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How long will bottled beer last without refrigeration?

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Just pulled out a 5 yr old pale ale & it's awesome! Forgot about them & there's another 10 longnecks. Stored under the house (dry) in the dark. –  user2462 Jun 7 '12 at 11:10
    
Thanks for the info, Ive yet to make my 1st brew. Was worried about storage and spoilage, as I drive semi. Im out 2 - 4 weeks at a time and was afraid would just sit there and go bad. I enjoy making wine but am gearing up for my 1st beer brew. Thanks agian –  Ron Apr 24 '13 at 1:33

3 Answers 3

It depends on the beer and the storage conditions. To start, the stronger and hoppier the beer, the longer it will keep. For instance, a hefeweizen won't keep as long as a barleywine. The temperature is also important. Generally, cooler is better. The main thing is to avoid excessively high (85+) temps. Avoiding temp swings helps, but it's mainly high temps that are your enemy. I've kept 1.100+ bbers like Am. BW and RIS for 10 years at normal room temps and the age just improves their complexity. Of course, you must have excellent sanitation, too.

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And keep them in the dark as much as possible! –  brewchez Apr 2 '11 at 17:17
    
Temperature swings don't matter at all. See: homebrew.stackexchange.com/questions/5193/… –  Dustin Rasener Jun 7 '12 at 11:33

Like Brewchez and Denny have said, avoiding high temperatures and light are the most important parts. I've found that a lot of my "muddy" beers have cleaned up after around a year of storage in a dark ~65F closet. Case in point, I had a pumpkin ale that was neigh undrinkable two years ago, and almost an entire case remained in the closet. This fall I dug it out again and found that all the "pumpkin pie spice" flavors that they always talk about had melded into something surprisingly drinkable. I wouldn't go more than a year or two for low-gravity beers, but I'd say leave it in there, forget about it, and you might be surprised by how well things turn out.

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BrewYourOwn magazine (Mar/Apr 2011) just did an experiment on how storage temps affect home brew.

Their main finding was just as Denny said: high temps will degrade the beer and cause off-flavors. In this experiment the "high temps" were >100° (like in an attic during the summer) for weeks at a time.

"Room temp" storage was almost indistinguishable from "Cellar temp" storage.

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