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Can You Cook With Expired Beer?

The other weekend, my wife and I were with a couple of friends in their summer house by the sea. I was thinking of making beer-battered fish when I saw that we had drank all the beer the night before. It was already getting late and the nearest gas station was a 45 minutes’ drive away, so I started searching for random cans of beer in the pantry.

I found a four-pack that had so much dust on it, it had clearly been forgotten for a long, long time. I dusted it off and I was right; the cans were a couple of years past their “best by” date.

Without any other options, I started doing what I do best. I took out the phone from my pocket and started searching online for answers…

Is It Okay to Cook With Expired Beer?

Yes, it’s safe to cook with expired beer—even months or years past the expiration date. Make use of old beer by using it as a liquid when baking bread, making batter, or cooking sauces, stews, and chilis. It will add an earthy flavor to your dish and help to bring out the taste of meats and vegetables.

As you should do with any beverage that’s past its “best by” date, make sure the bottle, can, or keg is intact. Give the beer a whiff and taste a tiny bit of it before cooking with it. If it tastes off or has an unappealing odor, discard it immediately.

Will Old Beer Go Bad?

Technically, beer doesn’t spoil. But make no doubt about it: it’s best to drink and cook with while it’s still fresh. When I say “fresh,” I mean no later than 3-4 months after the day of bottling.

Since beer is typically filtered or pasteurized to kill off bacteria, it has a very long shelf life and won’t spoil as easily as other beverages. This is why it will stay safe to drink and cook with even past the “best by” date. However, its aroma, flavor, texture, and carbonation will deteriorate.

By how much, exactly?

In 2014, Cook’s Illustrated asked a beer sommelier to taste-test 3 bottles of the same lager to find out.

One bottle had fresh lager, the other had lager 1 year past its “best by” date, and the third had been forgotten for several years in a basement. The difference, as the cooking magazine described it, was dramatic.

The fresh lager had a bright hops flavor and a refreshing bitterness to it. The year-old lager was malty and sweet, but tasted stale. That staleness was overwhelmingly present in the lager that had been forgotten in the basement for several years.

Can Expired Beer Cause Food Poisoning?

Don’t worry; expired beer can’t cause food poisoning. The pathogens typically responsible for foodborne illness (salmonella, listeria, shigella, campylobacter, and E.coli) can’t thrive in old beer.

The only thing that’s going to be wrong with an old can, keg, or bottle of beer—whether 1, 3, or 10 years after the expiration date—is that the taste will be stale and most certainly not as good as when the beer came out of the brewery.

How Long Does Beer Last?

After a beer has been bottled or canned, its taste will keep improving in the first 1-2 months, stay steady for 6-9 months out, and start to deteriorate in about 12 months. This is why the “best by” date on most commercially-brewed beers is 6-9 months out.

Here’s how long beer will keep its best quality for, according to Eat by Date:

BeerIn PantryIn Fridge
Bottled beer6-9 monthsUp to 2 years
Canned beer6-9 monthsUp to 2 years
Home-brewed beer6-9 monthsUp to 2 years
How long beer keeps its best quality

The easiest way to tell if a beer has gone bad for or after the “best by” date is if you don’t hear the usual “psst” sound when opening it.

When there’s no bubbles rising from the bottom of the liquid and white foam forming on top, that’s a sign the beer in question is off.

To maximize the shelf life of beer, store it upright in the fridge. Storing the beer upright will decrease the oxidation process and prevent contamination from the cap.

How Does Expired Beer Taste?

The beer that I tasted was 2 years past its expiration date. It tasted stale and old, almost like cardboard. Others who had shared their stories in online forums said the expired beer that they had tasted had a bread aroma and a sweet, toffee-like flavor.

At the end of the day, it depends on the beer brand, the storage conditions, as well as the amount of time past the expiry date. If you ask me, fresh beer tastes much better than old beer. Unlike blue cheese, which was discovered by a shepherd who had forgotten his lunch in a cave, I wouldn’t really turn this into a thing.

In Conclusion

In general, it’s safe to cook with beef after the “best by” date. As long as the bottle, can, or keg is intact and the beer doesn’t smell unpleasant or taste off, use it as a cooking liquid in your doughs, soups, stews, and chilis.

Cooking is a great way to use up old beer. The beer will add an earthy flavor and malty aroma to your dish. It will also help bring out the taste of meats and vegetables in it. Use it for heartier meats like fatty and cheaper cuts of beef, stewed beans, carrots, and onions, and savory gravies.

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Written by

Jim is the former editor of Home Cook World. He is a career food writer who's been cooking and baking at home ever since he could see over the counter and put a chair by the stove.