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Bitter Beer Face
January 15, 2010 12:36 AM   Subscribe

A few commercially bottled beer questions for people who know beer:

I've been led to believe that the worst enemies of beer are heat and sunlight.
Anheuser-Busch does "Born-on-dating", and regularly rotates stock past a certain age. Coors insists their beer always remains cold.
My first inclination is to believe that Coors beer a year old is better than AB's 1-month-old beer, assuming they never guaranteed it wouldn't sit at room temperature (I've seen AB do that in stores).
I'm thinking the "born-on" thing is just a gimmick to suggest value when there is none, but maybe I've missed something.
Meanwhile, you have beers in clear bottles, which by theory would be inherently evil. So...

1. Am I right in thinking the born-on thing is just a gimmick to suggest value where there is none?
2. Do they really dump "expired" beer? A quick search led me to a lawsuit where a distributor was accused of selling expired AB. If they do throw it away, how is that smart? I know Coors has a lot of catching up to do market-share-wise, but isn't their idea smarter and just a less effective ad campaign?
3. Why does Newcastle taste so good in a clear bottle? I'll skip Corona and Landshark, but also entering the fray recently in clear bottles are MGD64 and Bud Select 55 (which is probably just an answer to MGD, clear bottle and all) - Has there been a breakthrough in beer tech which allows sunlight to pass with no harm, or is the beer just not that beer-y enough that it matters?
4. Personally, I don't care for Heineken, Grolsch, Rolling Rock, or anything else in a green bottle. Again, I've been led to believe this is almost as bad as a clear bottle, but is it me, the bottle, or coincidence?
posted by hypersloth to Food & Drink (43 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Beer ages and changes with age, though pasteurised beer is less susceptible to changes. There is a life cycle for beer, after which it is past its best. Temperature accelerates the breakdown of hop oils, so keeping it cold is a good thing. I think AB also aim to keep their distribution chilled.

Sunlight damages beer by isomerising certain of the hop compounds, giving it a skunky taste. The skunky taste of, say, Heineken or Becks or Corona became part of what people liked about that beer. Some find that they don't like draught Heineken when they drink it in Europe because it isn't lightstruck.

It is possible to make beer with hop extracts that are not susceptible to light. Some of the bigger breweries do this.

Green bottles are as bad as clear bottles, or almost as bad, as you suggest. Only brown (amber) blocks the light frequencies that cause the isomerisation to happen.

I heard an informal experiment on a podcast a while back where someone was looking to see how much light would cause a beer to be lightstruck and taste skunky. It took something like an hour in a fridge with a fluorescent light, or just a few minutes in sunlight.

Best to store beer cool / cold and out of light. Better not to keep it too long, though higher alcohol levels help a beer to keep, and some Belgian beers will put a 25-year life on the label.
posted by sagwalla at 1:16 AM on January 15, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'd take the claim that Coors is shipped cold with a large grain of salt. Unless you're in their supply chain watching it move, I call BS. I've watched the delivery truck roll up to the O club on the base where I work, and it's not a reefer. I call similar BS on AB.
posted by fixedgear at 1:35 AM on January 15, 2010


Beer industry guy here. I'll leave the bottle color questions to people who know the production side of things, but I've got a decent-ish perspective on the retail parts.

Coors doesn't insist that we keep their beer cold. We have one of the biggest Coors retail accounts in the area, and we would have to refrigerate Coors at the exclusion of all of the other beers' fair shares of the cold box if that were the case. I think most other stores would have the same problem. Coors does have marketing campaigns where they stress the importance of "cold-brewing" and serving beer cold (e.g. those silly mountains that turn blue when the bottle gets cold), but we regularly keep hundreds of units of Coors at room temperature. Our distributors would say something if this weren't in keeping with Coors policy. Incidentally, this sounds like one of those pre-viral truisms incidental to the real marketing campaigns that Coors (smartly) hasn't bothered to quash.

When bottled/canned beers are delivered from any manufacturer (through a distributor), they're usually not drinking-temp cold when they arrive. They're never any degree of warm (I check), even here in AZ, but usually room temp or cooler.

We don't usually dump expired beer at our store. For the high-volume stuff, anything that goes out-of-date gets replaced by the distributor for the same item. As far as I can tell, the distributor dumps it and writes it off as a loss.

Occasionally, we'll dump product that expires only if it won't be replaced. This would probably only happen to a seasonal beer a season-or-so after it's produced. Usually, though, if we have a cache of product that is set to expire, we'll hold a tasting of that product (writing off the cost of the free beer we give away) and try to sell the rest. This has only happened on one or two heart-wrenching occasions. We never put old beers on clearance.
posted by The Potate at 1:47 AM on January 15, 2010 [5 favorites]


This has only happened on one or two heart-wrenching occasions.
By "this," I meant "dumping." Tastings happen weekly.
posted by The Potate at 1:50 AM on January 15, 2010


Thanks, insightful so far.. Don't get me wrong, I'm not shilling for Coors or anything; I know almost nothing about it - despite my concerns, I drink mainly AB, being in St. Louis and not allowed exposure to much else :)
I'm still curious about Newcastle, and why it's so damned delicious.

It is possible to make beer with hop extracts that are not susceptible to light. Some of the bigger breweries do this
That's gotta be a new technology, right?
posted by hypersloth at 1:59 AM on January 15, 2010


I don't know about other beer companies but Becks uses a special glass with UV filter for its clear bottles: After two years of research and development, Beck's has introduced the first clear glass bottle with built-in protection from the harmful ultraviolet (U.V.) rays of the sun and indoor lighting. That was at the end of the 1990s.

This might also be of interest to you: Light Absorption by Various Beer Bottle Glass
posted by jfricke at 3:28 AM on January 15, 2010


1. Am I right in thinking the born-on thing is just a gimmick to suggest value where there is none?
2. Do they really dump "expired" beer? A quick search led me to a lawsuit where a distributor was accused of selling expired AB. If they do throw it away, how is that smart? I know Coors has a lot of catching up to do market-share-wise, but isn't their idea smarter and just a less effective ad campaign?


Hi, former AB Beer Swamper here!

1. No, they really do rotate stock and it really does taste better that way. Before the born-on date, we had little secret notches on the label to tell us when the beer needed to be pulled. Corporate decided that this was a marketing opportunity lost and changed it to the easily calcuable born on date.

2. Yes, it is destroyed. Composted in fact I do believe.

As for Coors claims of always being cold, they all (try to) keep their beer cold. It is shipped in cold rail cars, kept in a cold warehouse, and distributed in cold trucks. Once it is at the store, well, then it is the store's beer. Many stores (mostly big box and grocery stores) keep beer in un chilled racks in the back. That goes for Coors too. Smaller stores tend to store less excess and have the distributor put the beer right into the coolers. You might consider buying at smaller retailers if you believe that always being cold is so important.

One more tip: always wipe the top of your can or bottle before drinking. There is a lot of dust and funk in the back of stores and employees use cases of beer as step stools to reach upper shelves.
posted by Pollomacho at 4:54 AM on January 15, 2010


As sagwalla explained so sagely, it's the hops in particular that are ruined by light. Newcastle is very lightly hopped, so I expect that makes it less susceptible to skunking. I imagine also that as Newcastle's flavor is quite rich compared to the other beers in this thread, whatever does go wrong as a result of the clear bottles is largely masked.
posted by tsmo at 4:54 AM on January 15, 2010


4. Personally, I don't care for Heineken, Grolsch, Rolling Rock, or anything else in a green bottle. Again, I've been led to believe this is almost as bad as a clear bottle, but is it me, the bottle, or coincidence?
...
Only brown (amber) blocks the light frequencies that cause the isomerisation to happen.


A friend of mine once explained skunking to me in the context of: "Remember those horrible Blu-Blocker sunglasses they used to sell on TV? And how their selling point was that they blocked UV rays, but they were that ugly-ass shade of brown? Same idea with beer bottles! That ugly shade of brown blocks the wavelengths that break down the hop oils."

So when I'm fermenting beer at home (which is fun! You should try it!), I cover my clear glass carboys with brown paper bags, keeping them in comforting darkness as they burble and bubble.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:39 AM on January 15, 2010


A (very) little about Miller's hop extracts. And here's an informal test of skunking moderately-hopped beer.

For what it's worth, even beer in brown bottles will get skunky eventually (who knows how long it's been sitting in the case!), which is why you're best off buying 12-packs (which are entirely closed to light) or those new Sam Adams sixers (mostly closed). Or cans: cans are great (plus you can take them camping).
posted by uncleozzy at 5:56 AM on January 15, 2010


As someone slightly on "the inside" of some industry buzz, I've heard great concern a couple of times about pallets of beer sitting around in warehouses due to distributorship issues - the concern being that the "optimum" age of the beer is slowly ticking away.

Now many beers, on the other hand, can actually be aged and stored for years. Probably nothing coming from a macrobrew place. But anything with sufficient alcohol or hops (or various other combinations) can set just fine in cool, dark environments. Not at all unlike certain wines.
posted by carlh at 5:56 AM on January 15, 2010


While brewers typically bottle beer in brown bottles to prevent light from getting in, it would be cheaper and easier to recycle beer bottles if they were clear glass. And beer makers are working on that. Forbes explains that some producers such as Miller Genuine Draft and Newcastle Brown Ale use what’s called a modified hop product in which they extract certain compounds from the hops and chemically modify it so that it is no longer photochemically active.
posted by zamboni at 6:04 AM on January 15, 2010


Newcastle and its ilk taste better even with clear bottles because there's just plain more malt and hops (i.e. flavor) in each bottle. English brown ales (of which Newcastle is a fine example) are generally not particularly hop-y anyhow, so there's not a lot of the hop oils to be funkified by light.

As far as Coors' marketing department's focus on keeping the beer cold, well, it's a lager, which is a beer that is by definition brewed cold. Well, fermented cold. They still have to boil the stuff at the outset.
posted by Jon_Evil at 6:15 AM on January 15, 2010


3. Why does Newcastle taste so good in a clear bottle? I'll skip Corona and Landshark, but also entering the fray recently in clear bottles are MGD64 and Bud Select 55 (which is probably just an answer to MGD, clear bottle and all) - Has there been a breakthrough in beer tech which allows sunlight to pass with no harm, or is the beer just not that beer-y enough that it matters?

Newcastle is an ale, most of the other beers you mention are lagers. The flavor's not as delicate as a straw-colored lager-- it's made with darker malts and more hops, and the fermentation process is totally different: lagers are brewed cold in a "bottom fermentation" and ales are brewed warmer in a "top fermentation" by two very different yeast varieties. Ales can have a lot of fermentation byproducts that contribute to the flavor of the finished product, where the lagering process makes for a "cleaner" tasting beer.

So number three isn't apples to apples.

And this sounds pretentious but Newcastle's clear bottles do, I think, affect the flavor of the beer. Newcastle imported to the US in 12oz bottles tastes a bit different from the Newcastle you buy in the UK in 500ml bottles. A lot of this is probably sheer age and the environment of the ship's hold that it traveled in, but my suspicion is that the light compounds it. I really, really hate to be the guy saying "oh, this product is superior in the country where it was made!" but I sincerely believe it in this case. But imported Newcastle is still very good. Except for the draft stuff-- that's entirely different from the stuff that comes out of the bottle and it's really unremarkable.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:20 AM on January 15, 2010


1. Am I right in thinking the born-on thing is just a gimmick to suggest value where there is none?

This is my suspicion. I'm sure there are any number of people who will tell you why fresh beer is better, but I'm just old enough to remember one thing: when I was around college-aged, Sam Adams started advertising how they didn't ship any beer until it got to be a certain age, because they felt it was better that way. Given it wouldn't be cost-effective for the major brewers to do the same, AB introduced freshness dating with a huge marketing blitz. Given the relative sizes of their marketing budgets, the freshness thing apparently caught on with buyers, to the point where even Sam Adams has "freshness dating" or whatever they call it.

I have no idea if either claim is true. I don't particularly care either as a beer is better than no beer, but that episode lift a bitter taste in my mouth and skunked any claims of freshness = quality in my mind.

As for bottles: the darker the bottle, the more UV light it blocks (and the less likely the beer will skunk). If Newcastle always tastes fine to you, it's because you buy it in twelve packs. Buy a 6 pack that's sitting at the front of the cooler in the store a couple of times and you'll get a skunked one. I'm eagerly awaiting microbrew canned beers in our area. See last month's Bon Appetit for why.
posted by yerfatma at 6:20 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


that episode lift a bitter taste in my mouth and skunked any claims of freshness = quality in my mind.

Reconsider. Most normal-strength beers are best when they're relatively young--this is particularly true for hoppy styles like (American) pale ales and IPAs. Hop aroma and flavor fade with age. Of course, many styles are better with a little age on them.

Is fresh beer better? I don't know, is fresh cheese better?
posted by uncleozzy at 6:45 AM on January 15, 2010


The beverages you named are to beer what "American Processed Cheese Food" is to cheese. There is no escaping that simple fact. You may enjoy either of these things, but they are what they are.

Interesting to note, an artisanal brewery here in Switzerland is bottling in aluminum bottles. It seems mostly okay, but we've had a few flat ones.

I can think of no Belgian beer that is not in brown glass. But then, that isn't what y'all call "normal beer".
posted by Goofyy at 6:58 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, beer gets bad., but I think it's more age than light

I drank a (brown) bottle of Otter Creek beer last winter, and it was awful. I emailed them with the date code from the bottle and received an email in reply, telling my pityingly that my beer was over 9 months old, and I really should be drinking faster. :7)

It was my fault -- I just don't drink very fast -- but they offered to reimburse me for the whole 12-pack. *boggle* Instead I asked for a t-shirt (which I got) and now I drink slightly more often. I buy mostly Otter Creek: they did right by me. <>
posted by wenestvedt at 6:58 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've only run into one beer that makes a big deal about refrigeration end-to-end: Berkshire Brewing Company. It's unfiltered and unpasteurized, although it will still keep for a while even if it's not refrigerated. Obviously the beer store may not bother following the directions, but mine does and only sells it out of the coolers.
posted by smackfu at 7:10 AM on January 15, 2010


Old (oxidized) beer tastes like cardboard, and the overall impression is duller and muted.

After years of homebrewing I've become spoiled for good, fresh beer. Although I love craft beers, it can be easier to get fresher product from the mega-brewers, who can also afford sophisticated technology to prevent oxygen from getting into the cans or bottles. Heat accelerates the undesirable oxidation reactions, and shelf life is improved by the absence of of oxygen.

As noted above, stronger styles of beer tend to benefit from aging and can tolerate more abuse. Active yeast in the bottle (as could be found in Sierra Nevada and some craft beers) will also scavenge oxygen to preserve freshness.
posted by exogenous at 7:27 AM on January 15, 2010


southern country living observation: out where I live the most consumed beers are blue-can domestics (eg: lite, ice, dry, and other awful brews). furthermore, retailers don't sell enough premium beer to care about storing it properly. and, the pervasive heat, and distance from the distributor's cold case means that my beloved Newcastle gets heat-damaged (technical description: "Oldcastled") in the actual refrigerated beer truck, just from being stacked near the trailer wall where the sun's heat can penetrate. same with guinness, bass, red stripe, and whatever.

have you ever had a guinness that tasted like rancid bacon? I hope you never do.

so if I want anything approaching a proper beer, I look for something with close to opaque brown bottles, an extra tall six-pack container and extra long neck foil. consequently I drink a lot of Negra Modelo and not much of anything else.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:27 AM on January 15, 2010


I'm a bit puzzled. Don't beers have a best by date? My beers do, 6 month to a year for the macrobrews. More like 3 month for the micros. After the best by date the taste is off (blech), but it won't kill you.
(mmmmm Uerige, Füchschen, Schlüssel, Schumacher gotta get me some)
posted by mmkhd at 7:34 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Finally something I'm good at!!!


1. Am I right in thinking the born-on thing is just a gimmick to suggest value where there is none?

Beer will start to go bad after about a month. Now you can still drink it but it will taste off and can turn skunky. (Think a bad bottle of Heineken.) The born on date is just a way to find out how old your beer is. This doesn't matter if it was kept at room temp in direct sunlight. If kept cold your beer will be fine.

2. Do they really dump "expired" beer? A quick search led me to a lawsuit where a distributor was accused of selling expired AB. If they do throw it away, how is that smart? I know Coors has a lot of catching up to do market-share-wise, but isn't their idea smarter and just a less effective ad campaign?

I'm not sure. They might and they might not. Light beer and lagers have a shorter shelf life than IPAs, higher alcohol ales, and tapestry/abby ales.


3. Why does Newcastle taste so good in a clear bottle? I'll skip Corona and Landshark, but also entering the fray recently in clear bottles are MGD64 and Bud Select 55 (which is probably just an answer to MGD, clear bottle and all) - Has there been a breakthrough in beer tech which allows sunlight to pass with no harm, or is the beer just not that beer-y enough that it matters?


Clear bottles are not good! They absorb the sunlight and it ruins the beer. I've had bad bud 55. These beers need drank almost as soon as they are bottled. I like to homebrew and I once (ONCE) used a few clear bottles. The clear bottles, even though I had them away from the sun, went bad quicker than the dark brown bottles. Also use actual capped on tops instead of twist offs. The capped on tops seal the beer better preventing bacteria and oxygen from getting to the yeast.


4. Personally, I don't care for Heineken, Grolsch, Rolling Rock, or anything else in a green bottle. Again, I've been led to believe this is almost as bad as a clear bottle, but is it me, the bottle, or coincidence?


Nope I notice the same thing. Again dark brown bottle it. It blocks out a lot of light that can ruin the taste of a beer. Sam Adams is probably one of the best beer companies out there. They take the extra steps to make sure their beer has a long shelf life. They use brown bottles, higher six pack sleeves, capped on tops, and they do buy back expired products. They are an excellent beer brewer. In fact I like them so much I try to emulate them in my homebrew, not only in recipes, but in preservation tactics as well.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 7:44 AM on January 15, 2010


Tapestry ales, mastercheddar? Trappist, maybe?

exogenous, while the live yeast in Sierra Nevada bottles will eat up oxygen, the bottles of most filtered (no yeast in the bottle) beers are purged with CO2, IIRC.

To clear up a bit of this fresh beer vs. aged beer debate, just about all beer has a flavor curve, where it's "best" at the top of the curve, and then starts to get worse. Where this peak occurs after bottling varies from beer to beer. Wheat beers peak right away. Most light lagers and american pale ales peak at about a month after bottling. IPAs will peak around there too if you're looking for hop flavor and aroma, but will peak later if you like a better-rounded IPA. Most of the 5% alcohol beers will peak between 1-3 months; that includes your brown ales, a lot of your porters, etc.

The more complex a beer is, the later it will peak. When you have a ton of flavors competing with each other, for example, a lot of Belgian ales or a Russian imperial stout, it takes time for those flavors to combine and round themselves out. Think of it like a long-term chili.

A very big beer, like an old ale or barleywine, won't start to peak until a year or so past bottling, and will often get better past that.

People attribute this evolving-taste ability to wines, but it happens with beers too, it's just that the timeline on beers is generally a lot quicker.

Finally, as many have suggested, light and heat can screw up these quality/flavor curves, and ruin beer.
posted by craven_morhead at 8:03 AM on January 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know the science of this, but I've read about how Coors uses a hop extract that is modified such that the alpha acids won't degrade, making the beers more shelf stable. This could be the reason that their beer can sit on the shelf for a year. It's not going to skunk.

Here's the patent for the process of making isomerized hop extract.

Here's a quote from BYO magazine that might make some sense to someone:
Isomerized extracts are also avalibale and are made by isomerization under controlled conditions so that the mixture of compounds is not too different than that seen during traditional wort boiling. Isomerized alpha-acid extracts can then be added to wort or beer to impart bitterness. Isomerized alpha-acids can be further treated using sodium borohydride (a strong reducer) to produce light-stable extracts that are immune to skunky flavor when beer is packaged in green or clear glass bottles.
But also, cans are a better package for beer.
posted by bDiddy at 8:20 AM on January 15, 2010


exogenous, while the live yeast in Sierra Nevada bottles will eat up oxygen, the bottles of most filtered (no yeast in the bottle) beers are purged with CO2, IIRC.

True, but it is impossible to remove all the oxygen (for example, this PDF paper refers to 104 parts per million oxygen as a relatively high concentration), and the negative flavor compounds that it produces can be detected in miniscule amounts.

In particular, the cardboard flavor from trans-2-nonenal can be detected at 0.035 micrograms per liter*. I think that is less than one part per billion.

*Meilgaard, M. C. Individual difference in sensory threshold for aroma chemicals added to beer. Food Qual. Preference 1993, 4, 153-167.
posted by exogenous at 8:24 AM on January 15, 2010


On a brewery tour for a class (Applied Biology and we had to write an essay), we were talking to a big Canadian brewer about these issues. Like all of the above, beer in clear bottles tend to go skunky which leads to the typical taste of Corona etc. (also why it's served in the bottle with a lemon - both of which minimize the skunkyness).

He also said that his brand (Molson, if I remember correctly) had a code on the label so that stores/distributors could tell how old the beer was and return it if it was too old. This suggests that the expiry date isn't just a marketing gimmick.

I also remember that they figured out how to have good tasting beer for some time where the "some time" was set to how long the northern parts of Canada didn't have road or ship access (too warm for ice roads, too cold for open water). This may have been a Newfoundland specific thing.
posted by hydrobatidae at 9:00 AM on January 15, 2010


4. Personally, I don't care for Heineken, Grolsch, Rolling Rock, or anything else in a green bottle. Again, I've been led to believe this is almost as bad as a clear bottle, but is it me, the bottle, or coincidence?

One beer that comes in a green bottle that is good is Henry Weinhard's Blue Boar Ale, commonly referred to as Henry's Ale. It is not a micro-brew per se, but is brewed in Oregon and available on the West Coast and perhaps elsewhere.

I've heard green bottles are not as good at preserving beer, but who keeps beer around that long after purchase?
posted by malchick at 9:20 AM on January 15, 2010


I've heard green bottles are not as good at preserving beer, but who keeps beer around that long after purchase?

The store you buy it from, is generally the issue. If they don't have a lot of turnover it can be a real issue where a beer is basically no good at purchase.
posted by smackfu at 9:49 AM on January 15, 2010


Wow great thread. I just wanted to add that I've had problems with skunking beer when changing the temp repeatedly - i.e. picked up room temp, had in cooler on ice, then drained cooler and left in cool garage. At no point did the beer get warm, but it was the changes back and forth that did it.
posted by Big_B at 10:06 AM on January 15, 2010


zamboni's link above addresses the clear glass issue: products like New Castle and Miller don't use actual hops, but use a hop extract (which comes in plastic drums and looks like green goo) and are engineered to withstand the effects of light and isomerization in ways that whole-hop products (or pelletized, or plugged) cannot.

As far as freshness is concerned, beer is like many other agricultural products: some styles and varieties are better fresh, others better with age. Cheese and wines are great analogies here. A beaujolais (sp?) is meant to be consumed young, whereas a cabernet will improve over time. Similarly, a gruyere given extended aging in the right environment (like a cave) will taste much better, but you wouldn't want to do the same thing to a Monterrey Jack.

When it comes to beer, a light American lager like Budweiser will be negatively affected by age and time due to things like lower alcohol content, lighter color and absence of heavily roasted grains, clean-tasting yeast strains and lower hop content. (Yes, a fresh bottle of Bud does taste much better than a dusty one, IMHO.) An American barley wine on the other hand, will greatly benefit from a few years of aging that will lessen the hop bitterness, reduce the alcoholic "heat" and help meld the overall flavor profile. Similarly, with strong Belgian ales--as well as other high-gravity ales that are packaged with yeast and "bottle fermented" or "bottle conditioned"--the yeast in the bottle will continue to consume the residual sugars at a very slow rate, altering the overall flavor profile during the course of a few years or more.

I recently had a Chimay Blue that was aged for three years side-by-side with one that I purchased that day. The new one was sweeter and had flavors that were more singular. The aged bottle was a little drier, had more complex undertones and was overall smoother. (But both were delicious!)

hypersloth: it sounds like you're in St. Louis like myself. MeMail me if you're interested in trying some aged beers along side some young ones.
posted by slogger at 10:35 AM on January 15, 2010


But also, cans are a better package for beer.

I would have been skeptical of this, except that about a month ago I had a can of this on a hot day, and I swear it was the best beer I've ever tasted. I'm sure this had to do in part with the context -- working in the garage, hot and dusty, need a beer stat! -- but mostly it was just a great beer. Total mouth explosion.

There must be a lot of "cans are bad!" conventional wisdom out there, since the brewer felt compelled to add a little blurb on the can on why cans are in fact superior.
posted by lex mercatoria at 10:38 AM on January 15, 2010


See my Bon Appetit link above. Canned beer hasn't been a problem since they stopped using tin; the problem has been that, until recently, there were no canning systems small enough to make sense for a microbrewer.
posted by yerfatma at 12:14 PM on January 15, 2010


yerfatma has it; there isn't really a conventional wisdom that says that cans are bad for beer. Rather, until very recently, only industrial scale, mass-produced beer (think PBR et. al.) was produced in cans. Now, the tech is there for microbreweries to do cans. See Oskar Blues.
posted by craven_morhead at 12:40 PM on January 15, 2010


Goofyy: I can think of no Belgian beer that is not in brown glass. But then, that isn't what y'all call "normal beer".

Saison Dupont and all the other Dupont beers I've ever seen, everything from Cantillon and La'Choffe, too.

Also, I really don't think that the color of the beer itself has anything at all to do with the shelf-life. Duvel can age for a long, long time, while a dunkle-weiss or a dopple bock really shouldn't, for example.

hypersloth: 1. Am I right in thinking the born-on thing is just a gimmick to suggest value where there is none?

Not a gimmick, though it certainly is a gimmicky way to phrase it. Much, much better than the oblique codes that some brewers use, though.

hypersloth: 2. Do they really dump "expired" beer? A quick search led me to a lawsuit where a distributor was accused of selling expired AB. If they do throw it away, how is that smart? I know Coors has a lot of catching up to do market-share-wise, but isn't their idea smarter and just a less effective ad campaign?

Yes, they do. As mentioned above, Sam Adam's really does, too. I'd be surprised if Miller and Coor's didn't do the same thing, but I don't know that they do.

yerfatma: This is my suspicion. I'm sure there are any number of people who will tell you why fresh beer is better, but I'm just old enough to remember one thing: when I was around college-aged, Sam Adams started advertising how they didn't ship any beer until it got to be a certain age, because they felt it was better that way. Given it wouldn't be cost-effective for the major brewers to do the same, AB introduced freshness dating with a huge marketing blitz. Given the relative sizes of their marketing budgets, the freshness thing apparently caught on with buyers, to the point where even Sam Adams has "freshness dating" or whatever they call it.

You are confusing two separate issues.

On the one hand, lager beers are called lager beers because they are lagered (aged), the most traditional thing was to let these beers sit in a cool, dark area for 90+ days (or up to a whole winter) to settle and age, before they would be re-carbonated and sent out. Bud nor Miller nor Coors nor Sam Adam's ages their lagers for 3 months, the amount of space and cooling such a volume is very prohibitive. If Jim Kolch says that Sam Adam's lagers beer longer than Bud does, he may very well be right, and that may very well affect the relative tastiness of those beers.

However, with very rare and limited exceptions, the beer that the brewer bottles and ships out is the beer he wants you to drink. The beer than has been sitting around for 3 or 5 or 10 months is exactly what he *isn't* picturing when he pictures his own product. Again, there are very rare exceptions, but for the most part, if it wasn't ready to drink it wouldn't go out the door, so freshest is best.
posted by paisley henosis at 2:03 PM on January 15, 2010


paisley henosis: and La'Choffe, too

That should be spelled "La Chouffe," and the green bottles originate from the brewer, not the beer, which is Brasserie d'Achouffe.
posted by paisley henosis at 2:10 PM on January 15, 2010


Back in the day -- when beer came in returnable cases and you returned them for the 80¢ -- Miller High Life (the Champagne of Bottled Beers), was the only beer that came in a case that did not have the holes that a typical case had. They were proud to state that it was because of the damage sunlight would have on their clear bottles.
posted by rtimmel at 2:16 PM on January 15, 2010


You are confusing two separate issues.

Aha, thanks for the info.
posted by yerfatma at 10:22 AM on January 16, 2010


slogger: An American barley wine on the other hand, will greatly benefit from a few years of aging that will lessen the hop bitterness...

Um, I don't think those words mean what you think. Barley Wine, by definition, contains no hops. That's why they don't call it "beer". I just had some at New Year. It is called "Deus" (God). Malted and fermented in Belgium, then shipped to France for aging, in the manner of champaign, in wooden barrels, and bottling. Quite yummy, but quite a different thing from beer.
posted by Goofyy at 9:22 PM on January 18, 2010


Goofyy: Um, I don't think those words mean what you think. Barley Wine, by definition, contains no hops. That's why they don't call it "beer".

Both the original English and especially the American barley wines are, indeed, hopped. The American ones are generally very aggressively hopped, while the British are traditionally much more modestly so; they are brewed with a high amount of hops, but the flavor is simply less noticeable behind such a large beer.

And it is, indeed, a beer. In fact, for legal sale in the United States, to avoid this exact confusion, they must be labeled as "barley wine-style ales." That strikes me as silly, personally, but none the less they are certainly beers.

The Deus, which you enjoyed, is not really what is meant by the phrase 'barley wine,' and is apparently refereed to, State-side at least, as a Bière de Champagne. It sounds fantastic, I will have to keep my eyes peeled for some when I am in Belgium.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:40 PM on January 18, 2010


Yup, way off goofyy. Where did you get the idea that barleywines don't contain hops?
posted by craven_morhead at 8:04 AM on January 19, 2010


[Barleywine] is, indeed, a beer. In fact, for legal sale in the United States, to avoid this exact confusion, they must be labeled as "barley wine-style ales."

IIRC, that particular labeling issue is state law, not federal. The language of the 21st Amendment seems to have left a lot of leeway to the states in areas that would normally be federal issues under the commerce clause.
posted by exogenous at 7:09 PM on January 19, 2010


southern country living observation: out where I live the most consumed beers are blue-can domestics (eg: lite, ice, dry, and other awful brews). furthermore, retailers don't sell enough premium beer to care about storing it properly. and, the pervasive heat, and distance from the distributor's cold case means that my beloved Newcastle gets heat-damaged (technical description: "Oldcastled") in the actual refrigerated beer truck, just from being stacked near the trailer wall where the sun's heat can penetrate. same with guinness, bass, red stripe, and whatever.

Perhaps this is a difference with distributorships, but the company I worked for in the blistering heat of very rural West Texas (does it get much hotter or more rural than that?) to do precisely the opposite of what you state. We took great pains to give the premium beers the very best conditions. The coolest bay (the one closest the refrigeration unit and where the beer shifted the least) was always the one for the expensive specialty/imports, next came the most pricy domestics, and so forth until you got to the back end where the Natty Light and malt liquor was stowed. The inwardly slanted design of the trailer bays also kept the beer off of the hot walls and towards the center where the cooling coils run. This feature often made our jobs loading and unloading the product more difficult, but prevented exactly what you are talking about.

Now that the Belgians own Bud, I can't imagine that they will be treating specialties and imports less well.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:06 PM on January 20, 2010


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