How Long Does Canned Beer Last?

If you've ever taken a sip from a can of beer to find it tastes a bit stale, overly sweet, or just deeply unpleasant, you're likely drinking an expired beer. It's easy to dismiss products' expiration dates as mere suggestions, and though general wisdom maintains that canned foods can usually last well beyond their expiration date, the same isn't true for canned beer. In fact, this product — even unopened — has a relatively short shelf life, typically lasting six months to a maximum of two years. How you store your beer also influences its longevity. Keeping beer in a cupboard or pantry will push it to the lower end of that timeline, while a fridge or cellar can preserve beer for an extra six months to a year.

Most beers do come with an expiration date, but how manufacturers determine this date is subject to many different factors that won't apply across all beer brands. Some may place the expiration three months after canning, others 10. As a loose rule, you can typically enjoy canned beer about five months after it technically expires. 

Can you drink expired beer?

If you've got a few cans of beer rolling around that are well past their expiration date, you may be wondering if you can safely drink expired beer. Fortunately, drinking old canned beer is unlikely to make you sick, as these expiration dates are more like guidelines — they indicate that the beer will taste best if consumed before the posted date. The drink's alcohol content prevents harmful bacterial growth, which is often the cause of food poisoning or illness after people consume expired food products, per the FDA.

Although out-of-date canned beer isn't necessarily harmful, it's likely inadvisable to drink it if the can is long past its best-by date. You can use several methods to determine if a beer has gone bad. The most obvious is testing flavor and smell — expired beer will often have a pungent, skunky aroma that you'll pick up on right away. It will taste unpleasant at best and downright disgusting at worst. You can also pour the beer into a glass to get a better sense of its condition; if the color has become significantly darker or the beer lacks its usual fizz, it's probably gone bad.