How deadly is out of date beer?
May 30, 2012 11:22 AM   Subscribe

Kind of academic - I've already drunk it - but what are the risks involved in drinking out of date beer?

I got it free from my local offy - it only expired a month ago. I'm thinking "potential minor stomach upset". Anyone else have any experience?
posted by ZipRibbons to Food & Drink (26 answers total)
It's flat or skunked?
posted by inigo2 at 11:23 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

A month out of date is nothing; I'd be extremely surprised if there were any risk at all.
posted by pipeski at 11:23 AM on May 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

The only risk is that it would taste bad.
posted by something something at 11:24 AM on May 30, 2012

Beer is already "expired". As long as the container was sealed, it's fine if it tastes fine.
posted by mkultra at 11:26 AM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Beer kind of "lasts" forever, which used to be an appeal...
posted by Patbon at 11:36 AM on May 30, 2012

Opportunity cost, that's about it.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:37 AM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Near my college there was a store that sold dirt-cheap, ancient beer by the case. By ancient I mean some of the brands no longer even existed, or the packaging was a generation or two behind. I'm pretty sure some of that beer was multiple years old.

Anyway, someone once bought some for a poker game and although it was some of the worst beer I've ever tasted, nobody got sick from drinking it. When something is wrong enough with beer to cause intestinal distress, you can usually tell before drinking it.

(I Am Not A Professional Zymurgist or Gastroenterologist.)
posted by usonian at 11:39 AM on May 30, 2012

Generally the sell by dates will be a few months after the beer was brewed, which is the time period where the beer will taste how it's supposed to taste. A month after that worst case you will probably just get a slightly different flavor that would taste a little off. You would have to give it another six months before there was anything seriously wrong with it, and even then if it was brewed and stored properly it would be more of a taste issue than a heath concern.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:40 AM on May 30, 2012

Beer is a pretty hostile growth environment for microorganisms. There's even some theories that beer was one of the technologies that enabled urbanization - because getting/keeping safe drinking water is difficult but keeping beer safe to drink is easy.

The "best-by" date is thus not "unsafe-after" but in fact what it says. Some of the less stable flavor compounds break down over time. The date printed on it is the brewery's guess as to how long they're willing to vouch for the flavor. Hot storage temperatures will speed up degradation.
posted by aubilenon at 11:41 AM on May 30, 2012

Agreeing with everyone above. Totally safe. And in fact, this property of beer is one of the reasons that home brewing can be so fun. Even if you mess it up, you're not going to brew a potion of death that will kill you. It will just taste bad. So you try again! And again. And again, and suddenly you've got a a quadruple kegerator in your basement and have taken over half the garage for your brewing equipment.
posted by Grither at 11:46 AM on May 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Beer that has become contaminated badly enough to hurt you will probably explode long before you open it. Scary little organisms produce gas as part of their digestion process. Though this usually happens shortly after brewing.

In any case the bacteria that can live in beer don't really hurt you, they just leave bacteria poop in your beer. If it smells fine drink it.
posted by chundo at 11:47 AM on May 30, 2012

I drank some Coors Banquet that expired in March a few weeks ago. Aside from it tasting like a skunk had bathed in those cool mountain waters, I didn't suffer any ill effects. I did throw out the remaining bottles, however.
posted by jabes at 11:50 AM on May 30, 2012

When beer is 'expired' it doesn't mean its skunk or going to taste bad. It means that it's not going to have the flavor profile the brewer brewed it to have.

/Just a homebrewer.
posted by zephyr_words at 12:05 PM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I made a batch of mead ale that tasted horrible at the time my notes said it should be ready. Chalked it up to experience, put the case in the queue of bottles for re-use. Didn't get to it for a year, was pouring a bottle down the sink when I thought "Hmm. Doesn't smell too bad. Taste?". It was fabulous. Then I started crying when I realized I'd already poured half the case out. Moral here is that sometimes old beer is good, but most times it tastes like arse.
posted by Runes at 12:32 PM on May 30, 2012

You might get some texture issues from settling yeast, which will make you a bit more gassy but not too bad. My wife and I got a great deal on a 4-pack of Delirium Tremens (a strong belgian) because it was expired. We drank them before going into the ballpark to avoid paying so much for ballpark beers. We didn't notice the chunks of yeast until we were almost done drinking them. YMMV.
posted by schyler523 at 12:35 PM on May 30, 2012

If the beer is pasteurised and filtered, like most commercial beer, then it's essentially a dead and sterile environment, so a month out is totally fine.

If the beer is still alive, and it's been kept in a cool, dark environment, it'll probably get better over time, or at least the taste will change in ways that are still interesting. There's a bar in Antwerp that has beers that are around 20 years old. I drank a 15-year old Lambiek in there once, it was utterly amazing.

Just open it and try it. If it's off, it'll smell and taste rubbish.
posted by daveje at 1:41 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not deadly or harmful at all. Your fine
posted by couchdive at 1:48 PM on May 30, 2012

It was a La Trappe "Puur" (English translation), for those who were wondering. Full of floaty bits; tasted fine. Think I'll go back to the shop tomorrow and have the rest.
posted by ZipRibbons at 2:12 PM on May 30, 2012

I got a huge bottle of De Leckere's Blauwe Bijl too - also out of date and free - but I'm going to save that for the weekend.
posted by ZipRibbons at 2:22 PM on May 30, 2012

Don't drink it. Send it to me.
posted by goethean at 3:08 PM on May 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

My Mom has kept undrunk Anchor Christmas Ale until it gets drunk, sometimes for years, which has always been fine.
posted by rhizome at 3:12 PM on May 30, 2012

You risk reducing the profit margins of the company that had the foresight to put an "expired" date on their product. Shame on you.

Seriously, that's it. If beer tastes good, it is very unlikely to harm you. The same is true for almost all fermented products, in fact.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:50 PM on May 30, 2012

Only a month past? No worries, it's fine. I've got to disagree with Patbon, though --- beer does NOT 'last forever', but (assuming the bottle or can is sealed) the worst that'd happen is that within about a year it'd probably go flat. (Ditto for soda, by the way.)
posted by easily confused at 5:58 PM on May 30, 2012

ZipRibbons, I'm also in Amsterdam, and I'd love to know which shop is giving away perfectly decent bottles of La Trappe!
posted by daveje at 2:01 AM on May 31, 2012

Thanks for the answers everyone. I woke up this morning, still very much alive, so ten points to you all for being right.

Daveje, it's the Mitra in Amsterdam Oost: Middenweg 57 - where it meets Hogeweg. Race you!
posted by ZipRibbons at 3:40 AM on May 31, 2012

I have bottles of Eldridge Pope's Thomas Hardy Ale dating back to the 1990s, the last one I opened (1992 if I recall correctly) was superb.

Strength will have an effect on the aging process (11.7% for Thomas Hardy Ale), as will the hoppiness as hops have a preservative character.

The other issue is the type of seal on the bottle, the standard "beer top" or "crown cork" may leak air into the bottle faster than, say, a cork or flip-top.

As long as the seal is tight I can't see Blauw Bijl going off for several years after it's supposed "best by" date. I'm not familiar with the Puur but I'd give that several months.

posted by hardcode at 5:48 AM on May 31, 2012

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