Unlike wine, the majority of beers are not brewed to age. Beer typically spoils within a few months, a year at
most, with some notable exceptions. Even specialty brews are not made to improve over the five, ten or even longer
age of some fine wines. There are some specialty brews, though, that can age up to 30 years. Here are some tips for
homebrew beer aficionados and beer drinkers alike, to keep that great bottle in premium shape until you can no
longer resist the temptation to open it.
DRINK IT ALL - If you did not resist opening that bottle, but found yourself satisfied halfway
through, do not put the remainder back into the refrigerator for too long. Even if well sealed so that it does not
lose carbonation, air will continue to react with what is left, leaving it unworthy after a few hours.
STOPPER WELL - Since air is one of the main enemies of a good brew, it is ironic that nitrogen,
which makes up 79% of normal air, should be used in kegs and some cans or bottles. Small nitrogen containing
pellets, called widgets, are used in some applications. The gas flows out a small pinhole when the container is
opened, helping to create a nice, foamy head. Natural cork does a good job of sealing bottles, but modern plastic
derivatives are much better.
No need to store the bottle horizontally, though. Cork drying is not a problem under normal circumstances. Just
make sure the cork is inserted a half inch or more and does not contain any obvious holes or mold. It is the oxygen
in air that does the damage, along with organisms in the air.
Storing upright also allows any remaining yeast to migrate to the bottom, where it is more easily filtered out.
Bottles stored on their sides cause yeast not only to accumulate near the cork, but also to scatter when the bottle
is tipped upright for uncorking. Unless you happen to like the more 'complex' flavor imparted, keep it upright.
KEEP THE BEER IN THE DARK - Unlike your spouse, your homebrew beer should not be let in on your
plans for it. Keeping it in a low light area will help to combat the second major cause of beer spoilage which is
ultraviolet light exposure. A condition sometimes called 'skunked'.
Any visible light can harm beer, but the invisible ultraviolet is more energetic and causes several components
in the brew to break down and combine with other compounds. The products of that reaction are always less tasty
than the original. It is not called skunked for nothing. Chemically, for those interested,
3-methylbut-2-ene-1-thiol - a constituent of skunk spray - is created, leading to the distinctive odor and
BEER REFRIGERATOR - Keep it cool, not frozen. Like most food products, beer benefits from low
temperatures. But freezing beer forms ice crystals that don't melt back exactly the way they were initially. The
result is usually lifeless and unappetizing beer. If you need to store a reasonable quantity of beer, it is
possible to purchase a specialised beer refrigerator in which to store your bottles.
Some strong brews, like Trippel or Barley Wine, store well at a few degrees below room temperature,
12.8°C-15.5°C (55°F-60°F). Most ales - Bitter, Dobblebock, Stout and others - will benefit from cooler, cellar
temperatures, in the range of 10°C-12.8°C (50°F-55°F). Lagers and other lighter beers do best in colder conditions,
around 7.2°C-10°C (45°F-50°F).
But, not everyone has an area suitable for storing beer, nor can afford a specialized beer refrigerator. If you
cannot maintain the light and temperature conditions needed to store beer, there is really only one good
alternative - give in to that temptation!