Help Me Help You Find Fresh Beer

I’ve already mentioned, buying fresh beer is very important to me, and it should be for you. The problem is it’s so hard to find out whether the beer in front of you at the grocery store is fresh. Some breweries don’t label their beer with any production information, some put it in hard to find locations, some use a format which defies decoding, and some use a “Best By” date rather than a “Born On” date (which makes it difficult to tell how old the beer is since you don’t know what the brewery considers their beer’s shelf-life to be).

So what I propose, and it just may be a bit daft to try, is for us (you and I) to attempt to compile a collection of label information for various breweries. If we can get enough information gathered together, maybe people can start to find the fresh beer that they deserve. Of course, just because the label says it’s a young and fresh beer doesn’t mean it hasn’t been abused.  It doesn’t take long for elevated temperatures to adversely affect beer flavor; just a few days in the trunk of your car in summer is enough to trash something like a lager or pale ale (something like a stout or imperial IPA might hold up a bit longer).

More after the break…

So how’s this going to work? Well, I’m not exactly sure yet, but I know that I need help from you. I need you to email me any information you have about any packaged beer you know of that has production information printed on the label. If you can include a picture of the label/information, that’s great (readable please), but if not then I just need the information itself and a description of where the info is and how it’s printed on.

What I need:

  • Brewery name
  • Brand (product name)
  • Location (bottle shoulder/heel, corner of label, etc)
  • Package type (can, 12oz bottle, 22oz bottle, etc)
  • Approximate date you purchased (or saw) the beer
  • “Best by” or “Born on” or not explicit
  • Information content (the text of the production information itself)
  • Type of application, if you can tell (laser, ink, “notched calendar” on the edge of the label, etc ).  This one’s not as important.

Things to keep in mind:

  • A brewery with multiple production plants may use different codes depending on which plant it came from (I know for a fact that this is the case with Boston Beer Co. and Redhook)
  • There may be different styles and locations of these tags based on what package it’s on; a can line will have a different system than a bottling line, and a 12oz package might be different than a 22oz package, even from the same brewery.
  • If you find information that contradicts something that’s already in the database, submit it anyway:  it could be from a different plant (see above) or they may have changed their equipment.
  • Some bottles have information printed on the glass itself which may be applied during the manufacturing of the bottle.  Most often this might be on the bottom of the bottle.   If you are unsure, send it in anyway.
  • Sometimes these can be difficult to find.  Look everywhere.  Hold the bottle up to the light (easier if it’s empty!) and look for glass-printed information.  Look for tiny printing in various places all over the label.
  • If the information is particularly difficult to understand, feel free to contact the brewery directly to find out how to read it.  Breweries are generally pretty good about answering questions from consumers, particularly if you’re showing interest in finding their beer in good condition.  If you don’t want to ask them yourself, I will do so instead.
  • What would help the most people the fastest is if we focused on beers that have fairly wide multi-state distribution first.

If you work for a brewery, or know someone else who does, you’re in a unique position to help this project move along.   Find out what you can and pass it along; these aren’t corporate secrets.

When I collect 10-20 new entries I will update the document and re-post it again.   Still haven’t decided on what format would work best for this document, or the best way to post it for your perusal.  Any ideas?

So, help me help you find fresh beer.  Together, we can help everyone.

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2 responses to “Help Me Help You Find Fresh Beer

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