Many think beer can have a very long shelf life as a fermented product. Well, we are here to answer how long does beer last. With this exploration of the beverage’s average life and storage tips, you can have a fresh beer for longer.
How Long Does Beer Last?
Beer Container/ Type
2 to 10 Years
6 Months to 1 Year
1 to 2 years
1 to 2 Years
6 Months to 1 Year
6 to 8 Months
5 to 10 years
More than 10 years
Less than a day
Depending on the state of your beer, it can last from a few hours to over a decade. To make this estimation easier for you. Here is a table detailing the average shelf life of your beer based on its state and container type.
On average, vintage beer bottles can outlast many of the container types on the list. It’s due to their sealed and protected nature. As bottles have been with beer for so long, it has different specifications that work well with the drink.
With cans, their sealed and lightless nature can protect your beer from oxidizing and skunkiness. They are perfect for shipping and international breweries. The cans can keep your beer fresh, light, and delicious from around the world.
When it comes to keg, the introduction of CO2 or ‘tapping’ the container can affect the shelf life of the beer. Most of the time, the beverage stays in these containers for less than a year.
With the keg being designed to store the beer for a short time, the vintage bottles go the other way. Vintage bottles, mostly growlers, are for prolonged storage of beer. It can last up to more than a decade.
Unsurprisingly, an opened beer can last up to less than a day, even if refrigerated. Of course, this shelf life can be longer with resealable bottles and colder temperatures. However, it can affect the freshness of the beer.
How Long Does Beer Last in Bottle?
Bottles are the most common container for beers. Since the invention of beer, pots, and bottles have been around to keep it fresh and drinkable. With that said, how long does beer last in a bottle?
On average, it can be around six months to two years. However, your beer can last shorter or longer time frames, as there are various factors you should consider.
First is the type of bottle. It come as no surprise, that the color and style of the beer bottle will limit or extend the shelf life of your beer.
For example, bottles with light or transparent colors have difficulty keeping the UV and artificial light. It can lead to shorter shelf life.
On the other hand, Amber bottles have a better time keeping light away from your beer. This protection from light can limit the risks of a skunk-like smell and prevent your beer from spoiling.
The type of bottle will also affect your brew. Growlers, in particular, are perfect for long-time storage. This functionality is designed to be thicker and bigger, which can retain and protect your beer better than standard beers.
Growlers vs. Standard Bottles
|Growlers||Standard Beer Bottles|
· Great for Big Servings
· Thicker Bottle
· More Secure Seal
· Excellent for small servings
· Has more varieties in shape and types
· Too Big
· Less Protection against UV rays
· Thinner bottle
When choosing between your beer bottles, knowing your purpose is essential. Is it for more extended storage or small servings?
Most of the time, growlers and standard beer bottles are among the most common. If you want an article about this subject, read our beer bottle guide here.
How Long Does Beer Last in Can?
Cans is a newer beer container in the market. It’s best for international brands as the shut and sealed nature of the cans lessen the risk of damage to the brew. Many smaller breweries also utilize cans as its quicker and much cheaper for their beer.
On average, cans can last from one year to two years before it expires. However, finding brands that exceed this average shelf life is effortless.
With their very secure nature, cans are still not for long-term beer storage. If that’s what you want, beer bottles are still the best option.
Canned beer is better for light and craft brews. It keeps the beverage in a pristine condition with its limited exposure to sunlight and oxygen.
However, temperature changes are significant to canned bottles. As the container are insulators, it takes in the temperature very fast. Prolonged exposure to heat can cause the canned beer to be stale.
How Long Does Beer Last in Keg?
A keg can store your beer for about less than a year. Although barrels are for storing beer, they are just for fermentation. As the keg needs to be in a maintained and regulated environment, it’s not great for the long-term containment of beer.
After a few months in the keg, the beer should be in a beer or can. Many modern breweries also stray away from the traditional wooden barrels and more into the fermentation machinery with built-in temperature locks.
With that said, the usage of wooden kegs is still intense. Many specialty and old breweries use this type of fermentation process.
Tapped vs. Untapped Keg
Tapped keg refers to the introduction of CO2 in the container. Tapping is commonly done towards the end of the process and before the bottling of the brew.
An untapped keg lasts longer, at 6 to 8 months. It’s due to the undisturbed nature of the brew. As CO2 is not yet present, it has a better shelf life.
Tapped keg, on the other hand, can last from a hours to a few months. However, it still has a smaller shelf life than an untapped keg. Most of the time, introducing CO2 while brewing can lead to different and fantastic flavors.
Signs of Spoiled Beer
No one wants a spoiled beer. If you suspect your beer is exposed to too much heat, oxidation, or light, here are some signs you must look out for.
Lack or Less Carbonation
Although some beer has less carbonation than others, it can signify beer going spoilt or being exposed to oxidation. The lack of carbonation can mean that your beer is stale and not in the best condition for drinking. This sign is especially true if you know the type of beer to be fizzy and bubbly.
A stale taste can be an excellent sign of oxidation. Although it does not mean your beer is spoilt, the beverage exposed to the air can lead to bacterial contamination. If the beer has a stale taste and cloudy appearance, you shouldn’t ingest it as it’s a clear sign of spoilage.
Pungent Bile-Like Taste
Some beers are sour and intense, especially many sours. However, there is a significant difference between a sour taste with freshness and zest against the bile-like taste of spoilt beer. Luckily, you can spot this sign from smell alone.
The skunk-like smell can come from the beer exposed to too much UV light. It can lead to the beverage going spoilt and undrinkable. If the beer has a strong unpleasant smell, it’s not suitable for drinking.
A cloudy appearance is a clear sign of bacterial contamination. If the beer has white, spot-like substances floating, refrain from drinking it. The bacteria can cause a bad case of food poisoning.
Please check out more articles about beer going bad: [Does Beer Go Bad?]
Tips to Keep Your Beer Fresh
Now that we know the average shelf life of beer, let’s get into the things to look out for to keep it safe and tasty.
Proper Storage Method
Your storage method can determine the shelf life of your beer greatly. Whether you put it in the refrigerator, pantry, or cellar, it will tremendously improve or lower the longevity of the brew.
The quality and taste are also under the effects of proper storage methods—the lesser the heat, light, and oxidation, the better the beer.
Limit UV Light Exposure
UV and artificial light are a long foe in keeping beer fresh. As the light reacts with the hops in the blend, it can cause skunkiness. Limiting the amount of UV light exposure can keep your beer from smelling like a skunk.
Avoid Direct Heat
Heat can make your beer stale and less fresh. It’s also the reason why cellars are perfect for keeping beer pristine. The beer can have a longer shelf life by avoiding high heat and humidity.
In summary, beers can last from a few months to decades, depending on the containers and other factors affecting them. With this, you now know the answer: How Long Does Beer Last? Check out more of our articles to learn more about beer.
As a homebrewer, Michael would get frustrated about the lack of brewing information on the internet. After hundreds of gallons of spoilt batches, Micheal had enough. And he founded Unknown Brewing as a resource for homebrewers.