Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why Don't All Brewers Date Their Bottles??

A question has been stirring in my mind for some time now.   The question has also been recently asked by one of my faithful readers, Renee @BQRC23 on Twitter.  The question is: Why don’t all beers have at least a “bottled on” date on them?   Craft beer fans know that every style of beer is very different.   Some beers are meant to be consumed right away, while others are best left to age.  As a craft beer drinker, and someone who spends a considerable amount of money buying beers, it would be very helpful if I walked into a store and I was able to look at a bottle to see when it was actually bottled.    This would help me make a smarter choice in buying a fresh IPA or a well aged stout and avoiding beers that have simply sat on a shelf too long and are past their prime.   

Imagine this scenario:  A consumer is looking at moving away from drinking Bud Light/Miller Lite and trying to get into the world of craft beers.  That consumer walks into a store and picks up a 6 pack of an IPA with no “bottled on”  or “best by” date.   What the consumer didn’t know was that 6 pack sat on the shelf for over a year and is now past its prime.  The consumer drinks it, hates it, and now has a tainted view of craft beer and especially of that particular brewer.    All of this could have easily been avoided if the brewer simply put a “bottled on”  or a “drink by” date on the bottle. 

I would think that a brewery spending a lot of money on making a beer would want the consumer to drink it the way that the brewer had intended.    I would also think that they would also do everything in their power to convey the best  public image of their beer as possible.

Everyone knows beer is something that is consumable and can and will eventually go bad.  Think about all of the consumable products in your house that have expiration dates.  Milk, juice, various foods…heck even BUD LIGHT has a “Born on Date” printed right on the bottle!

If you are reading this and agree that all beers should have either a “bottled on” or a “best by” date printed on them please leave a comment on this thread to show your support.  I urge you to please forward the link to this post to other lovers of craft beer too so we can spread this message.  Also, if you are really passionate about what I have said, please send the link to this thread to brewers who are still not putting dates on their bottles and let them know you agree with what I have said.   Maybe with enough feedback they will make a simple change, that would make a world of difference in the craft beer community.

Brad of Cleveland Food and Brews!


  1. Obviously, I agree whole heartedly with the statements you've expressed! There are many variables that brewers cannot control, but this is one quality issue that can easily be controlled to some extent.

    No one is asking for beers to be pulled once a certain amount of time passes, but I try to be an informed consumer. If I drink a fresh IPA and love it, I don't want to compare it to another, lesser known brewer's IPA that has been sitting on the store shelf for 3 months. That's not a fair comparison.

    I've had conversations with friends with similar hop palates that have hated beers that I've enjoyed. It makes you wonder if their bottle wasn't past its prime. And, I’m absolutely certain that the reverse has also been true at times.

    We had a bottle of Three Floyd's Dreadnaught last year that was a drain pour. Can you imagine how much that hurt our hearts? It was purchased in Indiana a few days before Christmas, mailed to us, and we drank it on March 5th. Obviously, we should have opened it sooner, but we honestly didn't know any better at the time. A rookie mistake that was very costly! Maybe the bottle had gotten pushed to the back of the retailer's shelf too many times, or maybe that beer just can't handle 2½ months in the fridge (very likely.) Either way, a "bottled on" date would have allowed us to make more informed decisions.

    If it hadn't been for a friend who was with us for that drain pour, we might have decided that Dreadnaught was simply too malty for our tastes. However, that friend had recently tasted a very different Dreadnaught on his own, and suspected it was too old to be judged fairly. We value his opinion, and all learned from the experience

    This post couldn’t possibly be more timely. If you’re reading this and plan to buy Hopslam, White Rajah, Nugget Nectar, Headhunter, and Hoptimum this month- drink them fresh! Please learn from my mistake, as that makes it hurt just a little bit less!

  2. I see this as simply a business decision for the brewers to make. If they believe that dating their bottles will help them, they will. If they think it will ultimately hurt sales to uneducated customers, they won't. Believe it or not, some brewers could give a shit if the public gets fresh beer or not. They believe that people are uninformed about beer in general and their only intent is to make a quick buck today, even if it means the customer never repurchases or even becomes against any craft beer.

    But the cool thing is that the brewers don't decide the value - here's where we come into the picture. Vote with your wallet. If you don't buy beer that isn't freshness dated, you will be sending a message. The "value" of dating goes up because brewers realize the public is informed about freshness and unwilling to sacrifice quality on a bet.

    I would hate to see some sort of law that states beer needs to be freshness dated because I think the businesses should be able to decide for themselves. But I don't buy IPA's that I can't be assured are fresh. Case in point - Alesmith IPA, when fresh is amazing. When 2-3 months old or older, it's average at best. I've passed on bottles for years because of dates, but I buy their summer IPA every year because it's a seasonal, not year-rounder. Well, they just announced they're going to start dating bottles so I'll buy them.

    Bottom line being, make this worthwhile to brewers. I can say it's an investment for them to make and it's not quite as simple as some may think. But, if we as a community of consumers push education and more and more people vote with their wallet, it will become an investment a brewery can't survive the beer store shelves without.

  3. I would agree that lagers should have a date on them, but not ales (and 90% of what I drink--IPAs, stouts, porters, Belgians--are ales). Lagers do get stale, and perhaps ales do eventually. Every ale I've brewed myself, though, even those with relatively low ABV (5%) have gotten better over time up to a year or more. In fact, the best beers I've brewed myself tend to be those I've forgotten about and discovered many months after brewing. So in this case should brewers sometimes write "best if consumed six months or more after bottling"? This would seem like a risky business decision. And ales can be unpredictable--the perfect drinking date may be in three months or might be two years later. The "best by" date makes perfect sense for a pilsner, but I'm not sure if it makes sense (or can even be accurately estimated) with most ales.

  4. Good points, Brad. I totally agree with your point, especially with the IPAs. I too let a hopslam or two go past it's prime and well, it is definitely not the same beer. Keep up the good work.

  5. I by no means want this to be a government mandated thing. Rather, I'd like to see a good faith offering on behalf of the brewers to simply put the bottled on date right on the bottles. Let the consumer make the decisions from there. I love the feedback...Keep it coming!



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