"Beer Code Secrets" This month column was written by Bob's friend Frank S. Marino
I just read the interesting new article from Jack Carson here on BeerNexus entitled "Old Beer is Stale Beer". That got me to check some bottles of brew that I put in my garage a while back. Judging by the dust on them " a while back" probably means more than a year or two.
I immediately checked for the "born on" date but nothing was there. A little offended I then took a quick look at the current beers in my refrigerator and to my dismay saw that a goodly portion of them didn't have one either.
The sad news is that there is no law requiring a born on date for beer. This is especially irksome since there are now more bottles of beer on the store wall than ever - more than 2,000 domestic brands alone. The born on date would certainly make it easier for both stores and consumers to steer clear of the stale stuff.
Needless to say it's in the self interest of the brewers to remove their old, deteriorating product from store shelves and they do just that. But how do they know the age of the beer and we the consumers don't? The answer is simple- many brewers imprint their bottle with cryptic letters and numbers that distributors can translate. The trouble is they look more like hieroglyphics to beer drinkers, and most makers don't decipher them for consumers.
Just call me one good cryptographer -I cracked the basic code and here it is. Letters from A-M represent the month of the year. The next four digits are the day and year the beer was first brewed, and the last two letters are the state code where it was brewed.
Blue Point, a local favorite, uses a format that is similar to other companies. For example if you see the number 1551 the beer was made on 155th day of the year while the next digit is the year itself. If the numbers are followed by letters that shows the plant where the product was made; other letters explain the product. In a variation of this Julian code some brewers put the year first, then the number of the day of the year the beer was brewed.
As you'd expect there are variations. Anchor, one of my favorite brewers uses a complex coded three-character bottling date. The first number is the last digit of the year. The next letter is the month and the last character is the day. The months are coded: J = Jan, F = Feb, M = Mar, A = Apr, Y = May, U = Jun L = Jul, G = Aug, S = Sep, O = Oct, N = Nov, D = DecThe days 1-26 are coded A-Z while days 27-31 are coded with the last digit of the day.
Try it out on your next visit to your local beer store. I suggest you go right to the discount section and you'll see just why that beer is a close out special.