Where is the expiration date on beer?

by Kaia

When it comes to enjoying a refreshing beer, knowing its expiration date is crucial. This date helps ensure that the beer you drink is at its optimal flavor and quality. Unlike many other food and beverage products, the placement of expiration dates on beer can vary significantly. This article will explore where to find the expiration date on beer, the importance of these dates, and how they affect your beer-drinking experience.


Why Expiration Dates on Beer Matter

Beer, like most consumables, has a shelf life. While beer doesn’t spoil in the way milk or meat does, it can certainly go stale or lose its intended flavor profile over time. The expiration date on beer is an indicator of when the brewer believes the beer will no longer taste as intended. Consuming beer past its expiration date can result in an off-flavor, a flat experience, or even a completely different taste profile than what was originally intended.


Understanding the importance of expiration dates on beer helps consumers make informed choices. Freshness is key to enjoying beer as it was meant to be, with all its nuanced flavors and aromas. Brewers invest significant time and resources in perfecting their recipes, and the expiration date is a part of ensuring that their product is enjoyed at its best.


Where to Find the Expiration Date on Beer

The placement of the expiration date on beer bottles and cans can vary based on the manufacturer and packaging type. Here are the most common locations:


Bottle Neck or Shoulder

Many breweries print the expiration date on the neck or shoulder of the beer bottle. This location is easy to spot when picking up the bottle, making it convenient for consumers to check the date without turning the bottle around.

Bottle Label

Some breweries choose to print the expiration date directly on the bottle label. This can be on the front or back label, usually in a corner or along the edge. It’s integrated into the design of the label but kept distinct enough to be readable.

Bottom of the Bottle

Another common location is the bottom of the bottle. This can sometimes be harder to see without lifting the bottle, but it’s a discreet place that doesn’t interfere with the label design.


For beer cans, the expiration date is often found on the bottom. It’s stamped directly onto the metal, making it visible when the can is turned upside down. Some breweries also place the date on the rim of the can where it meets the lid.

Secondary Packaging

In cases where beer is sold in multipacks, such as six-packs or cases, the expiration date might be printed on the packaging itself rather than on individual bottles or cans. This is common for larger shipments and bulk purchases.

Decoding the Expiration Date on Beer

The format of the expiration date on beer can vary. Some breweries use a straightforward “best by” date, while others might use a Julian date code or a production date with an indication of shelf life. Here’s how to decode these formats:

Best By Date

This is the most consumer-friendly format, typically written as “Best by MM/DD/YYYY.” It’s clear and straightforward, indicating the date by which the beer should be consumed for optimal quality.

Julian Date Code

Some breweries use Julian date coding, which is a continuous count of days through the year. For example, January 1st would be 001, and December 31st would be 365. This code can be followed by the year, making it look something like “36522” for December 31, 2022.

Production Date

Another common format is the production date, followed by the shelf life. For instance, a code might read “042522,” indicating that the beer was produced on April 25, 2022. The shelf life (e.g., six months) must then be added to determine the expiration date.

Understanding these codes ensures that you’re drinking your beer within the period when it’s freshest and most enjoyable.

Factors Affecting Beer Shelf Life

Several factors can affect how long beer remains fresh and flavorful. These include storage conditions, packaging types, and the style of beer. Here’s a closer look at each factor:

Storage Conditions

Temperature is crucial for beer storage. Beer should be kept in a cool, dark place to maintain its quality. Exposure to heat and light can cause beer to spoil faster. This is particularly true for beer in clear or green bottles, as they offer less protection against light than brown bottles.

Packaging Types

Cans generally protect beer better than bottles because they are airtight and keep out light entirely. Bottles, especially those with caps that aren’t properly sealed, can allow oxygen to enter, which can spoil the beer over time.

Beer Style

Different styles of beer have varying shelf lives. Light lagers and pilsners tend to have shorter shelf lives, often around three to six months. Hoppy beers like IPAs also degrade relatively quickly, losing their hop character. On the other hand, darker, stronger beers like stouts and barleywines can age well and may even improve over time if stored properly.

See Also: Does Beer Affect Fatty Liver?

Impact of Expiration Dates on Beer Quality

Drinking beer past its expiration date won’t necessarily make you sick, but it can lead to a disappointing experience. Here are some changes you might notice in expired beer:


Stale beer can develop off-flavors that range from cardboard-like tastes to sour notes. This is often due to oxidation, where oxygen interacts with the beer’s components, breaking down the flavor compounds.

Loss of Carbonation

Over time, beer can lose its carbonation, leading to a flat, unappealing mouthfeel. This is more likely in bottles that aren’t sealed tightly or have been stored improperly.

Color Changes

Beer can change color as it ages, particularly if it’s been exposed to light. This is more noticeable in lighter beers, which can develop a darker hue.

Aroma Deterioration

The aroma of beer can also deteriorate over time. Hoppy beers, in particular, can lose their fresh, vibrant hop aromas, which are a significant part of their appeal.

Breweries’ Approach to Expiration Dates

Breweries take various approaches to determining and labeling expiration dates on their beer. Here are a few examples of how different breweries manage this aspect:

Large Breweries

Large-scale breweries often have strict quality control measures and use advanced technology to ensure consistent product quality. They typically use clear expiration dates and invest in packaging that maximizes the shelf life of their beer.

Craft Breweries

Craft breweries may take a more artisanal approach, focusing on smaller batches and unique flavors. They often emphasize freshness and might use shorter expiration periods to ensure their beer is enjoyed at its peak.

Seasonal and Limited-Edition Beers

For seasonal or limited-edition beers, breweries might use expiration dates to ensure these special releases are consumed while fresh. These beers often have distinct flavor profiles that can change significantly over time.

Consumer Tips for Managing Beer Expiration

As a consumer, there are several practices you can adopt to ensure you’re drinking beer at its best:

Check Dates Before Purchase

Always check the expiration date on beer before purchasing. This is particularly important for hoppy beers and lagers, which are best consumed fresh.

Proper Storage

Store beer in a cool, dark place. Avoid exposure to heat and light, and if possible, keep it refrigerated.

Rotate Stock

If you have a large beer collection, practice stock rotation. Consume older beers first and keep newer acquisitions toward the back to ensure nothing sits too long.

Understand Beer Styles

Educate yourself on different beer styles and their optimal consumption periods. Knowing that certain styles can be aged while others should be consumed fresh can enhance your beer-drinking experience.


Understanding where to find the expiration date on beer and the importance of these dates can significantly enhance your beer-drinking experience. Whether you prefer the crispness of a fresh pilsner or the complex flavors of a well-aged stout, knowing how to manage and interpret beer expiration dates ensures that you always enjoy beer at its best. Keep an eye on these dates, store your beer properly, and appreciate the effort that goes into delivering a quality product from the brewery to your glass. Cheers to fresh, flavorful beer every time!



© 2023 Copyright