005. Beer storage

Beer storage

Providing great beer service starts even before you meet the customer. Great beer service requires great beer, of course. To make sure that the beer you’re serving is the best that it can be, be sure that you properly store all of your beer at all times.

I couldn’t really find any suggested reading material on this topic. The actual Certified Beer Server syllabus has some details about what to know for this section. My notes below elaborate on the syllabus section about beer storage.

Beer is best consumed fresh

Beer is a natural food product. Ingredients are heated to sterilizing temperatures during the brewing process, and hops are a preservative. But a beer won’t last as long as a Twinkie.

Beer is best consumed while it’s still fresh. Fermentation has already taken place at the brewery. Carbonation has occurred, either force-carbonated in the bright tank or bottle conditioned. So by the time the beer leaves the brewery, it’s ready to drink.

My friends laughed at me when I said that I was saving some beers to age. But some beers can be kept for aging. Very strong beers (high in ABV) or beers with strong flavors age best.

Age beer in a cool dark place for a few months or even years, and see how it evolves. I think it’s kind of fun.

But for the most part, serve beer while it’s fresh.

Freshness can be preserved and enhanced by wholesaler and retailer actions

There are some methods to ensure beer stays fresh before you serve it.

  • Rotate inventory
  • Store beer properly
  • Serve beer properly (draft beer should use CO2, not air)

Rotate inventory

Obviously newer beer is fresher than older beer. Train the staff to sell all of the beers you offer. If you have a product that is not encouraged or promoted, it will sit on the shelf until it’s no longer fresh.

Stock new shipments behind or underneath product that is already in stock or in the cooler. Don’t put it on top or in front of existing stock.

Dated beer – Keep track of shipment dates. Serve beer in the order of the date on the label. Get rid of any beers that are expired.

Undated beer – If there are no dates on the product, serve beer in the order of the shipment date.

Draft – Non-pasteurized draft beer can last 45-60 days (1 1/2 to 2 months) in refrigeration. Pasteurized draft beer can last 90-120 days (3-4 months) in refrigeration.

Bottled – Bottled beer lasts much longer than draft beer. Bottles can be kept for up to 6 months refrigerated. If it’s not refrigerated, you better move the product within 3 months.

If there is any product that you’re unsure about, taste the aged product beside the fresh product to determine whether you can still serve it.

Store beer properly

Storage will also contribute to the freshness of the beer. All beer will stay fresh longer if they are refrigerated. If you don’t refrigerate the beer it will deteriorate and develop off flavors sooner.

Draft beer – Refrigeration is required.

Bottled beer – Refrigeration is recommended.

All beers will deteriorate with time. If your beer has one of the following signs of oxidation, your product is no longer fresh:

  • Papery flavor
  • Wet cardboard flavor

Bottled beer is especially subject to “skunking.” Skunked beer has been damaged by light coming through the glass. Skunkiness is mostly evident in the aroma of the beer.

Both sunlight and fluorescent light can skunk a beer within just a few minutes. That’s why so many beer bottles are colored brown.

Brown glass provides the best protection, blocking 98 percent of light wavelengths that cause skunking. Green glass blocks 20 percent of the wavelengths that cause skunking. Clear glass provides no protection from light.

Million-dollar idea:

Sunblock for beer bottles. Spray it on at the factory.


Send me a check.

Aluminum cans, ceramic bottles, and bottles in closed-box cases provide maximum protection from light.

Serve beer properly

Lastly, to preserve freshness of draft beer, make sure that you are properly operating the draft system.

Make sure the pressure is at the proper setting. Use only CO2 or a CO2-nitrogen mix. Never use compressed air—air oxidizes beer. A “party pump” on a keg will keep beer fresh for less than one day.

The next section goes into more detail about draft systems.

Flashcards for this section

Based on the reading materials mentioned and my notes above, here are my flashcards for this section.

Does beer have a shelf life?

Yes. Beer is best consumed while it’s fresh.

Which types of beer are best for aging?

Beers with high ABV or with strong flavors are best for aging.

3 tactics to ensure that the beer you serve is fresh

  1. Rotate inventory
  2. Store beer properly
  3. Serve beer properly (draft beer should use CO2, not air)

How long will beer say fresh on tap?

Non-pasteurized draft beer – 1 1/2 to 2 months refrigerated

Pasteurized draft beer – 3-4 months refrigerated

How long will beer stay fresh in bottles?

Up to 6 months refrigerated

Must all beer be stored in refrigeration?

All beer will stay fresh longer in refrigeration.

Refrigeration is required for draft.

Refrigeration is recommended for bottled beer.

2 characteristics of oxidized beer

  1. Papery flavor
  2. Wet cardboard flavor

How does beer become “skunked”?

Light damages beer within a few minutes.

Skunkiness mostly shows up in the aroma.

Does glass color protect the beer from light?

Yes. Glass color protects beer from light.

Brown glass protects best

Then green

Clear glass provides no protection from light

Aluminum, ceramic, and boxes provide maximum protection from light.

4 ways to keep draft beer fresh longer

  1. Always refrigerate draft beer
  2. Always use CO2 or CO2-nitrogen mixture
  3. Use the proper pressure
  4. Never use air or a “party pump”

Free Flashcards

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    I'm Nathan Pierce. I drink beer, I quit my job, and I'm planning to start a brewery. I also host a podcast about how to start a brewery. So I’m studying for Cicerone® Certification Program, Certified Beer Server exam.

    Study along with me!

    Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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