How to Tell If Beer is Stale

There are more than fifty-eight styles of beer, and many types of the fermented beverage around the world. Next to wine, beer is thought to be the oldest beverage in history. In order to enjoy the best-tasting you can get, no matter what type or style it is, you need to tell if beer is stale.

Beer is no different from any other manufactured food product or drink: it tastes the best when it’s fresh. And, just like any other product, beer doesn’t stay fresh forever. Everytime you go to the grocery store, carry out, or convenience store to buy some beer, you’re assuming the beer they sell there is fresh. That’s not always so. For example, if the store owner doesn’t sell alot of this particular beverage, or a particular brand of beer quickly, you could be buying beer that’s outdated. Outdated beer is never fresh, it’s always stale.

So, how can you tell if beer is stale? One way is to check the “born on” dates that are stamped on the bottles or cans. Anheuser-Busch started applying these dates to their products so consumers could see for themselves when the beer was made. It takes approximately a month’s time to make a batch of beer. Then, tack on an additional week for the packaging and the shipping to take place. That tells you that beer is approximately thirty-seven days old by the time it arrives at your local store. Still fresh? Probably so. (Since imported beer as to travel much farther to reach store shelves, it’s older yet.) Anheuser-Busch considers its beer to be fresh for four months from the “born on” dates on the bottles or cans, for example. How long different brands of beers stay fresh actually depends on the manufacturer’s own time table.

But, other than looking at the bottle or can of beer for its “born date”, then calculating whether it’s fresh or stale by how old it is, there are other ways how to tell if beer is stale or not. The best way to do this is by pure taste. You see, even if a beer is within its “fresh, drinkable age”, if it didn’t come from the manufacturer fresh, then it didn’t arrive at the store fresh either. And, of course, you bought stale beer.

One telltale sign how to tell if beer is stale or not, is if it tastes like decayed fruits or vegetables.
When a beer is being processed, if air gets into the bottle or can, it can easily turn stale. Or, if the beer has been stored in or around bright lights, it can turn stale. That’s why beer should always be stored in a cool, dry, dark place. It should always be stored with its top up. And, the bottles and cans shouldn’t be moved around so the lids stay tight and the cans don’t get punctured.

Some types of beer that have been exposed to excessive light smell like sulfur, or like rotten eggs. Beer can also take on an unusually sharp taste when it becomes stale too. This happens when the alcohol has changed into vinegar.

And finally, besides being consumed within a certain time period, and store properly away from light, beer that’s made with old ingredients will produce a stale beverage. Beer is made by brewing hops, barley, yeast, and water. If any of these ingredients aren’t fresh, then your beer isn’t going to be the best either. How to tell if beer is stale, because it has old ingredients, is to smell it. If it smells like freshly-cut grass, the barley or the hops were probably not fresh. Beer made with stale water will have a flat taste.

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