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Q: Expired Beer (is it safe?) ( Answered,   6 Comments )
Subject: Expired Beer (is it safe?)
Category: Health
Asked by: lxluthr-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 08 Nov 2002 06:52 PST
Expires: 08 Dec 2002 06:52 PST
Question ID: 102665
Location: Canada
Back in March 2002, my company was left with 20 cases of Stella Artois
beer (each case containing 24 bottles) after a large event. The
company stored the beer in the office at room temperature, somewhat
shaded from natural sunlight, for almost nine months now, the cases
have remained in the office gathering dust. Although each bottle
clearly states that the expiry date of the beer is "12|02" (december
2002), so I decided to take the cases of beer home and give them out
to friends and family before it's "too late".

My question is, what are the effects of drinking Stella Artois that is
approaching and/or past the expiry date? Can it be harmful to my

Considering that neither my friends or myself have become sick from
drinking the beer yet, I assume that it is still safe. But for how
long?! All my friends want to plan a New Years Eve party, but I'm
concerned that the beer will make everyone very sick by then.

(NOTE: As of now I'm storing the beer in my garage, completely out of
sunlight, and stored at between 1-10 degrees (when it starts get below
zero degrees, I'll be moving the beer into the basement)

I also did a bit of research of the subject months ago. But I couldn't
find much. Some people said beer only last 4 months or 7 at most. But
that doesn't explain the expiry date of "Best before 12|02". Someone
also explained it's best to keep beer out of sunlight and that bad
beer will make you throw up and feel really sick.
Subject: Re: Expired Beer (is it safe?)
Answered By: kriswrite-ga on 08 Nov 2002 07:09 PST
Hi lxluthr~

First it's important to realize that there's a difference between the
phrases "best before" and "sell by."

The term "sell by" means that the product will go bad shortly after
the given date. The grocery store (or whatever business is selling the
product) *must* sell it by that date. While consumers shouldn't buy
products after this given date, it's safe to consume them for a short
time after the date.

The term "best before" is related to quality, not safety. If the
product isn't consumed before the given date, a decrease in taste and
quality may be noticed. According to The National Food Processors
Association, products marked "best before" pose no health risks if
consumed after the given date. (For more from the NFPA, visit: )

I would recommend, however, that the beer be refrigerated, since this
should help it maintain it's quality a little longer.

Here's a handy guide to the various dates and marks on food and

And another, which comments on how important it is to properly
refrigerate both "sell by" and "best by" products:

What Safefood has to say on the subject:

Keywords Used:
"best before" "sell by"

Subject: Re: Expired Beer (is it safe?)
From: flajason-ga on 08 Nov 2002 08:01 PST

From personal experience, I have had beer sit around for over a year
and still have it taste fine. I don't drink often and usually keep it
around just for company. The beer is kept in the house, usually in one
of the cabinets so it is out of any direct light. As we live in
Florida, the temperature inside never goes much below 60 in the winter
or above 85 in the summer.

Enjoy your beer!
Subject: Re: Expired Beer (is it safe?)
From: arcadesdude-ga on 08 Nov 2002 11:54 PST
I remeber seeing a show on a sunken ship as a documentary on some
channel (might have been PBS or Discovery) where beer was discovered
from the 1800's to still be fresh!

After a quick search of:
"sunken ship" beer fresh yeast
I found this:

"On the Discovery channel last night (Oct.27), they had a small piece
on salvaging 1825 Flagg Porter from a sunken ship off the coast of
England, saving the yeast, bringing it up to "health" for 6 months,
and culturing a true porter using a Victorian era recipe."

from this page:

So it was beer from 1825 that was still "fresh." Amazing that it
lasted that long. Beer, like honey, is one food/drink that'll last a
little longer than others. I can't seem to find information about a
show I saw where honey was placed with mummies in jars and put in
tombs and was found to be fresh (not spoiled) after thousands of
years. Food preservation has come a long way since those days though.
Just be sure to smell/taste food before you gulp/snarf it down! :)
Subject: Re: Expired Beer (is it safe?)
From: researcher7-ga on 11 Nov 2002 06:23 PST
The consequence of drinking outdated, unpasteurized beer is a moderate
to severe form of food poisoning and/or food infection.  Food
infection may be caused by microorganisms in the beer (i.e. bacteria,
yeast, and fungi). The consequences of drinking contaminated beer are
vomiting, possible fever and diarrhea.  If not too severe, and
dehydration is avoided, the illness should subside in about 48 hours.

Hold the beer bottle up against a light bulb.  If there are microbes
present, you'll see strands of mycelium from the fungi and many
particulates from the yeast and/or bacteria. If this is observed,
discard the beer immediately.  As far as viral contamination of stored
beer is concerned, to date I've never seen this reported in the
Subject: Re: Expired Beer (is it safe?)
From: researcher7-ga on 11 Nov 2002 06:29 PST
One other point:

Once I did drink outdated,unpasteurized beer.  Believe me, I was SICK!
 Had I checked the beer contents for microbial growth, I would have
discarded the beer immediately.  Today, when I buy beer for use at
home, I drink it IMMEDIATELY and always keep it refrigerated.  As far
as microbial growth is concerned, it's the temperature that is
critical, not the light.  Microbes grow in dark or light. Bacteria
thrive at a temperature of 37C, while the yeast and the fungi thrive
at about 23-25C.
Subject: Re: Expired Beer (is it safe?)
From: lxluthr-ga on 11 Nov 2002 07:23 PST
Thanks everyone!
Subject: Re: Expired Beer (is it safe?)
From: dave26572-ga on 10 Mar 2005 09:11 PST
You can solve the problem by drinking distilled spirits (whiskey, rum,
vodka, gin, etc.) instead of beer because they remain in excellent
condition virtually forever. For more trivia about alcohol and
drinking, visit the "Fun Facts" page of

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