JBU > Introductory

What if My Beer is Old or Skunky? Does Beer Go Bad?

A bottle of your favourite beer that got pushed to the back of the pantry and forgotten. You’re thinking “Should I drink this?” “Is it still good?” Learn about beer gone bad.

What if My Beer is Old or Skunky? Does Beer Go Bad?

Can Beer Go Bad?

In short. Yes.

The higher the alcohol content of the beer the longer it takes to go bad. Beer past it’s prime 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. The “best by” date, “best before” date, or expiration date on beer usually means that if you drink it past that date it will not be at its best quality or taste. So don’t worry, drinking bad beer probably won’t make you sick, but it won’t be nearly as enjoyable.

What Going Bad Means for Beer

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 some 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.

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, so leaving them on the shelf for a few years actually makes them better. Just make sure they are stored correctly (keep reading for info on how to store beer).

What is Skunked or Skunky Beer?

No amount of tomato juice baths will bring this beer back to its regular self. Beer that is skunked has been exposed to light for a period of time. While it is not dangerous to drink it is really disgusting both in smell and taste. You were meant to enjoy beer, so don’t drink skunk beer.


How to prevent your beer from going bad

Beers do not like light, so they should be packaged in dark bottles and stored 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 store on it’s side.

How beer becomes skunked
Image by: All Things Beer

The Exception to the “Bad Beer” Rule

Unpasteurized beer is an exception to the rule. When it’s past its expiration date, do not drink it because it can make you sick. 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 color 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 who 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 will thank you.

skunky, bad beer, expired beer
Just Beer is your friend. We don’t want you to drink bad beer. (Image Source: Etsy)

For more about the basics of beer:

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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