Can You Drink Expired Beer? The Answer May Surprise You

As a beer enthusiast and advisor, I get asked quite often: can you drink expired beer? Well, in most cases, the answer is yes, but it’s not that simple. The taste, aroma, and overall quality might have changed. Let’s dive deeper into this frothy subject.

The Basics of Beer Expiration

Beer expiration, despite what most people think, isn’t about safety, but rather about the quality of the beer. While a beer can’t really ‘expire’ like a dairy product, the quality of the taste, aroma, and mouthfeel can degrade over time.

Understanding “Best Before” Dates

When you see a “best before” date on your beer bottle or can, it’s important to understand that this isn’t an “expiration date”. Instead, it indicates when the beer will be at its peak freshness. After this date, the beer can start to lose its flavor and overall quality.

I remember an instance when I found an old six-pack of IPA at the back of my fridge. The “best before” date had passed a few months ago. Being an adventurous beer enthusiast, I decided to try one. The result? A far cry from the crisp, citrusy, and hoppy beer I remembered. It was a bland, slightly off, metallic tasting brew that bore little resemblance to its former glory.

How Beer Ages Over Time

Beer isn’t a monolithic entity – different types of beer age in different ways. Just like a fine wine or a block of cheese, some beers can actually improve with age. Others, unfortunately, don’t fare as well.

I once attended a beer tasting event where we sampled a variety of aged beers, including stouts, IPAs, and lagers. The stouts, particularly the high-alcohol ones, had developed complex flavors over time, similar to a well-aged wine. On the other hand, the IPA and lager had lost much of their hoppiness and freshness, turning into flat and somewhat stale versions of their original selves. This was my first hands-on lesson in how beer ages and the impact of time on different types of brews.

In essence, beer is a complex drink that can change dramatically over time. The “best before” date is there to ensure you get the best experience possible, but don’t be afraid to experiment with aged beers – sometimes, the results can be quite surprising! Just remember, beer is meant to be enjoyed, so if you’re not enjoying it, it’s probably time to pour it down the drain and pop open a fresh one.

The Effects of Drinking Expired Beer

Drinking beer past its “best before” date won’t make you sick in the traditional sense, but it can certainly have some negative impacts on your beer drinking experience. Let’s delve into what can happen when you take a sip of that long-forgotten brew.

Impact on Taste

As previously mentioned, one of the primary impacts of drinking an old beer is the degradation in its taste, aroma, and texture. The hoppy, bitter notes in an IPA can fade, leaving behind a flat and uninteresting brew. The malty sweetness in a lager or ale may also change, creating a beer that is overly sweet or even somewhat sour. (Not to be confused with the taste of a sour beer. 

I recall a time when I visited my old college roommate. He had a cache of craft beers that he had collected over the years, some of which were well past their “best before” date. He proudly popped open an old amber ale that he had saved for a special occasion. The anticipation quickly turned to disappointment. The usually rich and malty brew had an odd sweet and sour flavor that was less than pleasing. It was a classic example of how aging could negatively affect a beer.

Physical Impact

While stale beer won’t make you ill like spoiled food, it can still result in some discomfort. While it’s generally safe to drink expired beer, doing so might result in an upset stomach, particularly for those with a sensitive constitution. It’s always best to listen to your body.

My neighbor, a fellow beer enthusiast, once told me a horror story of drinking a homebrew that had been improperly stored. Not only did the beer taste terrible, but it also led to a rather uncomfortable night spent running to the bathroom. It was a clear lesson that while aged beer might not lead to food poisoning, it can certainly cause some unpleasant digestive issues.

Aesthetic Impact

Lastly, an expired beer might just not look as inviting as a fresh one. It might appear cloudy, or the carbonation might have reduced significantly, leading to a flat appearance. When my local pub once served me an old beer by mistake, I could tell from its dull and cloudy appearance that something was amiss. The beer that was usually a rich golden color with a frothy head was now flat and uninviting.

Factors That Impact Beer Expiry

Beer is a delicate blend of ingredients, and its shelf life depends on a variety of factors. By understanding these, you can ensure you’re drinking your beer when it’s at its prime. Here’s a breakdown of the key elements that impact beer expiry.

Type of Beer

Firstly, the type of beer plays a crucial role in its shelf life. Lagers and light ales tend to have a shorter shelf life, typically between three to six months, due to their lower alcohol content and milder flavor profile. In contrast, darker beers and those with higher alcohol content, like stouts, porters, or IPAs, can last up to a year or even more if stored correctly.

There was a time I found a bottle of Imperial Stout, almost two years old, stashed away in the back of my fridge. Despite its age, the beer had not only kept well but had developed deeper, more complex flavors, like a fine wine. It was an eye-opener about how certain types of beers can age gracefully.

Storage Conditions

Storage conditions significantly impact the shelf life of beer. Beers stored in a cool, dark place, preferably refrigerated, tend to last longer. Exposure to heat and direct sunlight can cause beer to spoil faster due to the negative effects on the hops and malt.

I learned this the hard way when I left a six-pack of lager in my garage during the summer. The resulting beer was skunky and unpalatable, making me realize the importance of proper storage.


Lastly, the packaging can also impact the longevity of beer. Cans tend to protect beer better than bottles, as they prevent light from reaching the beer, which can degrade its quality over time. Additionally, draft beer often has a much shorter lifespan and should ideally be consumed within a few days of opening.

Tips for Consuming Older Beer

While it’s generally best to drink beer fresh, there might be occasions where you come across an older beer. Here are some tips for consuming older beer, drawn from my own experiences as a beer lover and enthusiast.

Check the Brew Date

The first step when dealing with an old beer is to check its brew date, which is usually printed on the label or the bottle’s base. While not a foolproof method, it can give you a rough idea of the beer’s age. Remember, lighter beers are best consumed within three to six months of their brew date, while darker, high-alcohol content beers can last up to a year or more.

Proper Storage

If you’ve got an old beer on your hands, make sure it’s been stored properly. It should have been kept in a cool, dark place, away from heat and sunlight. If you’re unsure about its storage conditions, it’s better to err on the side of caution and dispose of it.

One summer, a friend gave me a home-brewed stout that had been sitting in his sun-lit kitchen for a few months. Despite its high alcohol content, the beer tasted off due to improper storage. It was a lesson learned the hard way!

Trust Your Senses

When opening an older beer, trust your senses. If it smells sour or moldy, it’s likely spoiled. The same goes if its color has drastically changed or if it has sediment at the bottom. While some changes in taste are normal with age, a beer that tastes overly sour, metallic, or like wet cardboard should be avoided.

Can You Drink Expired Beer Conclusion

In conclusion, while it’s generally safe to drink expired beer, it might not provide the best drinking experience due to changes in flavor and aroma. Always store your beer properly and try to consume it before the “best before” date to enjoy it at its peak quality.

Can You Drink Expired Beer FAQs

Is expired beer dangerous? No, expired beer isn’t dangerous, but it may not taste as good as fresh beer.

What happens if you drink old beer? It might not taste as good, and in some cases, it could potentially cause a minor stomach upset.

Does beer really expire? Beer doesn’t expire in the way that milk does, but its taste and quality can deteriorate over time.

Can you get food poisoning from old beer? It’s very unlikely. Unlike food, beer doesn’t harbor dangerous bacteria.

How long can you keep beer after the expiration date? It depends on the type of beer and how it’s stored, but generally, it can last for several months to a yea

beer your way

Michael Wilson

With over 15 years of experience in the beer industry, I love sharing both my own and other beer experts knowledge on everything beer related. I've always loved the fact that beer has brought cultures and people together for thousands of years and the tradition only continues to grow.

More to Explore

error: Content is protected !!