How long should my beer last?

An important question we often get asked on the Inn Doctor forum is, “How long should or does my beer last?” It is an interesting question with several variables that can affect the answer.

It is vital for you the retailer to have a good understanding of this issue to enable you to keep the correct stock levels and in some circumstances determine whether it is profitable to sell certain products that perhaps are not selling as quickly as they should.

Lets us begin with the keg beers and have a look at the infamous “Best before” date label which should be on the top of every keg you take delivery of. There is an article which deals with this in some detail How old is my beer which will give you a bit more information. Essentially the “best before” date means that provided you do not broach or open a keg, then that keg can be sold up to and within that date. However it does not mean that if you connect a keg for sale it will last until the “Best before” date. Once broached [opened] and depending on the type of beer, a keg of beer will be in good condition for sale for up to a maximum of a week.

Typically darker keg beers such as Milds or Bitters should according to some brewers, be sold within 4 days. After this there is a risk of these products becoming over carbonated, causing fobbing[frothy] or even developing off flavours and becoming cloudy. When a keg is connected it becomes exposed to bacteria via the keg coupler and in some cases the beer gas. Always try and use beer gases from trusted suppliers as the quality can vary greatly. Lager beers usually last a little longer than darker beers.

Another critical factor in determining how long a keg will last is the temperature of the cellar or area where it is stored. If you are lucky enough to have cellar cooling where the cellar is kept at a constant 53 – 54 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Centigrade) then that will give you a more consistent product life. Storing beer kegs in areas where the temperature can fluctuate, such as under bar counters, can shorten the life of keg beers.

Choosing the right size of keg for your bar is quite important. Choosing to sell an 11 gallon [50 litre] rather than an a 22 gallon [100 litre] will ensure your beer has a faster turn around, with the risk of developing problems reduced.

These same issues also apply to cask beers as well. Cask beers have a short dispense life, with the maximum sale period about 3 days once broached [opened]. There is some debate about using cask breathers [aspirators] see Cask beer aspirators, my opinion! Cask breather or Aspirator on this site. Our technicians feels aspirators can extend the dispense life of cask beers. Some kind of temperature control, cellar cooling or cask jackets is vital if you are to sell cask beer.

How often do customers or enthusiastic brewery reps persuade landlords to have the latest wiz bang extra cold such and such beer installed on the bar only for the poor landlord to find he is selling 2 pints a week. Consider what you sell on the bar, fast through put and maximum profit should be your only consideration. If young Tarquin wants to sup his Extra Cold, Super Strength, Low Carbon, Wheat beer, let him get it from Asda, and save yourself some money.

To sum up, for beer to taste at it’s best:

Keg beers should be sold within 4 days to a week once connected for sale.

Cask beers should be sold within 3 days.

Always make sure your keg or cask has a “B.B.”label.

Longer “Best before” dates give you more flexibility.

Cellar cooling creates product consistency.

Use the smallest keg size that is practical for you.

Is short shelf life a problem for your business

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