It Might Not Be As Safe To Drink Old Beer As You Think

10-Year-Old Beer

Is It Dangerous To Drink? We’ve all seen the movies, and we know how it goes.

A must-read: How to Get Rid of Alcohol Bloat

At some point, the rich billionaire will take our protagonist down to his cellar, where his collection of aged wines will steal the show. In the audience, we will sit back and wish that we had that cellar.

However, the truth of the matter is that most of us don’t. Instead, most of us stick to our beer.

And that’s okay.

Beer is excellent for a variety of reasons. Setting its myriad of health benefits aside, there’s nothing better than beer if you are looking for a good time.

Many feel that beer is a less “classy” option. After all, no one keeps a cellar of aged beer.

If you are as curious as I am, that probably leads you to an interesting thought: “Could I keep a cellar of aged beer in my house?”

I’m glad you asked.

I took one for the team and did extensive research to let you know just how that would work out. For our purposes, let’s examine the effects of drinking beer aged a minimum of ten years. 

You may be surprised by what you are about to read. 

Safety

Let’s start with the most critical issue—is it even safe to drink ten-year-old beer?

If you’re a consistent drinker, you’ve probably noticed that most beers carry a “best by” date on them. For instance, your beer might say, “Best if used by February 2020.”

Looking at this information alone, it certainly seems that ten-year-old beer isn’t meant for consumption. After all, no major company puts its “best by” date ten years from the manufacturing date.

I wanted to know why that was.

The reason is pretty simple.

As it turns out, canned or bottled beer is already fully fermented. That means that no harmful pathogens will grow inside your beer. In essence, it’s safe to drink.

Yes, even after a decade.

The problem, however, comes with the taste.

Unfortunately, beer does not age gracefully, which is not their design.

That’s why most beer companies urge you to drink their products fresh, and it’s also why all the beer ads you see feature young, attractive people drinking ice-cold beers.

They taste better that way.

Scientifically, the longer your beer sits, the more oxidized it will get. Oxidation occurs when oxygen breaks down chemicals, which is why your old beer will taste like cardboard.

Realistically speaking, there’s no reason you would want to drink a beer that’s too far past its “best by” date. Instead, you will likely want to throw it out for a fresher and better option.

That is, of course, unless you buy…

Aged Beer

Don’t you love technology? During the initial stages of my research, I must admit I was disappointed. Bad tasting beer means no cool beer cellar, no matter how safe it is.

That finding almost took my future mancave down a few notches.

Fortunately, I discovered something known as aged beer. Yes, this is a thing. 

With the advances of modern science, brewers can now craft what is known as “aged beer.” This is the beer that, through special techniques, can last decades if left unopened.

Just like that fine wine.

How is this Managed?

Simply put, they attach a vacuum to each empty beer bottle and fill the inside with carbon dioxide. The goal is to chase away as much oxygen as possible, which helps fight against oxidation and quick aging of your beer. 

But this isn’t the complete process. Those involved with the filling must be careful not to let any iron or copper traces into the bottle.

These traces likely come from the brewing equipment or ingredients from the beer and can activate latent oxygen species within the bottle.

That’s pretty scary stuff.

To get around this, brewers must be very careful. These beers are also crafted with much higher alcohol content, and this higher alcohol content is meant to cover any bad tastes that may occur due to oxidation.

Those who have dreams (like I do) of having that classy beer cellar will be thrilled to learn that some of these beers can last up to twenty-five years.

If you missed it, that’s as long as a quality vehicle or a new roof.

So I guess classy beer cellars could be a thing.

Knowing this, I asked myself a question: “Do these beers get better with age?”

In essence, I wanted to know if these beers aged like fine wine and moonshine. 

Unfortunately, they do not. While you can certainly buy one and try it for yourself (something I have yet to do), the consensus is that they don’t get better with age, and this is especially true for beers that are lightly flavored. 

While storing these aged beers in a cellar can help for a while, unless you store them in a freezer kept at thirty-nine degrees Fahrenheit, your beer will take on a urine-like smell and “go bad.” 

That means we still have a long way to go before developing an aging beer that keeps like wine.

It’s still exceedingly hard to keep these beers from going bad, whether in the bottling, transportation, or storing processes. This means that you may find it harder to purchase a quality product. 

That’s why some aged beer companies still recommend that you drink their products as quickly as possible. I know, I know, and it’s a bummer.

But hey, if this is the first step, I’m all for it. 

So When Should You Throw Your Beer Away?

Assuming you don’t want to drink old beer, how long can you wait before your beer turns bad?

In other words, what’s the window period between the “best by” date and when your beer will start to taste like old cardboard?

Luckily, it’s a pretty good window. Beer that’s kept in the pantry will still taste good for a whopping six to nine months, and that’s nearly a year. Surprisingly, a beer kept in the fridge can last up to two years.

That’s pretty amazing. Of course, it largely depends on what type of beer you drink. The cheaper the product, the lower its shelf life. For this reason, it may be worth investing in higher-quality beers. 

Unless, of course, you drink them when they’re fresh anyway.

As a general rule, beers with higher alcohol content keep longer. At the very least, they can maintain a good taste longer simply because the more robust flavors can mask any ongoing oxidation. 

To sum it up, if you have any beer that’s older than nine months (in the pantry) or two years (in the fridge), you’re better off just throwing it out. You’ll enjoy it much more if you go to the store and get your nice, new cold ones.

Well, assuming cardboard isn’t your thing. 

Beer vs Wine

Okay, so we’ve answered our question. Now that that’s settled let’s look into how our regular beers stack up with wine to better understand our favorite alcohol choices.

Let’s start with a simple question: What makes wine age as it does? We know that beer oxidizes due to oxygen reactions, but why doesn’t the same thing happen with wine?

Simply put, it does. But only after you uncork the bottle. Before this, wine can be kept for years inside the bottle.

What you might not know is that the cork can dry out. If this happens, the cork will shrink, allowing bacteria to enter the bottle and change the wine’s chemical structure.

You don’t want this to happen. Like oxidized beer, this wine will be safe to drink but awful to taste. In general, the taste will be vinegary or acidic. 

Yikes. 

It seems as if oxidation is, after all, our favorite drink. 

However, unlike beer, oxidation in wine can be a good thing if you drink the opened wine within the first two days of opening it.

Try the same with an opened beer, and you will get frightening results.

But, hey, that’s why it’s cheaper.

Beer vs Moonshine

Now that we’ve compared beer with its classier cousin let’s see how it stacks up with another form of alcohol: moonshine.

Moonshine is an interesting comparison simply because it’s taboo. This is something you don’t want to try yourself.

Moonshine production and selling are still illegal in all fifty US states. For this reason, you will want to be careful to stay away from the product.

That being said, how is it any different from the beer you drink? In other words, is it any less safe than beer if left for a decade—and what about its taste?

Interestingly, as moonshine is highly distilled and contains no sugar, it will never go bad if left unopened.

Unlike your beer, there’s no “best by” date. Instead, you can leave it on your shelf and drink it whenever you want—even years down the road.

Well, if you could drink it, that is.

However, once you open the moonshine, it will begin to oxidize, and it could even evaporate (I’m sure we’re all thankful beer doesn’t do that). However, moonshine doesn’t go bad or expire and is even longer-lasting than wine.

But does it get Better with Age?

The answer is no. Whether we are discussing standard or flavored moonshine, there’s simply no way for the product to get better over time.

Technically, moonshine is considered an “unaged” spirit. Therefore, it doesn’t see improved flavor over time, even if it lasts for decades. 

Is It a Good Idea to Drink Old Beer?

As we’ve discussed, it certainly isn’t a good option for anyone going to beer for the flavor. Older beers won’t have the flavor you are looking for.

Still, it’s safe to drink, and if you are looking to get drunk, that’s certainly your prerogative. Indeed, you’ll not want to serve older beer at a party or give it out to friends. In that regard, it’s not a good idea at all.

So let’s ask ourselves a more interesting question: does older beer have the same health benefits?

It’s hard to tell. While it’s true that the health benefits of beer (which have been extensively documented) don’t come from the flavor, there are no studies on expired beer yet.

And that’s understandable. There aren’t enough people drinking “expired” beer to warrant a study of this type. 

We know that drinking beer in moderation can help prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes, among other things.

Though you should always consult your physician, a regular and moderate beer diet may be something you want to try out.

I may not be a doctor, but I’m sure that that’s probably not something you want to do with old beer.

Some individuals have noted severe tipsiness or even drunkenness after drinking a single can of beer aged three years or older. Knowing this, I think I’ll stick to fresh beer.

The Bottom Line

Here’s the bottom line: drinking a ten-year-old beer is undoubtedly safe. You won’t get sick from drinking old beer, nor will you suffer any significant side effects (aside from a foul taste in your mouth and drunkenness).

Unless you are looking for cardboard-tasting beer, it’s probably a good idea to avoid any beer that’s outlived its shelf life.

That’s why we should fill our beer cellars with classy, aged beer instead. Available with limited retailers, this beer is perfect for people like us looking to take the middle class classy to the next level.

It may not be wine, but hey, if it keeps us from drinking beer that “expired” ten years ago, I’m all for it. 

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