I don't WANNA go to the store!
November 16, 2011 6:16 PM   Subscribe

How long will canned, unopened alcoholic drinks that has been refrigerated the entire time keep?

So I've had some vodka and sprite this evening and I'd like to drink more, but all I have left is a can of Pina Colada "Joose" (12% alcohol) and a can of Jeremiah Weed "Lightning Lemonade" (5.8% alcohol) that I probably bought around June, and three cans of Bud Light Clamato Chelada, which I probably bought around May.

I'm getting wildly divergent answers when I google this, and they deal with straight beer. All the cans have what may or may not be expiration dates on them, but they are in grocery-store-code. I'll transcribe them if that will help.

I know they probably won't taste fantastically fresh, I just want to know if they are safe to drink. Thanks, hive!
posted by mreleganza to Food & Drink (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've drank two-year-old beer, and I'm still alive.
posted by jwhite1979 at 6:19 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd say they're probably fine.
posted by ghharr at 6:20 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to fish old sun-bleached but still full beer cans out of the bayou and keep them in my toolbox in my truck. Drank a few, they were fine. As fine as Miller Lite can get, anyway.
posted by atchafalaya at 6:22 PM on November 16, 2011 [7 favorites]

There's basically no way that any beer or beer-like drink (which both of those are--malt beverages with the flavor removed and then sugar and flavors added) will harm you in that time frame. They might taste sub-optimally, but the general thing in the home brew community is, it won't hurt you. If you open it and it doesn't smell/taste horrible, drink away!
posted by skynxnex at 6:28 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

Beer would begin to taste stale but wouldn't be any more dangerous than usual. Your mixed drinks probably have safe shelf lives measured in decades.
posted by chairface at 6:29 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

they are safe. I have beer in my basement from last year I made and drink from time to time.
posted by edgeways at 7:02 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I, horsemuth, the man who drank a can of Billy Beer only 6 months ago, declare those drinks to be safe.
posted by horsemuth at 8:17 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

I know they probably won't taste fantastically fresh

I don't think the concept of "freshness" is really applicable to beverages like this. Drink up!
posted by neroli at 8:37 PM on November 16, 2011

As once noted in a previous thread, my parents never drink. One New Years my then-girlfriend called me from a party she said wasn't happening and broke up with me over the phone. My mother fixed me the only drink in the house, involving a 15+ year old bottle of Kahlua. I was fine, aside from the heartbreak. Drink up!
posted by GilloD at 8:39 PM on November 16, 2011

I age beer for years at a time; some reach their peak after many years. However that being said, not all beers age well. You'll likely be fine, there's folks out there just now popping open their Worlds Fair cans from 1986 and they're saying its fantastic and want more. The fact that you're refridgerating yours means that you're likely slowing down the aging process....which isn't as dramatic as most people feel as there's very little oxygen at play in bottled or canned beer. In fact most breweries specifically purge oxygen before sealing the lid. In some beers (aka living beers, usually belgians) the active yeast gobbles up any remaining oxygen particles.

So with carbon dioxide being the ultimate preservative, the only other things to really be worried about are sunlight and harmful bacteria. Since we're talking about cans and not notorious green (aka skunk) bottles, you're covered there. High abv beers traditionally age very gracefully and kill off most harmful bacteria (hoppy beers are also naturally bacteria resistant). But regardless your chances are extremely high that your canned beer is completely safe and will be for a VERY long time. There was a reason ships of yore would bring beer instead of water on long voyages...they realized early on that serving fresh water often was followed with disease...whereas beer was highly resistant and became the beverage of choice (along with orange juice to fight the scurvey).
posted by samsara at 8:47 PM on November 16, 2011

You are half way to a good buzz and the question is do I drink a 5 month old beer? Your issue at this point is not taste, it is alcoholic content. Drink the Joose first.

With apologies to Jimmy Buffet, the oldest beer I ever had was just young enough.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:36 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I have homemade beer that has been kept in a cellar since 2003 and I still crack one open once and a while. You'll be fine especially as your has been processed to all ends.
posted by koolkat at 2:04 AM on November 17, 2011

Old beer won't harm you, it just loses its carbonation. (Ditto soda, by the way.) A year, max, is the usual expectation of still having carbonation, even unsealed and chilled.

True story: some years ago, I worked up in Thule AB, Greenland, well over a thousand miles north of the Arctic Circle. I worked for the Army & Air Force Exchange (the PX), at the only store for the +/-1100 people on that very remote base. Sometimes we could get an extra pallet or even two of beer on one of the biweekly planes, but for the most part, all beer/booze/soda came in on the once-a-year supply ship in July. People would certainly DRINK anything & everything year-round that we had in stock, because it was alchohol and they were desperate and there was no alternative, but by spring there was often a noticeable 'flattening'.

And booze can freeze, if conditions are cold enough. You should have seen the panic on base one year when the heater at our beer warehouse failed --- more often than not, the base building-maintenance was a joke, but when that heater failed, and THE BEER WAS AT RISK?!? You've never SEEN a thousand people work so well together towards a single common goal: it was amazing. Cleanup of the bottles that froze was interesting, too: many of them popped their tops from the pressure (like water, beer expands when frozen) and developed what we called 'beer-sicles': columns 6-8 inches high of frozen beer..... cans weren't as much fun as the bottles, they just exploded.
posted by easily confused at 3:25 AM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

dangmabbit, make that "SEALED and chilled".....
posted by easily confused at 3:39 AM on November 17, 2011

Mayor Curley and I once rescued a case of Piel's from Beers of the World in Rochester, NY because it looked so sad being covered in dust. It might have been 10 or 20 years old. I would not recommend that to anyone else, but there was little wrong with it other than that it was Piel's. I have a friend whose uncle is still working through the case of Billy Beer he means to keep as a collector's item.
posted by yerfatma at 6:11 AM on November 17, 2011

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