Friday, February 17, 2012

Why Drink Fresh Beer

Beer is a perishable product, so it deserves to be consumed and treated as such. While it is true that many beers can be "cellared" under the right conditions: primarily when they have a high ABV (8% minimum) and they are stored (upright) in a dark, cool environment (50-55F).

However, most beer one finds on the shelves is meant to be consumed within three to six months, at most. One brewery that has been vocal about the mission to provide fresh beer to its customers is Stone Brewing Co. Stone brews nine year-round beers which they adamantly encourage are to be consumed fresh. To help ensure this, Stone offers a web page called "Report Expired Beer," which is where the consumer can go if they find a store carrying "old" Stone beers.

So what's old? According to the "Report Expired Beer" page, it depends on the style. In general, beers with the highest hop concentrations, such as Pale Ales and India Pale Ales (IPA), tend to have the shortest shelf life. This is because the hop presence in these beers will fade fast. "Hopheads" out there make it their mission to get their IPAs and Double IPAs (DIPAs) as fresh as possible.

Stone always lists an "Enjoy By" date near the necks of their year-round bottles. If you see a bottle on the shelf that is "expired," according to the date on the bottle, Stone asks that you report it to them so they can work with the retailer to get fresh beer in stock. Stone also offers the following guide for freshness:

Stone Pale Ale - 90 days after bottling
Stone IPA - 90 days after bottling
Stone Ruination IPA - 90 days after bottling
Stone Levitation Ale - 90 days after bottling
OAKED Arrogant Bastard Ale - 90 days after bottling
Arrogant Bastard Ale - 90 days after bottling

Stone Smoked Porter - 120 days after bottling
Stone Cali-Belgique IPA - 120 days after bottling
Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale - 120 days after bottling

The special bottle of Stone IPA pictured above is a subtle reminder to retailers and customers that freshness counts. Stone Brewing Co. has been releasing randomly scattered bottles with these infographics to their accounts. Perhaps it's good luck to find one!

Not all breweries stamp bottling dates on their brews. Sometimes dates are stamped on case boxes, on the bottle cap, or on six-pack holders. Sometimes there's no date. Always feel free to talk with your favored retailer about when the beer arrived in the store so you can ensure its freshness.

*Image from The Stone Blog

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