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How Long Does Craft Beer Last?

There are specific ways to prep and store wine and other beverages, especially for distribution, to retain their flavors, no matter when it gets packaged. However, not many people realize that just as much thought and consideration have to go into the storage and distribution of craft beer.

The temperature, container, time of packaging, whether the beer was pasteurized, as well as the type of beer, are all factors that you need to consider when trying to extend shelf life and distribute the product. Thankfully, there are recommended guidelines to help ensure the beer gets stored, shipped, and then served the exact way you intended. Not only do your customers expect their favorite beers to have their best flavor, but you also want to make sure all your hard work creating your best batches has a shelf life without compromising quality or taste. 

All of this to say, it is crucial to understanding pasteurization — not only to ensure high-quality beer, but also to prevent issues like refermentation and exploding cans. In this blog, we’ll overview some of the science behind exploding cans and the importance of shelf life, how to store beer for distribution, and more. 

Why Does Craft Beer Go Bad?

Most craft beer is best consumed the day it leaves the brewery because let’s face it, as a brewer you know what you’re doing and you will sell your brews the way you want it to taste. Fresh craft beer is full of flavor, which has the potential to shift as the beer ages. For example, stronger beers, like imperial stouts and barley wines, will have a longer shelf life. Many beers even benefit from age, their flavors deepening to richer levels. Sours and wild beers also develop interesting flavors over time because of the unique mix of yeast and bacteria. 

But time isn’t always a positive influence on the flavor and freshness of craft beer. And when a beer expires, it’s possible to taste it.  Despite a brewer’s best efforts, trace amounts of oxygen can get into packaged beer and do things like flatten carbonation, throw flavors off, and weaken the hoppiness of beers like IPAs. 

However, of all the culprits that cause spoilage — bacteria is the worst. Bacteria and other microbes in your beer, especially after it has been packaged, could result in exploding cans, loss of product, and costly recalls. This could be to the detriment of your brewery’s reputation. 

How Can You Extend the Shelf Life of Your Craft Beer?

The best way to extend the shelf life of your brews, and beyond that, ensure that they can go the distance to reach your customers and last in their fridges, is to pasteurize. The shelf life of beer will depend on a couple of different things like the container, storage process, and most importantly, whether it has been pasteurized or not. As a general rule of thumb, a sealed beer that has been pasteurized will remain shelf-stable for six to eight months without refrigeration. If packaged, stored, and refrigerated properly, a sealed beer can last beyond its expiration date by up to 12 months. This allows you to distribute your brews to a wider audience. 

Without an adequate stabilization process, your beer’s shelf life could be left up to chance in kegs and with distributors. The risk of refermentation and exploding cans prompts many breweries to pasteurize. The most important step to keeping cans intact and on the shelf for brewers is pasteurization. Exploding cans can hurt the credibility of your brewery and result in significant revenue or product loss. 

Pasteurization prevents refermentation by yeast or spoilage microorganisms after packaging. The process ensures that flavors are maintained over time without compromising quality, freshness, or consistency. And new technologies and methods continuously improve the process, including more precise temperature control to shorter processing times. These advancements help to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of pasteurization. 

How to Foolproof Your Distribution 

When it comes to distribution, most issues you’ll face come down to contracts and the legal tape of trying to move your products across state lines. Pasteurization doesn’t solve those specific problems, but once you are to the point of shipping, the process will ensure that your beer won’t go bad before it reaches your customer. Here are four factors you should consider before shipping out your brews: 


To ensure your beer tastes the same from the time it leaves your facility to the moment your customers drink it requires pasteurization. The process allows you to extend the shelf life of your beer without compromising quality, freshness, or taste by killing bacteria, molds, and yeasts that can cause spoilage or refermentation. 

Choose the Right Vessel

As you consider expanding distribution and creating a strategy for growth, you need to choose the right vessel. Whether it’s a can or a bottle, either option has its advantages and disadvantages. Style is typically what dictates the best storage method, but if you have plans to distribute far and wide, likely the pasteurization process and the most travel-friendly vessel will be the more apt choice. 

Temperature Fluctuations

You want to be fully cognizant of temperature fluctuations that may have an impact on your beer. Especially as it travels from your brewery to the customer. Whether that is in chilled trucks, boxes, warehouses, etc. You have to be confident that your brew, and whatever vessel it’s in, will make it to its final destination in one, fresh-tasting piece. 

The Takeaway

Ensuring the shelf life of your beer means preventing refermentation and exploding cans. Especially as you look to expand distribution in order to get your beer into the hands of consumers across the country. Your brewery needs to look into the effectiveness of pasteurization so that you don’t have to leave your beer’s shelf life up to chance in kegs or with distributors. 

Get Started with Shelf Life Systems 

Is your brewery considering pasteurization but unsure of where to start? Sounds like you need an experienced, reliable pasteurization partner to help you ensure the process’s efficacy and safety. 

Don’t leave your best beer’s shelf life to chance. Get in touch with the Shelf Life Systems team today to learn about our options for pasteurization process control, and how we can help you maximize your beer’s shelf life.