How to Read Beer Expiration Dates? (2021 Updated)

As craft beer has become more and more popular, many more retailers are trying to cash in on the trend and are making craft beer available in many more places. However there may be a price for such convenience, mostly that you may find some old beer, recent blog posts have outed certain companies Walgreens, for selling awfully old and out of season beer. Well in this article beer nerds I’m going to do a public service by showing you how some brewers date their beers so that you don’t spend ten bucks on a six-pack of year old beer.

See also: Best Home Brewing Kits (2021 Updated)

How to CRACK the Date Code?!

Hello beer nerds, this is beer by the numbers and in this article we’re going to decipher the sometimes cryptic dates on your favorite craft beer, to ensure a less than reputable bottle shop doesn’t sell you some dusty old craft beer.

Now something to know about date stamps on beer, there’s no set standard that every brewer out there has to follow and some brewers don’t even put date stamps on their product at all, which can make it impossible to truly determine freshness. Fortunately, those that do put date stamps on their beers use conventions that are easily understood with a little bit of background knowledge.

Now I found the hardest part of reading a date on a beer is actually finding the date stamp at all, some breweries like Sierra Nevada or Odell clearly print dates on the section of the label on all their beers.

If you don’t find a date on the label bottles usually have a date stamped on the neck or shoulder of the bottle, on cans the best place to look is usually the bottom. Okay, so you’ve located a date stamp, some beers will have catchy phrases on them like filled on, bottled on, canned on and then a date, while those labels are very easy to read sometimes you’ll find a more cryptic stamp like this.

This label takes the form of a Julian date, in this case, the first two numbers represent the year 16 for 2016 and the next three numbers represent the Julian date, which is just the date numbered 1 to 365 or 366 for a leap year. This label indicates the 224th day of a leap year which is August eleventh, so this can was filled on August eleventh, 2016. So now that we’ve gotten a primer on reading cryptic beer dates, let’s play America’s favorite beer-themed game show, fresh or funky. Oh welcome to fresh or funky where we examine beers from my fridge and determine if they are fresh or funky, remember that this video was recorded in September of 2016, so we’re looking for beers that are about six months old or less as indicated by their date stamp, let’s start with a lovely Abbe de Bourbon Street coffee stout, is it fresh or funky? With that best by date of April 29, 2017, this beer is 100% certified fresh.

Let’s try another, here we have a can of Fulton breweries lonely blonde, is it fresh or funky? With a date of 16224, we know the calendar date is August eleventh, 2016, so at about a month old this beer is super fresh.

The next beer Moose Drool from Big Sky brewing that my buddy left in my fridge for a while, is it fresh or funky? This one is a tricky one folks I had to google it as there are some extra pieces of information here, the top date is actually the bottling date indicating the 295th day of 2015 or October twenty-second, the bottom date is a best by date of the 219th day of 2016 or August six, so this beer is funky trying to pass for fresh, tricky tricky.

Thanks for playing beer nerds and remember only buy your beer in season to avoid some very funky flavors.

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Stay curious beer nerds, and as Bill Carter once said there is no such thing as a bad beer, it’s that some taste better than others.

Written by Clark Thanh on

Clark is a freelance writer with several years of experience in beer brewing and fermentation. For as long as he can remember, Clark has always found great pleasure in brewing, fermentation and bottling beer.

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