiration date if you store it correctly.

However, after the official expiration date, you might not be able to tell when the beer has expired. Here are some tips that can help you tell when the beer has expired.

  • Popcorn or paper flavor: One of the leading indicators of expired beer is a change in flavor. If you find hints of cardboard, popcorn, or a paper flavor in beer, it means the beer is rotting. The diacetyl compound in the beer mainly contributes to this flavor.
  • Smell: A beer that has expired will have a skunky smell. This smell is mainly caused by excessive exposure to beer to ultraviolet light.
  • Foam: If the beer has been producing white foam even after the expiration date and stops producing the foam when you open the bottle, it means it has expired.
  • Look: If you notice dusty sediment in your beer bottle, it means the beer has expired.
  • Opening sound: A good beer fizzles when you open the beer bottle. If it doesn’t fizzle when you open the bottle, it means the beer is rotten.

Can an Expired Beer Make Me Sick?

In most cases, expired beer is harmless, and you can’t fall sick after drinking it. However, if the beer is excessively expired, like several years old, it is not advisable to drink it.

The whole beer structure might have changed over time, and the health implications of the resulting product are unpredictable. Drinking such a peer might cause health problems such as stomach issues, nausea, and vomiting.

A brown bottle of beer

What Can I Do With an Expired Beer?

If your beer is freshly expired, you can still drink it as the taste and flavor will be almost the same. However, suppose the beer is excessively expired. In that case, the ingredients brewing the beer might have undergone structural changes, which might not be safe for drinking but valuable in other ways.

For instance, you can use the expired beer for cooking, removing stains from carpets, cleaning wooden furniture, and removing rust from items and tools. You can also use expired beer to create face and hair masks.

Factors That Determine How Long Beer Lasts

Other factors determine how long the beer can retain its freshness, taste, and flavor after the official expiry date indicated on the label. Here are some of these factors:

Packaging

The type of beer packaging used will affect its shelf life. In most cases, commercial beer producers package their beers using glass bottles or aluminum cans. Glass bottles are not completely airtight but retain some air at the top.

It means there will be oxygen to interact with the different beer compounds, which leads to oxidation. The oxidation finally destroys these compounds, ending up in a flat-tasting beer.

On the other hand, cans are much more airtight than glass bottles, and there will be minimal oxygen to interact with beer compounds, reducing the chances of oxidation. It means if you are determined to drink an expired beer, a canned one might be the best option.

Storage

It is also a good idea to keep your beer upright to minimize the surface area of beer in contact with oxygen. Keeping the beer upright will also reduce the effect of dead yeast on the beer’s flavor.

Typically, the dead yeast will sink to the bottom and have minimal interaction with expired beer. If you keep the beer bottles on their side, the dead yeast will form a crusty ring.

Temperature

The temperature at which you expose the beer will determine how long it will last after the expiry date. The best way to improve the shelf life of the beer is to keep it refrigerated. This reduces the oxidation rate, and the beer will retain its aroma and flavor even after the expiry date.

However, refrigeration might not be the best option for beers that contain live yeast, such as wild and sour ales. For these beers, a warm temperature is required for the flavor to develop, and refrigerating them might lead to an awful taste.

Regardless of the type of beer, it should not be stored near a heat source as this will increase the rate of oxidation, making the beer lose its hoppiness.

A photo of a beer bottle

Light

Another factor that affects the freshness and flavor of the beer is light, and keeping it away from light can help prolong its freshness and flavor beyond the expiry date. Typically, light is the main cause of the awful taste in beers.

If you’re looking for a beer that will go past its indicated expiry date, it is advisable to go for beers packaged in an aluminum can or brown bottles as they help minimize the UV light reaching the beer.

Bacteria

Some bacteria might live in the beer environment and contribute to its decay over time.

Although alcohol can help preserve the beer naturally, the low alcohol content in the beer might not be able to eliminate all microbes. You can try to minimize the action of these microbes by refrigerating the beer.

Skunked Beer Before the Expiry Date

A skunked beer is a beer that smells and tastes like a skunk. Although many people believe that skunked beer results from oxidation, the blue light is the real cause of a skunked beer. Blue light is the light that comes from fluorescent light bulbs or the sun. 

This light generates isohumulones when it reaches the beer. The reaction between these components and the hydrogen sulfide from the yeast in the beer generates mercaptan. This chemical compound is the same in skunk secretion.

The reaction can even start after exposing the beer too strong sunlight for several minutes. The reaction is fast enough, and the beer can change entirely in a day or two. If your beer becomes skunked before the expiry date, here are some valuable things you can do with it instead of throwing it away.

Cooking

You can consider creating exotic flavors when cooking by using a skunked beer. For instance, you can use it in making marinade or boiling sausages. However, you should not use it excessively as the pungent skunk can ruin the taste.

Apply It to Your Lawn

Although the live yeast cannot be helpful to a lawn, the dead yeast and other nutrients can act as a fertilizer. It means if you’re planning to use the skunked beer as a fertilizer for your lawn, you should allow it to get stronger.

However, it is advisable to test it in a small secluded spot before applying it to the entire lawn to be sure the alcohol content is not high enough to destroy the lawn.

Change It Into a Moonshine

Instead of throwing away your skunked beer, you can change it into a moonshine by distilling it. However, you will need to care for the fusel alcohols that can cause moonshine blindness. You will also need some experience to successfully evolve a skunked beer into a moonshine.

Unopened bottle of beer

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Old Beer Cause Diarrhea?

Whether the beer is old or not, it can cause diarrhea. Usually, beer contains more carbohydrates than other alcohol types, and the body might have problems breaking it, leading to diarrhea. The faster digestion triggered by the beer can also cause diarrhea.

How Long Can a Beer Last After Opening?

It is advisable to drink the beer immediately after opening as it will lose foam immediately after opening. After several minutes, the taste of the beer will change, and it will not be as sharp as the time you opened it. Fortunately, you can reduce this rate of change in taste by refrigerating it.

What Makes Beer Expire?

Some microbes can live in the combination of beer’s low pH, alcohol, and antimicrobial activity of hops and eventually contribute to changing beer’s taste and flavor. Also, the beer packaging might not be completely airtight, and there might be some oxidation going on, making the beer expire.

Final Thoughts

So, can you drink expired beer? It is safe to drink an expired beer if the taste and flavor have not changed. The above tips will help you know when it has expired when drinking an expired beer. You can also know how to improve beer’s longevity even after expiration.