Shelf Life Systems white logo

Why Drink Pasteurized Beer Instead of Unpasteurized Beer?

Craft beer enthusiasts often encounter a plethora of terms — some are tricky and some are vital for understanding their favorite brews. Among these terms, “unpasteurized beer” is key in brewing. For brewers, especially those considering whether to pasteurize or not, knowing some of the pros and cons of pasteurized and unpasteurized beer is crucial to their decision-making. 

In this blog, we provide insight into unpasteurized beer, definitions that help differentiate the two, and some of the pros, cons, and even misconceptions that we hear from craft brewers. 

Defining Unpasteurized and Pasteurized Beer

When it comes to beer, the divide between unpasteurized and pasteurized is significant. Unpasteurized beer follows similar principles to unpasteurized milk. It undergoes minimal processing, retaining live yeast and enzymes. Unpasteurized beer may still be sterilized through sterile filters and chilled to the point that any surviving bacteria shouldn’t ferment the beer and subsequently become dormant. The yeast and enzymes in unpasteurized beer can impart distinct flavors and aromas, making each batch of unpasteurized beer a truly individual creation. Sterile filtration can improve shelf life however, it also strips some of the flavors that the brewer is trying to create 

On the other hand, pasteurized beer undergoes a sterilization process, typically through flash pasteurization. This process involves quickly heating the beer to a high temperature and then rapidly cooling it down. By doing so, flash pasteurization effectively kills off any harmful microbes present in the beer, extending its shelf life and ensuring its safety for consumption.  It also maintains the unique flavors the brewer desires. 

Each approach has its merits, catering to different preferences among brewers and beer enthusiasts alike.

The Pros 

One of the primary advantages of pasteurized beer is its dramatically improved shelf life. This means brewers can produce larger batches without worrying about rapid spoilage. Moreover, pasteurization guarantees consistency in flavor and quality with every purchase. Whether enjoying a beer in a brewery or cracking one open at home, consumers can expect the same high standard of taste. Additionally, pasteurized beer, specifically when it undergoes flash pasteurization, is preservative-free — which could be a big advantage for companies that want to make all-natural products with a clean label while maintaining quality. 

A pro of unpasteurized beer is that it is still left with live yeast and enzymes which have been shown to be beneficial to gut health, and the alcohol content helps to kill harmful bacteria. The risk is that the flavor may deteriorate as the beer ages.  

The Cons

However, pasteurization has its challenges. The initial investment in a pasteurization system is often a significant long-term commitment for brewers. From acquiring the necessary equipment to implementing quality control measures, the process demands careful planning and financial resources. Pasteurization also requires rigorous quality control before and after the process, which is essential to maintaining safety and quality standards. Additionally, pasteurization’s blanket approach to sterilization means it cannot differentiate between beneficial and harmful bacteria. This limitation may impact products like kombucha, where preserving probiotic bacteria is important.

To keep unpasteurized beers fresh, they must be constantly refrigerated and consumed soon after production, often limiting their distribution.

Misconceptions about Pasteurized Beer

One common misconception surrounding pasteurization is its supposed impact on flavor. Some believe that rapid heating and chilling may compromise the beer’s aroma and taste. However, there isn’t a ton of empirical evidence supporting these claims. Without a direct comparison between pasteurized and unpasteurized samples of the same beer, most assertions about differences in flavor are mostly speculative. 

Pasteurized vs Unpasteurized

Whether you’re a beer lover looking for the freshest brew or a brewer striving to maintain quality, the decision to opt for pasteurized or unpasteurized beer depends on various factors. Ultimately, the choice between pasteurized and unpasteurized beer reflects a commitment to delivering an exceptional drinking experience. However, pasteurized beer is a strong option for brewers who aim for consistent and long-lasting products.

Dare the Share

If you’re a brewer thinking about pasteurization, reach out to the Shelf Life Systems team today. Our pasteurization systems can make your beer last longer without losing its taste. See how our solutions can improve your brewing process and make sure your beer gets to your customers in top condition.