Is It Safe To Drink Beer After Its Expiration Date?

Lots of people enjoy a libation once in a while, and with the holidays coming up, many of us are likely to indulge in a festive tipple or two. However, once all the celebrations and festivities are done for the year, we are often left wondering what to do with all of our leftover drinks.

Many alcoholic beverages, like hard liquor and wine, will keep for a long time without going bad. Some drinks even get better with age. However, beer, because of its relatively low alcoholic content and additional ingredients, does come with an expiration date. But just how bad is it to drink expired beer? The short answer is: it likely won't hurt you, but it won't necessarily be an enjoyable experience either. 

Beer will eventually be subjected to oxidation, which will greatly affect its flavor over time, according to October. Oxidation is essentially the process in which a substance becomes exposed to oxygen. The oxygen then causes a chemical reaction that breaks down the substance, which leads to spoilage. Ultimately, oxidation is responsible for the stale taste that expired food and beverages develop when they are left in the fridge for too long.

Oxidation will change beer's flavor over time

Light and temperature are the two most important factors that influence how a beer will break down. Beers stored in a cool, dark, place will break down more slowly, and thus will have a longer shelf life. However, beers that are exposed to a lot of light or heat, or that were originally canned or bottled with an excess amount of oxygen, will experience the effects of oxidation more quickly, according to October.

The alcohol content of the beer will also change how well the beer ages. For beers that have an alcohol content of around nine percent or higher, the aging process can actually bring out deeper, sweeter, and more complex flavors, per The Kitchn. Much like wine, heavy beers, such as imperial stouts or strong ales, can develop subtle and distinctive flavor profiles as they age. Most craft beers properly stored can be good for up to a year before they turn.

However, while the bold flavors of aged stouts can be pleasing to certain palates, heavy beers aren't for everyone. Generally, most beer is meant to be consumed as soon as it is bottled, and you can't go wrong with a fresh, cold glass of something straight from the tap.