Warning - Avoid Beer Buying Blunders
by Kari Allen
Back in the day, buying beer at you local store was easy. Most everything was from a macro brewer and your
choice really didn't matter much since the beers all tasted the same. Now however, thanks to the craft revolution
it's vital that the beer buyer be aware of some major issues that could result in their beer purchase being a
disaster. So here are 5 things you should be wary of every time you venture out to buy a six pack.
Do not buy old beer
With precious few exceptions, beer is best when it’s as fresh as possible. This is doubly true when you’re dealing
with smaller, local breweries that don’t have the process controls in place that the bigger craft brewers (think
Sierra Nevada and Boston Beer Co.) enjoy, or when you’re buying hop-forward brews. This is especially true for
IPAs — the essence of hop aroma is volatile and it’s the first flavor to fade. Most craft brewers now date their
packages with either a bottled-on date or a best buy date; buying beer without looking for some indication of its
freshness is a great way to buy stale beer. It isn’t uncommon to see IPAs that are nine months old, or older even,
on the shelves of local stores. Generally, you want beer that’s less that 90 days old, and if you’re buying hoppy
beer, the fresher the better. Old beer won’t hurt you, but it won’t be as fragrant or vibrant in flavor as you
deserve, so check the date on the bottle. Note that bottle dating is still not legally required. My personal rule is
that if the bottle does not have a date on it (the brewery's choice) my choice is not to buy it!
Do not buy unrefrigerated beer
After shelf life, the biggest threat to the flavor of craft beer is temperature. All the chemical reactions that degrade
a fresh beer into a flabby and faded pint are accelerated at warmer temperatures. Anything above about 40
degrees Fahrenheit is putting beer at risk, and room temperature ages a beer many times faster than cold
storage. It’s always preferable to buy beer out of a cooler instead of floor stock, but many stores (grocery stores
especially) stock their refrigerated sections out of warm warehouses of hot back storerooms.
Do not shop at the wrong stores
It’s great that craft beer is so ubiquitous at grocery stores, bodegas and even Costco, at least in theory. The
reality is that most of these retailers are not as focused on beer quality as they are on moving cases of product.
From keeping stock warm to inventory that’s embarrassingly old, even some stores that try to be craft beer
destinations are really just selling bad beer. Your best bet is to shop at specialty retailers that have the knowledge
and passion for beer. Thankfully, there is no shortage of mindful beer retailers in most areas. But if you do buy
beer at the supermarket your best bet is to buy popular brands that sell well. Be especially wary of marked-down
beer, because sale beer usually means stale beer.
Not taking care of the beer when you get it home
Once you’ve bought some fresh craft beer, don’t ruin a good thing before you get to drink it. Keep it off the
kitchen counter and in the refrigerator. Contrary to the old myth, chilling beer that’s warmed up to room
temperature won’t hurt its flavor, but it won’t do it any favors either. Don’t let that fresh bottle of double IPA sit
around in the fridge waiting for the perfect time to drink it, only to have it slowly fade into flavorlessness. Those
cans of hazy IPAs are particularly susceptible to mishandling, so keep those cold and drink them within a couple
Always buying the same brands (or never buying the same beer twice)
It’s great to have a go-to favorite brew that you know won’t disappoint, but new breweries are debuting every
month, and new beers are hitting shelves every week. It’s impossible to try them all, but what’s the fun in settling
for the old standby all the time? Roll the dice on a new brand or a style you haven’t tried before. Taking a flyer on
something that catches your eye is a great way to discover a new favorite, and if you're nervous about getting a
dud, you can check reviews before you buy on sites such as Ratebeer.com or the Untappd app. There’s also
such a thing as trying too many. Don’t let your drive to try ’em all prevent you from revisiting past favorites, or
from enjoying the too often overlooked craft beer classics. When was the last time you drank through a six pack of
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale? It’s the definition of an oldie but a goodie.
based on article by John Verive
|Opinions in all Special Reports are those of
the author and not BeerNexus. Submitted
material authorship is not verified.