Have you ever picked up a beer at the supermarket that had a sussy “bottled on” date and you weren’t sure if it was still good? Well, that’s perfectly valid, as we all want to buy beer that is fresh and yummy. However, reading the dates on your craft beer is more complicated than it seems. Don’t worry though, we’ll walk you through it!
How to read the dates on your beer
To start, we first have to acknowledge the difference between a “bottled/canned on” and “best by” date. Sure, it may seem pretty self-explanatory, but it is still important to note. If the beer does not indicate which date it is referring to, it’s most likely referring to the “bottled/canned on” date.
Most dates are in the DD/MM/YYYY format, but certain countries like the USA use MM/DD/YYYY instead. Meanwhile, some breweries would use the Julian date format, which many of us aren’t really familiar with. The Julian date format typically has 4 to 5 numbers, where the first or first two numbers represent the year, while the rest of the numbers represent the day of the year.
For example, December 31st, 2016 could either be 16366 or 6366 - it’s not the 365th day as 2016 was a leap year!
If that’s not confusing enough, it’s also possible for the last or last two numbers to represent the year. In this case, December 31st, 2016 could look like 36616 or 3666.
Now that you’ve learnt about the different types of date formats, you must be ready, right? Well, no. It’s not actually required for breweries to label their beers, so you may see cans and bottles that do not have any dates on them whatsoever.
If there’s no date, how do you know if your beer is still good?
Image credit: @konabrewingco
It’s actually pretty rare for a beer to “go bad”. Most of the time, it’ll just lose its intended flavour or take on new flavours. So if you’re worried about that one beer in your fridge that you’ve left for a couple of months, chances are that it’ll just taste different, rather than that it’s spoiled. However, if you really need a date to follow, the general guideline in Singapore suggests that you should consume your beer within 12 months from its production date.
Beer is tastiest when it's fresh; if you could, you should always drink your beer as soon as possible. However, every beer is different. Certain styles of beer can last on the shelf for months without an issue, while others have to be consumed fresh.
Image credit: @foundersbrewing
There are also styles of beer that benefit from a longer shelf life, such as imperial stouts and barley wines, as their flavours would intensify as they age. Meanwhile, sours and wild beers will develop new flavours as they age due to funky yeast and bacteria interactions.
If you aren’t planning to consume your 6 pack immediately, the least you could do is store them properly. There’s just two things you need to remember about proper beer storage: cool and dark. Just make sure that your beer is chilled and away from the hot and evil sun!
Beers from Thirsty
If you’re wondering why there’s a difference in the packaging labels between international export beers and beers meant for drinking within the producer’s country, it’s because of the long shipping duration.
At Thirsty, we import craft beers from all around the world, and the shipping process from the USA usually takes about 3 months – which is a very long time for beers to reach the little Southeast Asian island of Singapore. As such, domestic beers and international export beers in the United States have different shelf lives; the latter typically have a longer shelf life of 12 months as compared to the former.
What to do if you find old beer
At Thirsty, we try to be as transparent as we can on our website so that you can make informed purchasing decisions. We are one of the very few retailers that share best-by date information about our stock and you can find this detail on every product page.
However, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you find old beer. Our collection is so wide in variety that it is difficult to keep track of our inventory perfectly all the time. As such, we would like to seek your understanding and patience while we strive to do better. In the meantime, your feedback will always be greatly appreciated!