Dan: I was told that beer over 90 days old should be destroyed and yet I see all these imports and boutique beers on the shelves much longer. What’s up with that?
Bob: What’s up with that? While most beers are best enjoyed fresh, there is no time-lapse poison pill in the bottle that spoils it on midnight of the 90th day after it leaves the brewery. Ninety days is an arbitrary figure set forth by some of the major breweries to enforce stock rotation by their distributors. While stock rotation is not necessarily a bad thing, it would be simplistic to deem that a beer younger than 90 days is inherently better than a beer that’s not. The fact is that well-crafted, well-packaged, well-cared-for beer will last much, much longer than 90 days. Beer packaging is a sanitary process. It’s not going to spoil or “go bad.” Indeed, there are some beers that will age nicely and can be kept like wine.
Yes, beer can get too old. Some can languish on the shelf and the quality will deteriorate over time. But they won’t be “spoiled” – they just won’t be as good as they should be if fresh. A good rule of thumb when dealing with beers that might be a bit musty is that those with higher alcohol and greater complexity hold up best. Beers that are stored cool and not subjected to temperature fluctuations do as well. I have enjoyed beer that has been kept for five or more years.
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