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Can Beer Go Out of Date?

Find out if that can in the back of your fridge is still fine to drink. If it's not, here are some smart ways to use up stale beer.

As beer lovers, we know you hate wasting a single drop of the good stuff as much as we do. Yet there’s no denying that each brew is best drunk fresh. So if you’ve got an old can or bottle lurking at the back of your fridge and are wondering if it’s still safe to crack into, you’re not alone.

Here’s the lowdown on out-of-date beer, whether or not it's still drinkable and some tips on how to save stale brews.

Does beer go out of date?

Yes. As a freshly-made product full of natural ingredients and live yeast, beer can go out of date. The specific type of beer and the way it's been stored will affect how long it takes to go past its best. Though this doesn’t mean a beer will always be stale after the date on the side of a can or bottle, it's likely to have lost some of its flavour and aroma.

This is due to a process called oxidation. This is when oxygen reacts with the compounds in the beer and is often caused by a small amount of air being left in the can or bottle during sealing or due to leakages from a cap or seal. The oxygen makes the compounds break down and change. Though it's a natural process, it can leave beer with a stale or cardboard-like taste over time.

Another reason why beers might become stale is because they’ve been exposed to sunlight. UV rays cause chemicals in hops to change. This affects IPAs, pilsners and pale ales the most so make sure you keep your cans and bottles away from windows or other warm, bright places.

Just like hops, yeast is an essential part of the beer brewing process. It’s also a reason why a brew may go off after a while. This is because it can continue to ferment in the bottle or can and cause the beer to become over-carbonated. This means the beer will shoot out when opened, so take care when opening an out-of-date can.

Any bacteria in the beer can also cause it to spoil over time. This results in an “off” or sour beer taste. So if you ever open an older can of beer, and something doesn’t taste quite right, trust your taste buds. Give that beer a miss.

Can you drink out-of-date beer?

Technically, yes. In most cases, beer is still safe to drink after its best-before date, as long as it has been stored properly. However, the taste and quality of the beer is likely to have dropped over time. So it may not be as enjoyable to drink as it would have been when fresh. Or, in the worst-case scenario, it will have a flavour and odour that makes it undrinkable.

There are some types of beer that should always be consumed as fresh as possible for maximum enjoyment. For example, hop-forward beers such as IPAs and pale ales often lose their distinct flavour and aroma over time. Similarly, beers with a lower alcohol content, such as lagers, are more susceptible to being spoilt by bacteria.

It’s likely you’ll be able to tell if a beer is off as soon as you open it. Though you should definitely avoid drinking it if:

  • It smells or tastes ‘sour’ of ‘off’

  • It has a stale or cardboard-like taste

  • It fizzes or shoots out of the can or bottle when opened

  • It’s out of date and has been stored in the sun or warmth

What else is out-of-date beer good for?

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Eat your beer

Using beer in your cooking can add depth and complexity to dishes such as stews and sauces. Stale beer can make a great meat or chicken marinade for a BBQ when mixed with a few spices and herbs. The acidity in the beer helps to break down the fibres in the meat, making it tender and flavourful.

You can also use it to make bread. The yeast in the beer helps the dough rise, while its flavour can add a unique taste.

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Use it as a cleaner

If you’ve got some rusty tools, dirty wooden furniture or stained carpets, then beer can help brighten them all up. Use stale beer on a soft cloth to take away muck or stains from your furniture and carpets before removing it with soapy water. Or you can soak your metal tools in out-of-date beer for a few minutes before rinsing and drying.

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Get your garden growing

Houseplants in need of a bit of extra TLC? Stale beer makes a pretty good fertiliser, believe it or not. With lots of natural, fermented sugars, it can boost a plant’s growth and destroy damaging fungi. This also makes it great for encouraging grass to grow on your lawn’s bald patches.

To prevent your beer going stale in the first place, store your cans and bottles in a cool, dark place. A fridge or cupboard with a temperature between 10C and 12C is ideal. Plus, avoid moving your beer around too much, as changes in temperature can also have an impact on its chemicals and compounds.

This will help your beer stay safe to drink after its best-before date, although the taste and quality may not be at their peak. So remember, whether you’re opening a can of Punk IPA or Black Heart, all BrewDog beers are best enjoyed fresh.