I wrote a post last week asking for requests for production information on beer labels, in an effort to accumulate a database that you can reference in your quest to buy fresh beer.
Well, one commenter has enlightened me to the fact that this has pretty much already been done. What a load off my back! This could have been a huge and on-going project, and I’m a bit relieved that I don’t have to assemble and maintain such a list.
I’ve had a look over it and it’s huge, and from the entries I’ve seen, pretty accurate too. Of course, breweries change their labels and equipment all the time, so there may be some inaccuracies hiding in there somewhere, but it’s a great start.
Fresh Beer Only.
So, find your favorite breweries in this list, and make a note of where and how they put their information on the label (hopefully they put something on there; there’s a disturbingly high number of packages that have no information whatsoever on them). Then when you’re standing in front of the beer aisle at the store, don’t be afraid to shuffle the bottles around in order to find the freshest. You deserve it.
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…
When buying beer at the store – whether it’s at a grocery store, a local market, or a specialty beer shop – always always always try to buy the freshest beer you can find. The single most common defect I see in store bought beer is oxidation, hands down, it’s not even a contest. Even the tiniest amount of oxygen is bad news for beer, and although there are technologies and practices available which can limit it very well, it’s pretty much impossible to eliminate from production processes. The problem really arises after the beer leaves the brewery. During transportation, distribution, storage and sales the beer is aging, and the warmer it is the faster it ages. For lighter colored craft beers (non-adjunct), 1 week at 85F is roughly equivalent (in terms of flavor deterioration) to a 4 month old refrigerated beer. We’ll explore oxidation more later. It’s an inevitability.