Beer School

Does Beer Go Bad? How to Prevent a Skunky Beer

Sometimes a bottle of your favourite beer that gets pushed to the back of the pantry and forgotten. It’s sad, but it happens. If you’re thinking “Can I drink old beer?” “Does beer expire?” “What is a skunky beer?”, keep on reading to find out all you need to know about beer gone bad!

Does Beer Go Bad? How to Prevent a Skunky Beer

So you’ve had a few beers sitting in your garage for a couple of years now, and now that you have a couple people over, you’re wondering if those beers are good to dust off and serve to your guests.

Can Beer Go Bad?

In short — Yes, your beer can expire.

The higher the alcohol content of the beer the longer the beer takes to go bad. Out of date beer just won’t taste as good as the brewer — or you — might like. It’s not the way that beer was meant to be drunk. It’s important to pay attention “best by”, “best before” or expiration date on your beer can to ensure the best quality and taste.

 

Can drinking old beer make you sick?

What happens when you drink an expired beer?

Drinking beer past the expiration date is not ideal, but in the event that you drink a “rotten beer”, just know that drinking a bad beer probably won’t make you sick and it won’t kill you. At the most, you can expect a bit of a stomach ache and a slight feeling of disappointment and disgust. In general, it’s probably best to err on the side of caution and not drink expired or bad beer. However, if you detect a slight hit of skunk in your beer, you should be fine to drink it.

 

How Long Does Beer Last Before It Goes Bad?

Beers with low alcohol by volume (ABV) stored on a shelf, unopened will go flat within about 6 months. Beers with higher ABV like lambics or stouts are made to be aged / cellared, so leaving them on the shelf for a few years actually makes them taste better. Just make sure they are stored correctly. Learn more about how to properly store and cellar beer here.

Opened beer has a shorter lifespan. Beer goes flat when it is opened and then put in the fridge for more than a few hours. Our best advice, if you’re going to have a beer, don’t be a rookie. Just finish it (responsibly, of course). Don’t save it for later. Flat beer, much like flat soda, has lost its carbonation and tastes pretty stale. The reason it has carbonation is so it tastes refreshing and makes your mouth water.

 

Why Does My Beer Smell Bad?

Got a stinky beer? Well, depending on what the bad odour your beer has resembled, there could be a number of reasons for your smelly beer.

What is a Skunked or Skunky Beer?

Wondering why your beer smells like a skunk? How does beer get skunked?

A beer becomes “skunked” or “lightstruck” when it has been exposed to light for a period of time. While it is not dangerous to drink a skunked beer, it’s pretty disgusting to smell and taste. You were meant to enjoy beer, so don’t drink skunk your beer! Sorry, beer lovers, no amount of tomato juice baths will bring this skunk beer back to its regular self.

 

How To Stop Your Beer From Going Bad

Beer Storage Tips:

Beers do not like light, so you can avoid a light-struck beer by choosing beer packaged in dark bottles and storing it in a cool, dark place away from sunlight or direct light.

If they are in a keg or can, these are both impenetrable and your beer is safe. Store bottles with caps upright. Unlike wine with a cork, capped beer does not need to be stored on its side.

How sunlight makes beer becomes "skunked"

 

Can You Drink Expired Unpasteurized Beer?

In short — No!

Unpasteurized beer is an exception to the rule. Do not drink expired unpasteurized beer because it can make you sick. Some brewers choose not to pasteurize beers because they think it makes the beers taste better. Unpasteurized beers are meant to be consumed when they are fresh.

 

Expert Advice: Drink Fresh Beer!

If your beer’s colour or smell has changed it is safe to say it has gone bad. Whether it is pasteurized or unpasteurized, we recommend not drinking it because it’ll probably taste gross and nobody wants to drink gross beer. Beer is a terrible thing to waste, so drink it when it’s fresh. The way it was meant to be drunk.

Your palate and stomach will thank you.
poster_bad_beer

 

There you have it, the ins and outs of skunky beer. To learn more about beer, check out these posts:

Beer Styles 201: Gruit Beer (Ancient Herbed/Spiced Ale)
Serving the Perfect Beer: Temperature, Pour and Glassware
Beer Colours: The SRM Color Guide for Beer Styles
What is a Beer Flight?

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