How Long Does Beer Last? Storage, Longevity, & Shelf Life Best Practices

Beer, the world’s third most popular drink after water and tea, has been a staple in social gatherings and casual evenings for centuries. But have you ever wondered, “How long does beer last?”

What factors affect its shelf life, and how can you keep it fresh and flavorful for as long as possible?

Worry not, dear reader, for we have compiled the ultimate guide to beer storage and shelf life, covering everything from packaging types to recognizing spoiled beer. So, let’s raise a glass and explore the fascinating world of beer preservation!

Key Takeaways

  • Optimizing packaging types, storage conditions and beer styles can extend the shelf life of beer.
  • Properly storing in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight and heat sources is essential for preserving quality.
  • Consume within 3 to 6 months of expiration date for optimal taste & quality.

Factors Affecting Beer Shelf Life

Several factors, such as packaging types, storage conditions, and beer styles, significantly influence beer shelf life. By understanding and optimizing these factors, you can prolong the freshness and tastiness of your beer.

For example, cans and beer bottles, including the whole beer bottle, are the most common types of packaging for beer.

Packaging Types

The type of container your beer is stored in can greatly impact its shelf life. Canned beer, for example, offers a longer shelf life and better protection from light exposure and oxygen compared to bottled beer, making it the superior choice for packaged beer.

Particularly, light exposure accelerates beer spoilage and reduces the enjoyment of drinking. However, cans effectively guard against light exposure and oxygen, thereby helping to prevent the beer from expiring.

However, if you prefer bottled beer, opt for darker bottles that block out ultraviolet rays.

Storage Conditions

Maintaining the freshness and flavor of your beer heavily relies on appropriate storage. Aspects such as temperature, container, bottling time, and beer variant are all critical when considering beer storage. Keeping beer in a refrigerator can extend its viability up to two years.

Keep beer in an upright position to limit air contact. Store beer around 13°C (55°F) and shield it from direct sunlight and heat sources to prevent spoilage.

Beer Styles

Not all beers are created equal when it comes to shelf life. Hoppy beers, lagers, and ales typically have a shorter shelf life, while darker or aged beers, such as stouts, porters, barley wines, and Belgian ales, can last longer.

As beer ages, certain flavor components undergo changes due to oxygen reacting with compounds from malt, yeast, and hops, leading to a decrease in bitterness and an increase in sweet, sherry-like flavors.

This process is known as aging beer.

In general, beers with a low alcohol content have a shelf life of up to 6 months, whereas those with a high alcohol content can remain viable for up to 1-2 years, especially if it’s unopened bottled beer.

How Long Does Beer Last by Container?

Beer Container/TypeRefrigeratorCellarPantry
Bottle2 Years2 to 10 Years6 Months to 1 Year
Can1 to 2 years1 to 2 Years6 Months to 1 Year
Untapped KegNot Applicable6 to 8 MonthsNot Applicable
Vintage Bottles5 to 10 yearsMore than 10 years5 years
Opened ContainerLess than a dayFew HoursFew Hours
Tapped KegNot Applicable40 daysNot Applicable
Growler3-5 Days3-5 DaysFew Hours

To gain a better understanding of your favorite brew’s shelf life, consider the average shelf life estimates for canned beer, bottled beer, and kegs.

Remember, these are only estimates, so always verify the beer’s expiration date and use your senses to ensure freshness and quality.

Canned beer typically has a shelf life of around three months, while bottled beer can last up to a year.

Canned Beer

Canned beer boasts an impressive shelf life of 1-2 years, thanks to its sealed and lightless nature. The can’s design helps protect the beer from oxidizing and developing off flavors, which are common culprits of spoilage.

Additionally, canned beer is less susceptible to skunkiness, which can result from light exposure. Overall, canned beer is a great option for those looking to enjoy a fresh and flavorful brew with minimal storage concerns.

Bottled Beer

Bottled beer has an estimated shelf life of 6 months to 2 years, depending on storage conditions. Some factors that can affect the shelf life of bottled beer include:

  • Storage conditions: Beer should be stored in a cool, dark place to prevent spoilage.
  • Bottle color: Amber bottles offer better protection from light, which can cause beer to spoil more quickly. Green bottles are also recommended.
  • Temperature: Bottled beer can spoil quickly if stored at a warm temperature. In some cases, it may take as little as three months for the beer to become bad.

It’s important to check the expiration date on bottled beer and to store it properly to ensure its quality.

To get the most out of your bottled beer, opt for darker bottles that offer better protection from UV rays and store them in a cool, dark place.


Kegs, while great for parties and large gatherings, have their limitations when it comes to long-term beer storage. With an estimated shelf life of less than a year, kegs are not the ideal choice for those looking to age their beer.

Modern breweries typically utilize fermentation machinery featuring built-in temperature locks to help maintain the quality of their beer.

However, some specialty and traditional breweries still utilize wooden kegs, which may not provide the same level of temperature control.

Recognizing Spoiled Beer

Finding out that your favorite brew has gone bad while drinking is disappointing. Spotting signs of spoiled beer can help avert this disappointment and keep your beverage fresh and appetizing.

Common indicators of spoiled beer include off flavors, a stale taste, a skunk-like smell, and a cloudy appearance.

Off Flavors

Off flavors in beer can be caused by oxidation, bacterial contamination, and improper storage. These flavors can include skunky, oxidized, sour, metallic, yeasty, and rotten or spoiled tastes, which are not characteristic of a fresh beer.

To identify off flavors, pay close attention to any changes in taste or smell that seem out of the ordinary. To prevent off flavors, store your beer in a cool, dark place and consume it before the expiration date.

Stale Taste & Smell

A stale taste and smell can be indicative of beer spoilage due to heat, oxidation, or light exposure. For example, a skunk-like smell in your beer may be the result of exposure to excessive UV light.

A pungent odor or an oxidized, stale flavor can also suggest that your beer is no longer fit for consumption. To avoid a stale taste and smell, ensure that your beer is stored correctly and kept away from sources of heat and light.

Cloudy Appearance

A cloudy or hazy appearance in your beer may be indicative of bacterial contamination, posing potential food poisoning risks. Consuming contaminated beer can result in food poisoning, making it important to recognize the signs of a cloudy beer and avoid consumption.

To prevent cloudy beer, store it in a cool, dark place and consume it before the expiration date.

Can You Drink Expired Beer?

Generally, drinking expired beer is safe, but it may taste unpleasant due to exposure to light and air, especially if consumed past its expiration date.

Beer that has expired may take on an unpalatable taste as a result of exposure to light and air. However, if the beer doesn’t show any signs of spoilage and you’re willing to risk the potentially unpleasant taste, you can still drink expired beer without any serious health concerns.

Tips for Extending Beer Shelf Life

Adhering to proper storage practices, maintaining a consistent temperature, and consuming before the expiration date can help maximize your beer’s shelf life and freshness.

By following these simple tips, you can prolong the life of your beer and enjoy it at its peak quality.

Proper Storage

To prevent spoilage and maintain freshness, store your beer in a cool, dark place in an upright position. Optimal storage practices for beer include:

  • Keeping it in a cool and dark environment
  • Keeping it away from direct sunlight and heat sources
  • Storing it upright to preserve oxidation and carbonation levels

By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your craft beer remains fresh and delicious for as long as possible.

Temperature Control

The storage temperature of your beer significantly affects its quality and freshness. It’s recommended to store beer at temperatures between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit (10-13°C).

Storing beer in a fridge at a temperature range of 34 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit (1-2°C) can also help ensure optimal freshness.

Be mindful of the freezing point of beer with 5% alcohol by volume, which is 27 degrees Fahrenheit (-3°C), to avoid any freezing mishaps.

Consuming Before Expiration Date

For the best taste and experience, consume beer before its expiration date, typically indicated on the label or packaging. The exact period of time may vary depending on the type of beer and how it has been stored.

In general, it’s advisable to consume beer within 3 to 6 months of the beer expiration date to ensure optimal taste and quality.


In conclusion, understanding the factors affecting beer shelf life and following proper storage methods can help you keep your beer fresh and flavorful.

Whether it’s canned, bottled, or kegged, knowing the signs of spoilage and how to prevent it will ensure that you can always raise a glass and enjoy a delicious, satisfying brew. Cheers to that!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does beer expire or go bad?

Yes, beer does expire and can go bad. Over time, it loses its flavor and qualities such as foam and carbonation.

While this doesn’t make the beer unsafe to drink, it will not taste pleasant and will contain numerous beer faults.

Can you drink beer 2 years out of date?

Consuming beer that is 2 years past its expiration date may not be unsafe, but it could taste off and potentially make you sick.

Therefore, it is best to consume beer within 5-9 months of the expiration date for optimal taste and safety.

How long can beer be stored?

Bottled beer can last up to six months when stored in a refrigerated area, however if kept in warm conditions it will expire after three months.

When stored in the refrigerator, beer can remain fresh for up to two or three years beyond the expiration date.

Does beer last longer in bottles or cans?

Overall, cans tend to last longer than bottles when it comes to beer; however, both types of packaging have their limitations.

Darker bottles last longer than clear ones and beer typically has a shelf life of six to nine months before losing its quality.

How can I recognize off flavors in beer?

Pay close attention to any out-of-the-ordinary flavors like skunky, oxidized, sour, metallic, yeasty, or rotten – these are telltale signs of off flavors in beer.

These off flavors can be caused by a variety of factors, such as improper storage, contamination, or a bad brewing process. Knowing what to look for can help you identify and avoid bad beer.

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