How Long Does a Keg of Craft Beer Last?
It would be great to throw a party with some tasty craft beer in a keg! Imagine the fun of not having to worry about running out of beer. The only thing you would have to worry about is how long your keg of craft beer will last.
How long does a keg of craft beer last? It depends on how you store your keg. If CO2 is used and kept at the right temperature and pressure, craft beer can stay fresh for 6 months. However, if oxidation takes place, your craft beer could spoil within 8 hours.
It sure is a downer when your beer spoils. This article explains why craft beers spoil before their shelf-life. Read more to learn tips and tricks on how to store your keg of craft beer.
The problem of beer shelf-life and freshness has no tough and easy guidelines. Beers vary in their capacity to remain fresh after packaging. In general, the taste of beer changes even more slowly during the cold storage process.
Many variables influence freshness. Microbiological degradation, oxidation, and yeast autolysis are important considerations for unfiltered beverages.
Beers are at their ideal quality on the day the keg is packed in the brewery. As days go on, the freshness reduces. The fresher your keg of beer is, the better it tastes.
Keg beer can stay fresh by dispensing with CO2 while retaining proper temperature and pressure; that equates to 45-60 days for non-pasteurized beer and 90-120 days for pasteurized beer.
- Days 0-10 (In Transit / Satellite Warehousing)
- Days 10-20 (Distributor Warehouse / Retail Delivery)
- Days 20-60 (At Retail / Home)
So, the average keg has a shelf life of 25-40 days, either at the convenience store or at home.
Breweries advise that you should not drink beer after the freshness date. Don’t forget that air produces oxygen and that oxygen is the enemy of beer!
Reasons Why Craft Beer Spoils
Microbiological spoilage is a problem for all brewers, regardless of their size. The off-flavors associated with wild yeast and wort bacteria present themselves more.
They are usually detectable within a week of development. These drinks are turned over and never go to the bottle or keg level of their lives.
Some pollutants, such as Lactobacillus and Pediococcus species, develop even more slowly. They need weeks or months to lift their ugly heads.
Afterward, when they have grown enough to be detected, infected beer can taste sour and have a diacetyl fragrance.
Clean yeast, short fermentation lag times, and excellent hygiene methods significantly minimize beer infection likelihood with these forms of species.
Although microbiological pollutants dramatically change beer’s taste, oxidation renders the taste of beer stale or aged. Oxidation allows the beer to lose its brewery-fresh taste, which is the trademark of all outstanding breweries.
Oxidation has been the topic of brewery research for decades and is a well-understood subject.
Brewers discuss oxidation at the start of the milling stage. They remain concentrated on the problem at all levels of beer production.
However, there is no more oxidation-sensitive stage of the brewing process than packing. Modern commercial fillers address this problem, but homebrewers have fewer options.
Foaming or splashing while filling allows the air to pick up. Remember that the gas headspace in the package is another source of air.
This headspace is not displaced by carbon dioxide. In this respect, it is somewhat different from the headspace of a secondary fermenter. Instead, oxygen slowly travels into the beer, reacting with many chemicals.
It then induces oxidation. Other metal ions, like iron and copper, will do the same thing. That explains why stainless steel is the metal of choice.
Everything is about perfect timing. Aeration gives tremendous benefits to the yeast at the outset of fermentation, but oxygen becomes the enemy soon after that.
Great beer will become lifeless as the character of hops easily disappears. It will have stale tastes, such as cardboard, sherry, and rotten fruit.
Most homebrews enjoy smaller batch sizes. Thus, only healthy practices, such as avoiding splashing during transitions, will keep oxidation at bay until the end of the keg.
However, if you’re making mead or a large beer that needs to mature, you might need to take some harder action. Heavy dry-hopped beers, such as New England-style IPAs, are also very prone to losing their fresh hop strength.
Your beer is under a blanket of CO2 from fermentation before you start the transition. When the beer is siphoned out, the air is drawn in to fill the vacuum.
This air mixes with CO2 and can expose the top surface of the beer to oxygen. The positive news is that this piece of oxidized beer is always left behind. There is typically not any turbulence on the source side of the siphon.
The greatest chance of oxidation is when the beer is shipped to the destination carboy or keg.
It is inherently turbulent. While some CO2 will escape from the solution if the keg is full of ordinary oxygen, the beer will be exposed. Then, after the beer is racked, the headspace can have a long-lasting air reservoir.
How to Avoid Oxidation
The beer is open to the air inside when it passes through the rack and tubing. In general, the original flood of beer is swept out. Once the line is full of malt, any bubbles you see are presumably CO2.
You can always keep an eye out for the constant bubbles where the tube attaches to the racking cane. A bad fit here will create a leak that airs all the beer as it moves.
A few ways to deal with this exist; they vary slightly depending on whether you’re going to a keg or a carboy. The easiest thing to do is to run CO2 into a key or a carboy and hope it forces the air out.
In the case of a keg, you can achieve this by connecting the gas to the keg. Apply CO2 to 30 PSI or so, and even out the excess pressure.
Because a carboy does not have a gas inlet, you can use a gas line without an end fitting. This will run at a lower pressure for 30 seconds or so.
Adding CO2 helps, but you have to take dilution into account. The incoming CO2 does not push out the air evenly. It mixes and decreases the percentage of oxygen present.
Steps to Reduce Oxidation
- Cover the receiving vessel with the sanitizer.
- Connect CO2 to the gas station on the receiving keg or the second port of the carboy hat.
- Open the dispensing tap if you are using a keg. Otherwise, utilize a racking cane placed in the middle port of the carboy hat.
- Pressure out the sanitizer with around 3 PSI of CO2.
- Once the receiving vessel is empty of the sanitizer, put the racking cane on the carboy cap on the full carboy via the middle port.
- Link the tubing barb to the second port and attach the CO2.
- Purge the racking cane and funnel by running the CO2 for 5-10 seconds at 15 PSI.
- Switch off the CO2 and insert the transfer tube’s end down to the bottom of the receiving vessel.
- Lower the rack tube at the bottom of the full carboy. Try not to suck the trub.
- Reduce the CO2 pressure to 3 PSI and start wrapping your beer.
It may sound like a lot of effort, but oxidation will overshadow all your other hard work.
Do not do this with any beer you are brewing. Be very cautious when it comes to meads and beers. Secure your investment!
The Right Temperature for Your Craft Beer Keg
Kegs are big canisters of liquid, which may take a while to cool down to the serving temperature. It will take a keg 3 or 4 times as long to cool down as it takes to warm up.
Although you may want to hit the fresh keg right away, it’s better to wait. Let the keg sit in the refrigerator for 24 hours, setting the temperature between 34 and 38 degrees.
This can mean that the beer in the keg is at the required temperature for dispensing.
Bear this in mind, and order your keg well enough ahead of time to allow for the 24-hour acclimation process.
Leaving the keg to rest for 24 hours helps it to calm down. The distribution method will shake the keg, no matter how careful the dealer is. This could cause foaming problems.
If necessary, you will also need a dedicated cooler for your kegs. Holding kegs in a keg-specific cooler helps you to think more about the temperature of the beer.
The dedicated cooler also eliminates excessive traffic, which can induce temperature variations.
Overall, it is essential to know how to store kegs correctly. The expected shelf-life of a keg of craft beer is up to 6 months. You can meet the expected shelf-life of your craft beer only if you put effort into it.