Beer Half-Life Debunked As Coors Light Propaganda

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.]


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  1. The Comedian says:

    Michael Jackson (No, not that Michael Jackson, he prefers Jesus juice) wrote about this on the Beer Hunter a while back.

    Cellaring Beer?

    Executive Summary: 99.9% of the world’s beers do not benefit from aging.

    And he provides advice on what beers might benefit from aging, how to cellar them, and what you might expect from aged beer.

    “Watch out for the Brador.” — Inscription by Michael Jackson (No, not that Michael Jackson) on my copy of his World Guide to Beer.

  2. Andrew W says:

    But the important age for consumers is from bottling to consumption, right? That’s when cheap bottling, rough transportation, temperature changes, and all the other degradations of shipping beer from Golden, Colorado, elsewhere ruin flavor.

    Here’s a great article on storing beer as it matures from (a column also published weekly in Boston’s “Weekly Dig” newspaper).

  3. Kornkob says:

    Beer companies want you to beleive that beer that has turned because it is ‘old’. In fact the source of the problem is usually one thing, made possible by a combination of 2 things: packaging and storage.

    The main thing that causes beer to turn is exposure to light. Since most major brand beer companies use clear (or, some say even worse, green) bottles, the beer company themselves is setting the beer up for failure.

    The mistake of using green or clear glass bottles is compounded by something ALL major companies do: encourage retailers and tavers to proudly display the product as prominantly as possible, up to and including in windows and udner bright lights. Heck, in some stores and bars the distributor actually PAYS for the beer to be stored in bright light.

    I’ve had beers that were in excess of 2 years old that tasted very good indeed. I’ve encountered properly stored pilsner (the most common style of american beers) a year old that tasted little different than it’s ‘born on’ 30 days ago little brother. It’s not the age: it’s proper storage that matters. The ‘born on’ dates are a marketing ploy that hopes to capitalize on people’s ignornace of how beer ‘goes bad’ in order to make a sale.

    And if you ever want to prove this to yourself, head on over to and cook yourself up a batch. Drink one beer a week after bottling and drink another, stored in a cool, dark place a year later.

    In the interests of full disclosure: yes, I had a great, great uncle who got run over by a Budwieser beer cart (the one’s with horses). I have been a bartender and I do brew beer (in fact I’ve got a case of mead and a keg of hard cider in the garage right now).

  4. drsmith says:

    I’ll second Korkob’s post. He knows what he’s talking about. Furthermore, if you’ve got a few hours to spare and you like microbrews, you really should give home brewing a try.

    Disclaimer: I’m a hobby beer brewer, too.

  5. Mechalith says:

    I just always find it funny when people go off about how fresh their beer is. “Fresh” beer is just water and yeast with bitter flowers in it, after all. (I know it’s an oversimplification, but *shrug* you get the idea)

    I also advocate brewing your own beer, or beverage of choce. It takes a while, but it’s generally well worth it.

  6. non-meat-stick says:

    I believe pasturization plays a hand in this debate as well