I am new to brewing, my first batch is in secondary now. This is more of a curiosity question. Is there a point when an aged beer becomes a health risk? If so what are the signs of spoilage?


Once the wort has fermented, no harmful pathogens (germs) can grow in beer - an old beer may degrade and become stale, but it's never harmful to drink. Historically, beer was brewed in part to avoid drinking contaminated water.

There are many references on the net - just a quick search brings up this:

Beer is certainly not hospitable for the growth of microorganisms. You know, we don’t have coli scares in beer. Pathogens will not grow in beer and the beer—of course during production it's boiled—beer contains hops which has got antimicrobial components, and so, you know, ales and beers over the years have been safer to drink rather than the water because of these reasons. You know, the early settlers in this country, you know, the story is told of those guys landing up from the rocks. Why? Because of victuals were much spent especially of beer, and, you know, the people, they kept enough beer for the sailors to go back on the Mayflower. The people who were settling there were drinking the local water, and they were getting sick because, you know, if they’ve [they'd] been drinking the ale, and they would've been much healthier.

from, you know, Beer Science, Scientific American

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    The relatively low pH of beer, combined with the presence of alcohol, means that beer is not a very easy medium for harmful bacteria to grow. This is not to say that your beer can't "go bad". Just leave your carboy uncovered for a few days outside and see what happens. But "going bad" for beer usually means a harmless (and sometimes delicious) secondary infection from a wild yeast or a roaming bug. Even in the worse case with the dreaded acetobacter turning your beer into vinegar, the resulting liquid is still "safe" to drink (and to put on Fish & Chips, yum!) Hooray beer!! – Graham Feb 7 '12 at 13:50
  • I agree. Just for clarity, I don't say that it can't go bad, just that it will not be dangerous to drink, which is also the point you're making. In the context of an old beer, its typically not going to be exposed to the elements in the same way as an open carboy, so staling is more likely than picking up airbourne contaminants. – mdma May 7 '12 at 10:41

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