Can you drink expired malt beverage?

Malt beverages, like beer, are made from malted barley, hops, yeast and water. They typically have a relatively short shelf life compared to other alcoholic drinks. With proper storage, most malt beverages like beer, ale and malt liquor remain drinkable for around 6 months to a year after the printed expiration date. However, the taste and alcohol content may start to degrade after this time.

What happens when malt beverage expires?

The main things that happen when a malt beverage expires are:

  • Loss of carbonation – Carbon dioxide fizz evaporates over time, so flat or stale taste.
  • Oxidation – Exposure to oxygen causes off flavors and aroma.
  • Loss of hop bitterness – Hop oils that give beer its bitterness degrade over time.
  • Changes in color – Especially dark beers turning lighter.
  • Loss of alcohol – Ethanol alcohol content diminishes.
  • Sour or vinegary taste – Spoilage bacteria can grow producing acids.
  • Haze or sediment – Proteins and compounds precipitate out.

The higher the alcohol and hop content, the better a malt beverage resists spoilage. Darker beers also tend to age better than light ones. But eventually all malt beverages will show some undesirable changes in flavor, aroma, appearance and mouthfeel.

Is it safe to drink expired malt beverages?

Generally, it is safe to drink malt beverages past their expiration date as long as they have been properly stored and there are no obvious signs of spoilage.

Some things to look out for:

  • Off odors – Spoiled, skunky, cheese-like or vinegary smell.
  • Off flavors – Sour, vinegar, cardboard, rotten flavors.
  • Visible mold – Cottony or fuzzy growth, “floaties”.
  • Overly hazy – Particles floating around.
  • Foaming or gushing – Lots of carbonation when opened.
  • Changes in color – Dramatic lightening or darkening.

As long as none of these warning signs are present, an expired malt beverage may not be ideal in terms of taste but should still be safe to drink.

The main safety concern with very old malt beverage is bacterial contamination if seals become compromised. So always inspect bottling sealing and packaging carefully.

How to tell if malt beverage is spoiled?

Here are some key ways to identify if your expired malt beverage has spoiled and may not be safe to drink:


  • Cloudiness or chunky sediment – Should be relatively clear.
  • Unexpected separation or layering of liquid.
  • Dramatic color changes – Especially darkening.
  • White/gray fuzz or cottony mold spots.
  • Ropy strands or gels – Viscosity changes from contamination.


  • Rotten, skunky, cheese, butter, vinegar or other acidic smells.
  • Very stale cardboard or paper aroma.
  • Solvent-like or chemical smells.
  • Unusual medicinal or plastic odors.


  • Metallic, bitter, sour, vinegary, acidic, rotten, stale cardboard flavors.
  • Artificial fruit or bubblegum tastes, not typical of style.

Carbonation and Mouthfeel

  • Overly flat or completely lost carbonation.
  • Overly fizzy, foamy or gushing carbonation when opened.
  • Significantly increased viscosity or oiliness in mouth.

If you notice any of these warning signs it is best to err on the side of caution and not drink the malt beverage. Always rely on your senses, if something seems off it likely is.

How long can you store malt beverage?

Here are some general guidelines for malt beverage storage times before noticeable flavor deterioration:

Malt Beverage Type Optimal Storage Time
Light lagers and pilsners 3-4 months
Ales and stouts 6-12 months
Strong ales and barleywines 1-2 years
High ABV malt liquor 1-2 years

However, these times can vary considerably based on:

  • Alcohol content – Higher alcohol prolongs shelf life.
  • Hop content – More hops increase bitterness stability.
  • Carbonation – Pressurized CO2 helps resist oxidation.
  • Color – Darker beers age better than light.
  • Cleanliness – No contaminants or oxygen introduction.
  • Temperature – Cooler temperatures prolong freshness.

With optimal storage conditions of darkness, temperature under 70°F, upright orientation and no agitation, unopened malt beverages can often last years past their printed date. But flavor degradation will still occur over time.

How to store malt beverage properly?

Here are some tips for maximizing the shelf life of malt beverages:

  • Cool temps – Store around 55°F if possible, definitely below 70°F.
  • Darkness – Block all sunlight and UV sources which skunk beer.
  • Control humidity – Keep around 50% humidity to avoid cork drying or mold risk.
  • No vibration – Avoid shaking or agitating sediment and compounds.
  • Upright – Store bottles upright to keep corks and seals saturated.
  • Clean – Dust and pests introduce microbes. Keep storage area clean.
  • No odor penetration – Chemical odors easily taint malt beverages.

Cellars, basements, or wine refrigerators provide ideal storage conditions. But a dark cabinet will also suffice for shorter durations. Rotate stock and consume older beverages first.

Once opened, malt beverages are best consumed within a few days and should be refrigerated. Any exposure to air and sterile loss allows deterioration and spoilage.

Can you freeze malt beverages?

Freezing can prolong the shelf life of malt beverages but it can also damage flavors. Some key considerations:

  • Freezing too cold below 0°F fractures bottle cap seals leading to oxygen exposure.
  • Thawing causes precipitation of compounds leading to permanent haze.
  • Ice crystals rupture cell membranes releasing off-flavors.
  • Carbonation is lost upon thawing due to CO2 escaping from solution.

So freezing is generally not recommended. If you do freeze malt beverages, allow gradual thawing over 24-48 hours in the refrigerator before consuming.

Some high ABV malt liquors may tolerate freezing. But in most cases, refrigerator temperatures of 34–40°F are ideal for longer storage.

What happens if you drink expired malt beverage?

If properly stored, most malt beverages are still safe to consume for a period after their printed date, though taste and quality may decline.

However, drinking spoiled or contaminated malt beverage that has been stored improperly can cause health issues including:

  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea from pathogens or toxins.
  • Food poisoning symptoms like cramps, fever, chills, headaches.
  • Allergic reactions, asthma attacks, skin rashes from compounds.
  • Severe illness in people with compromised immune systems.

Off flavors or reduced alcohol content are the most likely effects of drinking old but uncontaminated malt beverages. But err on the side of caution if expiration dates have long passed or any signs of spoilage are present.

Can expired malt beverage make you sick?

While food poisoning from malt beverages is very rare, it is possible under certain circumstances:

  • Weakened immune system – More vulnerable to pathogen risks.
  • Improper storage – Heat, light exposure leads to microbial growth.
  • Signs of contamination – Mold, visible sediments or biofilms.
  • Botulism risk – Infected seals, anaerobic conditions.

If batches are recalled due to contamination risks, consuming those infected beverages could potentially make you ill.

Most common pathogens in spoiled malt beverages include:

  • Salmonella
  • Listeria
  • Escherichia coli
  • Clostridium botulinum

Symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, headaches may appear 12-48 hours after drinking contaminated beverages and last for a day or two. Seek medical treatment for serious botulism or systemic infection risks.

If stored properly, most malt beverages will not spoil or become hazardous. But always err on the side of caution when assessing expired beverages.

How to check ABV of expired malt beverage?

The alcohol by volume (ABV) content may diminish over time as ethanol evaporates or oxidizes. To check approximate ABV of an expired malt beverage:

  1. Procure a hydrometer tool used for measuring ABV. They are affordable online.
  2. Calibrate hydrometer in plain water to verify proper float point.
  3. Fill test jar 2/3 full with expired malt beverage.
  4. Place hydrometer in test liquid. It will float at a specific level.
  5. Read the ABV% mark aligned with the liquid surface.
  6. Temperature correct reading based on adjustment chart.
  7. Repeat steps for accuracy across multiple tests.

This will provide an estimate of current alcohol percentage. Compare to the labeled or expected ABV when fresh to determine how much alcohol has degraded over time. Refrigerate beverage sample during process to maintain carbonation.

Changes in ABV along with sensory analysis of aroma, appearance and taste can help inform if an expired malt beverage is still enjoyable and drinkable even if past its prime.

Does malt beverage expire?

Yes, malt beverages like beer do technically expire and have a limited shelf life. The expiration date printed on bottles or cans indicates the end of the timeframe when optimal taste and quality is expected under proper storage conditions.

However, for some styles and alcohol strengths, malt beverages may remain safe to drink for a period past the expiration date, though freshness declines over longer storage durations.

General guidelines for malt beverage expiration:

  • Pale lagers and pilsners – 3-5 months past date
  • Amber and dark ales – 6-12 months past date
  • Strong beers and barleywines – 1-2 years past date
  • High gravity malt liquors – 2-3 years past date

Ideally consume malt beverages like beer within 3-6 months for optimal flavor and freshness. Properly store after opening to slow deterioration process. Inspect aged product carefully for any spoilage signs before consuming expired malt beverages.


Drinking expired malt beverages like beer, ale and malt liquor is generally safe if stored properly. But flavors and alcohol content will degrade over time past the printed date.

Inspect aged malt beverage for any off tastes, smells or appearance changes indicating spoilage before drinking. If no obvious signs of contamination are present, it may not taste fresh but should not make you sick.

Employ ideal storage conditions to prolong shelf life. Refrigerate after opening and consume within days for best quality. Freeze very carefully if trying to archive special bottles.

Ultimately, trust your senses. If an expired malt beverage seems fine, it likely is OK to drink, though may not taste great. But err on the side of caution with any product past its prime. Malt beverages do expire, but proper handling can extend their drinkable lifespan.

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