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Beer does not last forever. It’s a horror story, we know. Being that beer is made of all-natural ingredients with expiration dates, it eventually goes bad. The good news is that you can learn the right methods for storing beer to keep it better for longer. This guide to storing beer will give you all the tips and tricks to enhance shelf life.
Table of Contents
- The Basics of Storing Beer
- What’s the Best Method for Storing Beer?
- What is the Best Temperature for Storing Beer?
- What is the Best Way to Store a Keg?
- How Should You Store a Growler?
- What About Storing Beer for the Long Term?
- Consider Storing Beer By Type
- What Temperature to Store and Serve Different Beers
- Busting Myths About Storing Beer
The Basics of Storing Beer
From home-brewed masterpieces to a store-bought bottles and cans, knowing the best way to keep your beer is key to the drinking experience. As such, the goal of storing beer is to extend the shelf life for as long as possible. Beer is only good for about 6-9 months, and while it doesn’t go bad per se, you want its flavors to last. Depending on the style of beer and its packaging, it may even last for a couple of years.
What’s the Best Method for Storing Beer?
Preventing flavor and carbonation loss requires the right storing method. For this, you need what is called “cellar temperature,” or 50-55 degrees Fahrenheit (10-13 degrees Celsius). A purpose-built beer refrigerator can maintain this temperature range easily. Plus, a beer fridge will protect the bottles from any UV exposure. However, if you don’t have a spare refrigerator, a cool cellar will do just fine.
What about storing beer at 35 degrees F (1 degree C)? That’s fine, too. Beer has a low freezing point, so if you want your beer extra-chilled for a hot summer day, you can place it in a refrigerator set at 35 degrees F (1 degree C) without any impact on the flavor or body.
It is best to store beer upright, as well, particularly if you have unpasteurized beers with active yeast. On its side, your beer may be subject to sediment clinging to the bottle walls. Plus, if there is any air trapped in the bottle, you could cause accelerated oxidation and fouler flavors when you finally get around to drinking it.
What is the Best Temperature for Storing Beer?
Let’s first say which temperature is not ideal: room temperature. These days, room temperature is a warm 72 degrees F (22 degrees C). Keeping beer at this temperature is going to ruin it. That is why beer that is left to sit out tastes horrible after a couple of hours. Not only is it too warm, a lot of the flavors and aromas have drifted away.
As such, you want to store your beer around 50 degrees F (10 degrees C) then make adjustments based on your preferences and the type of beer you’re storing.
What is the Best Way to Store a Keg?
Kegs are an excellent way to store both small and large batches of beer, but they do have some downsides. As soon as the beer is put into the keg and sealed up, the countdown begins. Untapped kegs start to lose flavor over time, just like a can or bottle. If you plan on home kegging to store several batches of beer, make sure you follow the first-in, first-out rule.
Store your kegs in a refrigerated unit or a cold, dark cellar. Again, the range between 50-55 degrees F (10-13 degrees C) is ideal, but you go dip the temperatures to an even cooler range. However, you do not want to freeze your kegs. Freezing may change how your beer tastes once it is poured. Furthermore, put the kegs somewhere where they will not be disturbed or moved around often. Too much movement will cause foaming that leads to explosions once tapped.
How Should You Store a Growler?
Again, it is all about keeping the growler upright and cool. A dark, dry location is ideal for your baby kegs. Growlers have an airtight lid that will keep the beer fresh for about a week. Sometimes the seal will last for even longer. If you open the growler, it is good for about 36 hours, regardless of where you put it. Once the beer is exposed to oxygen, aging accelerates.
This video gives you some tips for storing everything from growlers, bombers, kegs, and more:
What About Storing Beer for the Long Term?
Beer will last about 6-9 months or longer (up to two years) before losing flavor. Storing beer the correct way is key in maintaining the quality of the beer. If you have cases of craft beer, it is best to call the brewery for advice. They will know the best way to store a specific case. However, if you have made a homebrew, then consider these practices for long term storage:
1. Correct Storage
As already mentioned, selecting storage based on packaging and temperature is most important. The universal ideal is a cold, dark basement that is between room temperature and freezing.
2. Temperature Control
If beer is exposed to fluctuations in temperature and UV light, it is not going to last to its expiration date. And while you can drink expired beer, do you really want to?
Even if you have a dark cellar, a place that gets too hot or cold is dangerous. A temperature-controlled unit is always best. Cooler temperatures slow down aging. Furthermore, the dark protects bottles safe from UV exposure. Even fluorescent lighting can impact the quality of a bottled beer, especially outside of refrigerated units.
Consider Storing Beer By Type
There are some many styles of beer out there that determining a definite timeline for when beer goes bad is impossible. Different beers lose their flavor at different rates. However, there are some general guidelines to consider when you want to pick up or make a beer and stash it for later enjoyment.
The first point is the alcohol by volume, or ABV. The boozier the beer, the less you have to worry about it becoming undrinkable. Alcohol tends to slow down aging and prevents your beer from going stale.
The second factor is the style. Smoked or sour beers are considered higher ABV beers and will maintain their freshness for longer. Any hoppy style, like your bitter IPAs, amber ales, and American strong ales will actually age faster. Even if your IPA has over 8% ABV, those hoppy aromas and oils are going to dissipate quickly. As such, you should prioritize any beer with a hoppy profile.
Thirdly, pasteurization. Unlike pasteurized mass-produced lagers, craft breweries send their brews out unpasteurized. Because of that, the shelf life of these beers is much shorter than the ones that have been pasteurized.
What Temperature to Store and Serve Different Beers
As mentioned above, some beers are better cold. Some need to be a touch warmer. This table will show you some suggested storage and serving temperatures to ensure every beer is as enjoyment as the last:
|Temperature (F/C)||Beer Type||Notes|
|30 to 40°F / -1 to 4°C||Mass-produced, like Budweiser and Coors, or non-alcoholic beers.||Great for a shower beer or when you aren’t looking for a load of flavor.|
|40 to 50°F / 4 to 10°C||Pilsners (both German and Czech) and wheat beers.||A great temperature for light-bodied beers that are easy to drink. Slightly chilled lagers have a fruiter flavor.|
|45 to 50°F / 7 to 10°C||Lagers and IPAs.||Cooler temperatures bring out the bitterness of hops. If you have a DIPA, consider serving slightly warmer.|
|45 to 55°F / 7 to 13°C||Porters, stouts, and other heavier, maltier beers.||Since these beers have a higher ABV, you can store and serve them slightly warmer to help balance the bitterness of hops and sweetness of malt.|
|50 to 55°F / 10 to 13 °C||Bocks and sour beers, as well as ales with higher ABV.||The general rule of thumb is that ales, sours, and bocks should be served slightly warm to bring out the full range of flavors.|
|55 to 60 °F / 13 to 15°C||Strong ales, barleywines, and imperial stoutes.||These were designed to last without much refrigeration, meaning they only need to be slightly chilled.|
Busting Myths About Storing Beer
Now that you know the basics of storing beer, it is time to bust some of the myths floating around. The enemy of misinformation is research, and we have done that hard part for you.
Myth #1: All Beer Should Be Stored and Served Cold
No. Absolutely not. There are some pale ales out there—think Coors Lite and Miller—that taste better when served at a slightly higher temperature. The cold will deaden the flavors in this lighter beers, making it harder to taste the lighter notes. If you want to get the full experience, consider letting these beers get a little warmer before sipping at them.
Additionally, your Imperial Stouts and Indian Pale Ales are not going to appreciate near-freezing temperatures. Even 40 degrees F (4 degrees C) can be too much for such craft beers. This is why a dedicated beer cooler or cellar is perfect for such beer types. IPAs and Imperial Stouts are both tastier when they are served just below room temperature.
Myth #2: Store Beer The Same Temperature It Was Where You Bought It
This is a terrible idea, because all stores are different. Some stores are going to put their beers in the fridge. Others line up their craft beer bottles directly under fluorescent lights. They put IPAs in the freezer. Come on. There is a better way to figure out where your beer should go, how it should be stored, and for how long.
Consider the 3-30-300 rule. It states that you can keep any kind of beer for about 3 days in 90 degrees F (32 degrees C); 30 days at 72 degrees F (22 degrees C); and 300 days at 38 degrees F (3 degrees C).
In terms of longevity and maintaining the freshness of your beer, you should put it in a slightly cooler than room temperature location. In other words, even if you picked up that brown ale from the store at room temperature, it needs to go into the fridge as soon as you get home.
Myth #3: Beer Stored in Bottles Lasts Longer Than Cans
Sure, drinking from a bottle feels great, but that doesn’t mean it keeps your beer tasty for longer. Cans are better. Sorry, bottle fans. The main reason cans rule is how they are made. A can is, in essence, a miniature keg. No light or oxygen gets in once the can is sealed. A brown or green beer bottle can expose your beer to UV rays, leading to skunking during improper storage.
Furthermore, the caps on bottles are notorious for letting air trickle in. If you ever popped off a cap only to find that your beer tasted like cardboard, congratulations. You sipped oxidized beer. That is a much less common occurrence with cans.
Myth #4: Beer Gets Skunky When Warm
Skunkiness is not caused by warming. Returning to the 3-30-300 rule, if beer got skunky because of heat, then your beer would taste foul after one day spent in the back of your car on a hot summer day. What really causes skunkiness is your beer being “light struck.” This means that, when beer is exposed to UV rays, it undergoes a chemical reaction. The oils from the hops start releasing sulfuric compounds, leading to a smell that is reminiscent of a skunk’s spray.
As such, don’t worry if your beer gets a little warm before putting it in the fridge. So long as it doesn’t sit out in the sun for hours, it will be fine.
Myth #5: Corked Beers Must Be Stored Like Wine
Storing beers is not simple. There are some beers that are better stored on their side—mainly unpasteurized beers. Others can be sat upright. Then you have corks. Beer bottles with corks and hinges are trending right now, creating a conundrum for people who have never seen such a thing. Corks will seal out air better than a bottle cap, but that does not mean you should store it on its side like a bottle of wine.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First, if the beer contains active yeast, you may end up with a yeast ring. Secondly, your beer is going to come into contact with the cork. Any off flavors on that cork will soak into the beer over time.
Furthermore, storing your beer on the side—regardless of the style—leads to more surface area coming into contact with any oxygen inside the bottle. The more beer exposed to oxygen, the greater the risk of oxidation.
Now You’re a Beer Storing Pro
Storing beer can raise a lot of questions, like which kind of beer needs which temperature. Hopefully this guide helped you through some dilemmas. Remember, beer does not need to be kept at freezing temperatures. All it needs is a temperature lower than room temperature and somewhere dark and dry, like a cellar or refrigerator. So long as you properly store your beer, it will last for about 6-9 months.
The best and most proper way to store beer is upright in the refrigerator or cellar. That will keep your beer fresh for up to 6 to 9 months.
Yes, but not for long. If you keep beer at room temperature, the shelf life drops to under a few weeks. Should the beer be exposed to a warm temperature, the flavor will be ruined in just a few days.
Bottled beer will last between 6 to 9 months when properly stored in a cold, dark area. For a clearer time frame, check the expiration date printed on the label or can.
Aluminum cans are often better than bottles, since they preserve the taste better. However, cans and bottles both have the same shelf life—between 6-9 months.