Last week, we posted about the obscure hieroglyphics scrawled on the bottom of each beer bottle, marking its expiration date for shopkeepers who know the code but hiding it from consumers looking for the freshest pint possible. Even when we posted it, we were a bit confused about the story: doesn’t some beer actually have a legible expiration date printed on the label? And that article was definitely the first time we’d ever heard that all beer had a clearly defined shelf-life, equal to the shelf-life of all other brews.
Luckily for us, our girlfriends over at the Accidental Hedonist gave it some serious cogitating and posted a healthy rebuttal to the article on their blog. And it turns out that the writer of the original article, so worried about the freshness of his beer, fell for a little bit of Coors corporate propaganda. Here’s a snip:
Fresh beer doesn’t really taste that good. Much like many fermenting beverages, beers need time to mature. In the cases of lagers, the time frame towards maturation is measured in weeks. For some porters and stouts, the time frame can be measured in months and years. Typically the more complex the beer in regard to its flavors, the more time is needed to mature. Once a beer hits that time, it’s considered its peak time for drinking.
Coors and Budweiser want to highlight how fresh their beer is because it takes their beer a shorter period of time to mature than more complex beers. Anchor, on the hand, doesn’t want you to know the expiration date, because when the expiration date is compared against a Budweiser, consumers now have the mindset that newer equates to better, when that’s not necessarily the case.
Or to put it another way, a fresher beer doesn’t always mean a better beer. The major breweries have simply convinced us otherwise.
Good news for those of us who love to partake of the cut-out bin at our local Kappy’s!
[Editor's note: Sometimes fresher beer does matter, depending on the style. I maintain that knowing when the beer is brewed never hurts, but that it takes a little bit of knowledge about the brewing process to understand why the date matters.]