does beer expire

Welcome back to another episode of the 512 Brewed Craft Beer Podcast!

In this episode, we’re reviewing Jester King’s 2017 SPON Blueberry & Pitaya, a spontaneously fermented beer refermented w/ fruit. We’re also discussing the age-old question, “Does beer expire?”

jester king spon beer

In the spirit of the beer, today’s episode is all about how to properly store and age beer. Full transcription of show topic is available below.

Which is exactly why we’ve dug into Caitlin’s beer reserve and pulled out the amazing 2017 Spon from Jester King, a spontaneously fermented beer refermented with blueberry and pitaya.

We’ll also be sharing some fun beer news, like how a brewery charged $100 for a six-pack of their year-round beer.

So grab a drink, sit back, and let’s talk about beer!

Episode Highlights

  • TS 02:20 – About the Beer: Jester King’s Spon
  • TS 06:23 – About the Beer Makers: Jester King Brewery in Austin, Texas
  • TS 13:14 – About the Show Topic: Does Beer Expire? How to Store and Age Beer Properly
  • TS 14:25 – What are the Best Beer Styles to Age
  • TS 16:03 – Does Beer Go Bad?
  • TS 19:24 – How We Cellar Our Beers

Links From the Show

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” Does Beer Expire?” Episode Transcription

Caitlin:    That kind of brings us into today’s show topic, Does beer expire? because I’m sure a lot of you guys in Texas out there listening probably have a lot of Jester King beers in your cellar.

Mel:    Yes.

Caitlin:    We’re kind of talking all about aging beer, storing beer. Does beer expire? Yeah, let’s talk about this episode. We’re also going to share some tips on proper cellaring and how you can set up a cellar pretty much, no matter where you live.

Mel:    Yeah. We thought it was a good idea to talk about this now with, because of the release of so many Black is Beautiful beers, which for the most part are like our stout to heavier beers.

Caitlin:    Yeah, and stouts with summers, that’s hard.

Mel:    Yes.

Caitlin:    Definitely these are, I don’t know, they’re kind of like the beers that you want to keep around for the days when it gets cold.

Mel:    Exactly, so if you’re planning on keeping some of your Black is Beautiful beers through the winter, or maybe you’re just wondering how they’ll age, you’ll want to make sure that you’re aging them right, and that’s the first thing you need to do.

Caitlin:    Yeah, so first off, does beer expire? It’s a common question and in most simple terms, no, it does not expire. It doesn’t go bad. You can still drink it, but the flavor changes, and age doesn’t generally create new flavors, but it lets some flavors fade while other flavors become more prominent and lighter beers change fastest and high temperatures will accelerate that process, but some beers do get better with age.

Mel:    Yes. I found this sweet little article from craftbeer.com that I thought was perfect. The perfect way to keep it short and simple. They say that they follow the three S’s as a quick way to determine which beers will age best. Strong, sour, and smoked. Normally, a high alcoholic percentage acidity and smoke phenols act as a type of like preservative, which in turn slows down the aging. Super strong beers tend to age sweetly while hoppy beers tend to lose their hop flavors and aroma as they age.

Mel:    That being said, your most commonly aged beers are porters, stouts, lambics, rauchbiers, which are your smoked beers and British-style barley wines. From fermenting to conditioning, beer undergoes a lot of changes, but at a certain point, it’s declared ready for shipment. The beer continues to change even when it leaves the brewery. For most of the beer styles, these changes are not necessarily good. Some of the first changes in beer is, like I said, the hopness aroma begins to dull really, really quickly, which is why you often hear about the freshest IPAs possible. You’ll commonly see cans of those beers with dates on them.

Caitlin:    Yeah, like you just flip them over, you’ll see some super serious beer drinkers always check because sometimes the grocery stores are known to put up old expired … I mean, not expired beer, but just IPAs that are like regular IPAs-

Mel:    Have been sitting out there, yeah.

Caitlin:    Yeah, for six months long. You can turn them upside down, sometimes actually breweries will print out a little fun little message with the expir-, or not the expiration date, but the packaging date. Now, hop aromas aren’t the only thing that begins to fade with age, hot bitterness will too. If you’ve ever had a light-colored beer or IPA with like little snowflakes in it, chances are, you’ve had a very old beer, these snowflakes develop from proteins in the beer.

Mel:    That’s so interesting. I don’t think had ever had that.

Caitlin:    It’s like, they’re like little chunky things and it’s not … It’s very worrying when you see it. I think it’s okay to drink, but like I’m never drinking.

Mel:    Right. Of course. Yeah, for those lighter styles, you’ll want to drink them as fresh as possible and that’s how the brewery intends so that you can have it, so how the brewer intended the beer to taste. Now, which styles are best for aging? Like I said, primarily ales. Some of the most interesting changes can be seen in bottle-conditioned ales and spontaneously fermented beers like what we’re drinking right now. These beers are considered “live” and undergo a massive change as they age gracefully, unlike filtered or pasteurized beers. Beers with an ABV of 7% or higher also tend to do well with aging. Caitlin, you guys know Caitlin and her books.

Caitlin:    I mean, we’re very far into the episode. I haven’t even mentioned one book. No, we did. We did the-

Mel:    Yeah, I did. It was your book, of course, but she pulled out this Tasting Beer book from Randy Mosher, your boy, like you said a couple episodes ago. It has the aging time for various beer types. We looked it over and it’s kind of what you guys would expect. It starts with the minimum aging time for Belgium Abbey Dubells, which are one to three years.

Caitlin:    What like brown or brown reds and …

Mel:    Dark ales.

Caitlin:    … They can age for one to seven years. The most shocking is the one at the bottom the-

Mel:    Yeah, the ultra strong ales, which can age from five to 100 years.

Caitlin:    Then ABV, they say that ABV can like hit 16 to 26%.

Mel:    That’s crazy.

Caitlin:    I wonder if that’s like there’s a similar beer to that Sam Adams Utopia, which is basically, it’s like the most expensive beer in the world.

Mel:    That’s crazy.

Caitlin:    It’s one that you don’t even refrigerate, and I don’t think it’s carbonated even, but it’s like, ugh.

Mel:    I don’t know. I don’t know.

Caitlin:    The 26% it’s like one of those, like once in a lifetime things, like bucket list things as a beer drinker.

Mel:    Right.

Caitlin:    Yeah, so now that you know what kind of beers are going to age best, it’s best to talk about how to keep them safe in your own cellar with the right conditions. Aging beers at home, it’s easy, it’s fun, and you get to notice the change that takes place over time. Speaking of though, first, I want to share a little pro tip when, if you’re really into aging beers and selling beers. Try to buy one or try to buy two, one to save one for now. Even if you’re really super interested, it’d be interesting to get, like, I don’t know. Imagine if I got to enjoy one every single year that I had this age, just to see how it changed. If it’s a beer that you really, really like a lot, and you have the budget for it, it would be fascinating to do. Not even budget, like willpower.

Mel:    Right. Have a little notebook and write down your tasting notes each year. That’d be so fun. Yeah.

Caitlin:    Yeah, I need to take better beer-tasting notes. That’s been a New Year’s resolution of mine for way too many years. It starts out strong, like if you go to my Untapped, like January and February, I’m checking in everything and then March just kind of-

Mel:    I know. I need to get better about Untapped. I was so good for a little bit, and then I just dropped off.

Caitlin:    It’s nice to have.

Mel:    For sure.

Caitlin:    For some of these episodes I can pull up and see what I had done.

Mel:    Yes, definitely. You mentioned you keep your, you cellar your beer in your closet. Do you want to tell them a little bit more about that?

Caitlin:    Yeah, so I do have like a wine rack for some of the stuff that are like bottles that I’m not really saving to age and they’re kind of tilted downwards, but then in my closet, I have like the fancy stuff. The stuff from Cantillon, Jester King, the stuff that is a little bit more sensitive to light, especially. I mean, they just kind of stay in my house. They’re not refrigerated. I try not to refrigerate it until they’re ready to like, we’re ready to drink them. But what about you? How are-

Mel:    Yeah, I have a little, I use one of my kitchen cupboards as my “cellar”, and I’m able to leave them standing in there. I really want to get, not that this is for aging purposes, but I really want to get like your wine rack for a lot of my other bottles that probably need to be on their sides.

Caitlin:    Ikea.

Mel:    Yeah. Does it come with that handy-

Caitlin:    No.

Mel:    Caitlin’s got a gorgeous slab marble on top of hers.

Caitlin:    It’s probably like 18 inches by 18 inches. Yeah.

Mel:    It’s amazing.

Caitlin:    Okay, so here’s the thing you said you were aging your beers in your cabinet, and that’s the thing, you can kind of really do it anywhere. There’s just two really big things you want to pay attention to. Temperature is the biggest one. The general rule is dark, dry and cool. Somewhere between 55 to 64 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal. Some variation that won’t hurt, but what matters most is consistency of temperature. I mentioned earlier that I kind of felt bad for it because I thought I was going to have this beer like a year or two ago, and I put it in the refrigerator after keeping it in my closet for so long. I kept it in the refrigerator for like a week or two, and I was like, “I’m not going to drink this,” and I pulled it back out. Doing that over and over again with these intense temperature changes can really mess up aging a beer or even-

Mel:    Even anything like food you’re not supposed to do that with or-

Caitlin:    No, and like even IPAs, you’re not supposed to do that with like, you need it … IPAs should generally be kept cold. You need to keep IPAs in the refrigerator all the time to keep them the freshest, but even still like, it’s okay if you can’t get the IPA in the frigerator right away. The thing is, it’s like you don’t want to put it in the fridge and then take it out and put in your car while you go hiking to have later night-

Mel:    Right, and then put it back in the fridge.

Caitlin:    Yeah, because those intense changes. Yeah, I don’t know. I think too, if you try not to direct sunlight, especially with these bottles, I think brown bottles are the only ones that actually keep out light.

Mel:    Yeah, and they’re brown for a reason. They’re meant to keep out light, so obviously you don’t want to just completely rely on, oh, it’s a dark bottle, it will be fine. You want to make sure you keep them in a nice and dark-

Caitlin:    Yeah, I don’t know if you remember those commercials, those Sam Adams commercials where they used to kind of highlight their, this was like back in the day before I was even drinking, I think I just remember them. I don’t know how I remember, but they sell their six packs of their Boston Lager in brown bottles and they would put them in really tall cardboard boxes. The commercials always said it was to keep out light and dah, dah, dah. I don’t think many beer drinkers, like they did good marketing, I think with presenting it in a way that was like, “This is important to beer and it matters to us,” so it was kind of stuff like that.

Mel:    Interesting. Well, speaking of bottles, let’s talk about bottles and cans and glasses. Generally speaking with cork bottles, they should be laid on their sides to keep the corks from drying out, shrinking and leaking carbonation, especially if you’re going to age them for more than a year.

Caitlin:    I think that’s what you do with like wine.

Mel:    Wines too, right?

Caitlin:    Because if the corks dry out, I think they shrink and then they’ll like slip back, but if you keep them a little moist, that’s good. I think that changes though if you do something, like if you’re aging it for a seriously long time, I don’t know, but generally, a couple, several years.

Mel:    Yes, and like Caitlin said, they should also be put in the refrigerator when you’re ready to drink them because temperature changes can cost the cork to swell and shrink, which is obviously not good.

Caitlin:    Yes. Yeah, and then also too, speaking of crowlers, like crowlers and growlers, looking at those, how can you store that beer? How can … Crowlers have a few weeks if they’re filled correctly. I don’t know. I’ve had a crowler for a really long time. Granted it was a really dark beer in there, but it came out and still was kind of foamy and I’m talking like several months.

Mel:    Oh, I’m like a year plus.

Caitlin:    Okay. The thing is, is that when they last that long … To do it correctly when, if they’re not filled up correctly, it will be a few days, maybe a week or two. But to fill them correctly, they take the can and you’ll see it when they’re doing it, but they take some air, I don’t know, carbon, nitrogen, and they use it to push out the oxygen from the crowler and then they fill it up. Basically, they’re removing as much oxygen from the container as they can because oxygen is bad and it will cause a beer to go bad really quickly.

Caitlin:    Growlers on the other hand, you have like a few days with those and then once you start opening them or once you open them, they start going flat that very second.

Mel:    Immediately.

Caitlin:    Yeah. I will say though, if you are really interested, like if you go through growlers a lot and you’re [inaudible 00:11:20] preserving some that beer, like a uKeg or like a pressurized growler with like this acts more like a tap line, like a keg would be great. Because I think it’s vacuum-sealed. It has air in it that dispenses it perfectly. Yeah. I don’t know. It’s hard thinking about it because there’s so many different situations of containers and now I’ve noticed too, a lot of these beers, like heavy stouts that typically come in these big bottles, they’re now in cans.

Mel:    Yeah, which is super interesting.

Caitlin:    Yeah, and I think you would age them normally. You don’t have to worry about position or anything, but-

Mel:    Because there’s no cork or anything, yeah. Speaking of, something that I love about aging beer, like storing beer is when you find a really good beer that you love and they come out with a yearly series of it. More or less known as vertical tastings.

Caitlin:    Yes. Yes.

Mel:    My favorite one that I could think of, and unfortunately this wasn’t something that I personally stored, but it was at Uncle Billy’s Brewery here in Austin, which closed a year or so ago. They had their annual Shokolad, which was a chocolate Imperial stout.

Caitlin:    I think I’ve had this one.

Mel:    Which is so freaking delicious.

Caitlin:    So good.

Mel:    One of my favorite beers ever, and my husband’s favorite beer ever. They came out, they had released I think the first one in 2015 and then every year afterwards. Last year they did, or I think it must’ve been two years ago before they closed. They did a vertical tasting of it where you could go get a flight of the ’15, ’16, seven, yes, ’15, ’16, ’17, and ’18.

Caitlin:    Then wasn’t there like a barrel-aged version too?

Mel:    Yes, they had a barrel-aged version. Oh my gosh, amazing.

Caitlin:    Yeah, it was like … That’s what you get with a vertical flight, and I don’t know. They definitely take, because imagine Uncle Billy’s what’d you say the first year was like-

Mel:    I think 2015 or 2014.

Caitlin:    Yeah, like they had to be holding back that beer with the idea of being able to offer this. I mean, they were probably … I think breweries hold back a lot of beer and they’re just not telling us, but so maybe they did that and then it’s like, “All right, yeah, let’s just do it.”

Mel:    They definitely hold back beer without telling us because, so Uncle Billy’s closed. I haven’t told you this, so anybody who’s listening this is like …

Caitlin:    Off the record.

Mel:    … Off the record. No, Uncle Billy’s closed in October of last year and the next door to them, they opened Ski Shores, which is owned by the same people, and they’re serving Uncle Billy’s beer. We went a couple of weeks ago and they had the Shokolad, and then we went like a couple of days, like maybe a week or so later, and they had their Abbey Triple.

Caitlin:    Okay, so those are, it’s not like they’re even selling old beers. It’s like they’re selling whatever …

Mel:    Whatever they had left.

Caitlin:    … That could be aged. That’s probably-

Mel:    Yeah, and then they have like their Berdoll Brown, which is also delicious.

Caitlin:    Yeah, that’s a good one.

Mel:    I know, and so I was like, “Look at you guys, sneaky sneaks.”

Caitlin:    Well, technically they haven’t closed completely. They’re just opening a new tap room.

Mel:    Well, supposedly they’re not even going to make beer. They’re just going to focus on their spirits.

Caitlin:    Yeah.

Mel:    Anywho.

Caitlin:    Anywho.

Mel:    Moving on. I loved Uncle Billy.

Caitlin:    Yeah, it was a good place.

Mel:    Well, so what are your favorite like vertical beer tastings that you’ve had?

Caitlin:    I’m currently working on one with the Hardywood Gingerbread Stout. It’s a brewery back in Virginia. They come out with a Gingerbread Stout every single year. The tricky part about this is they never put the labels on or the year label, like anything about the year on the label, you have no idea. I’m kind of confused about which ones are which. I’m going to have to do some research.

Mel:    Next time you get one, you’re going to have to write the date on with Sharpie.

Caitlin:    My family sends me every year for Christmas. Then too, I’ve also had a Pumpkinator vertical flight, which it’s the Saint Arnold’s Pumpkin Ale, which are just right around the corner. I can not wait till we do a pumpkin beer flight episode.

Mel:    Oh my God, Caitlin. Can we get a bunch of pumpkin candles and light them all around? I’m so excited for-

Caitlin:    And candy corn.

Mel:    I don’t like candy corn. I’m so excited for fall.

Caitlin:    It’ll be here before you know it.

Mel:    Not in Texas. Well, at least not the temperatures.

Caitlin:    I think we’ve peaked. We should be like going back down.

Mel:    Girl, it’s barely August. We always peak in like late August.

Caitlin:    I know the peak’s coming soon. That’s the thing,

Mel:    Hopefully, hopefully.

Caitlin:    Okay. Yeah. Now, you guys know a little bit more about aging and storing beers. As always, if you have any questions about this stuff, maybe there’s something we didn’t cover, drop it down the comments on our show notes and we’ll definitely answer it for you.

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