After spending hours upon hours making your homebrew, you want to know how long it will keep in storage. Nothing is worse than assuming your homebrew will last for months than opening a ruined bottle. However, the answer to the question of how long bottled homebrew beer lasts may surprise you.
Bottled homebrew beer should last between 6 and 12 months (one year) when properly capped and stored. Because the seal is not completely airtight, the beer will slowly oxidize, develop off-flavors, and lose carbonation over time. Generally, flavor improves for the first several months of bottle conditioning, stabilizes, and then begins to degrade.
If you want to learn tips and tricks for extending your bottled beer’s storage life, keep reading. I will also go over the different lifespans of various types of beer as there is quite a range.
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How long does homebrew beer last once bottled?
Depending on the type of beer you are homebrewing, there are a number of time frames to enjoy your beer. On average the range can be 6 to 12 months, but factors such as alcohol content can limit or expand this.
Homebrew beer with a high ABV, such as double IPAs, are some of the longest-lasting bottled beers. Lower ABV beers, such as certain ales, can only last for several months. Higher alcohol in homebrew beers helps it last longer due to the extended fermentation process.
It is important to note that harmful pathogens will rarely if ever enter your homebrew after its expiration date. The biggest effect will simply be in the flavor, which may taste poor or flat. But the risk of poisoning by drinking expired beer is very rare.
That being said, if you see mold – throw it away!
Does homebrew improve with age?
Have you ever found an old bottle of beer in the back of your fridge, and when you cracked it open you found it was absolutely delicious? Time is your friend when it comes to homebrew.
Homebrew beer does improve with age. Many homebrewers plan to bottle condition their beer, in order to allow for more time to enhance the flavor of their homebrew. Letting your homebrew sit for a couple of months before consuming can result in even better beer.
Bottle conditioning refers to a method of adding fermenting wort or yeast suspension in sugar solution into beer after bottling. This process can take several weeks to months depending on the type of beer. By bottle conditioning, you promote carbonation in your homebrew and the extended time period allows the flavor to develop more.
Here are some examples of different homebrew’s conditioning waiting periods:
- Stout: 2-4 weeks
- Ale: 2-4 weeks
- Wheat Beer: 2-4 weeks
- Lager: 4-12 weeks
- Belgian Ales: 3-6 months
I cover the entire process of bottle conditioning and how to store your homebrew while it conditions in another article.
Does homebrew go bad?
Homebrew beer, like most organic substances, will eventually go bad. There are a variety of factors that can cause your homebrew to spoil, including light, bacteria, and oxygen.
- Light causes your homebrew to go bad with harmful UV rays. UV light from the sun hurts the flavor of your homebrew. To prevent this from happening use dark opaque bottles as opposed to clear ones.
- Bacteria can ruin your homebrew with improper cooling. Though it is unlikely, if bacteria can sneak into your homebrew over time it will cause your beer to go bad.
- Oxygen naturally breaks down the chemicals in your homebrew. Bottled beer is at a greater risk of breakdown than canned, and if you open your beer frequently once it is bottled it’s likely to go bad quickly.
As mentioned previously though, the risk of your homebrew going bad is rare. It is much more likely the flavor will simply be lost.
How long does homebrew beer last in plastic bottles?
While uncommon, some homebrewers may want to opt for storing their beer in plastic bottles. But do these bottles last as long as glass?
Because there is a risk plastic could react with the content of homebrew, it is best to store beer in plastic bottles for no more than two months. Specialty PET that is thicker can be purchased to extend this timeframe, but never more than several months at a time.
In addition to its shorter storage time, using plastic bottles for storage can be wasteful over time. Cleaning plastic bottles can be much more difficult than glass, as such you are likely to buy more to avoid the hassle. This can hurt your wallet and the environment in the long run.
I cover the full range of pros and cons that come with storing homebrew in plastic bottles in this article here.
How to properly store bottled homebrew beer
Now that I’ve covered the facts on how long homebrew bottled beer lasts, you may be wondering how to best ensure you get the full shelf life out of your homebrew. Below I’ve provided 6 tips to follow when figuring out where to store your bottles.
Be mindful that there are some slight differences in how to best store beer depending on the type you’ve chosen to brew. These general rules will provide a good guideline to help you get started.
Store at the correct temperature
Always opt for a cool dark place when selecting a spot to store your homebrew beer.
Different styles of beer prefer different temperatures. Pilsners and Lagers prefer to be stored at 7-10°C. IPAs and Stouts at 10-12°C, and Imperial Stouts and Doubles at 12-16°C. A good rule of thumb, the higher the ABV the more temperature leeway you have.
When in doubt the fridge is always a good choice.
Store your bottles upright
Be sure to store your bottles standing upright, not laying on their sides. This is key for two reasons, one is to reduce the amount of surface area of beer that air is touching. The second is to reduce the risk of yeast agitation, as yeast is more likely to be agitated when you inevitably have to turn the bottles upright to consume.
Having your homebrew touch a lot of air in the bottle can increase the rate of oxidation which will cause the flavor to go much faster. Yeast agitation will also quickly ruin your homebrew if you’re not careful.
This leads me to the next tip.
Do not disturb your bottles
Disturbing your bottles by tipping them or moving them around frequently will likely cause the yeast to become agitated. This will ruin your homebrew as the yeast is critical for conditioning and maintaining the flavor of the beer.
Be sure to keep the bottles in the same location as much as possible during storage.
Store away from the sun
UV light from the sun can hurt the flavor of your homebrew. Store your beer in a location that has no windows or can be covered easily to prevent UV rays from penetrating. Dark opaque bottles should also be used instead of clear ones to help keep the sun out.
Select the appropriate bottle type
The type of bottle you select is also key. Standard long neck bottles that are dark and opaque are perfect. If you are looking to brew a beer with a higher ABV be sure to select a bottle with thicker glass to sustain pressure and prevent oxygen from leaking in.
As I mentioned earlier plastic bottles are an option for storage, but I wouldn’t recommend them as they reduce your homebrew’s storage life and are not as sustainable.
Avoid high humidity
Lastly, make sure you monitor the humidity when finding a place to properly store your homebrew beer. An ideal humidity range for storing beer is between 50% to 70%. Once you have levels about 70% you run the risk of mold forming or bottle caps rusting on your homebrew. These risks are higher on corked or plastic bottles, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
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