Whether you're planning to open a beer this weekend or are saving it for the special moment in a year's time,it's important to store your beer properly. Beer drinkers often forget that it is just as important to give your beer the respect it deserves during and after pouring.  You have to treat your beer well to enjoy it at its best. We have the best tips to help you do that.

Drinking beer fresh

Let's start with the beers that you don't want to keep for a long time. These include pilsners, IPAs (including all the Session, Double, New England... sub-styles) and many blond beers. The rule for this is quite simple: the more the flavour of a beer relies on hops, the fresher you want to drink the beer. The fruity aromas of hops evaporate quickly and old hops start to taste a bit cheesy. Not good!

Storing beer for a short time

However, we also understand that you do not always have the luxury of getting your hands on a freshly filled beer and drinking it the same afternoon. Until then, you will have to store it somewhere. Two things are important: light and temperature. First of all you have to store a beer (especially if it is bottled instead of canned) in a dark place, because sunlight can affect the alpha acids of the hops. In technical terms, this is called "lightstruck", but you can also compare the taste with skunk or cat piss. Blonde beers suffer more from this than dark beers. 

When the temperature is too high, the beer will oxidise and start to taste like cardboard. The stability of the temperature is also important. If you put a beer in a barn where the temperature is 5°C at night and 20°C during the day, your beer will be spoiled. So keep your beer cool and dark!

Why is my beer dying?

Once you have poured a beer, it is also important to treat it well. A glass of lager sitting in the sun on a terrace will start to taste bad after just a few minutes. The contact with oxygen does not do your beer any favours either.

Keep the following rules in mind:

  • A head of foam protects your beer from oxygen;
  • A clean glass gives you a nice head;
  • Acid and fat ruin your head (don't put a lemon in your beer);
  • Avoid direct sunlight;
  • It is better to pour a small glass twice than a large glass once.

What about SUB Kegs?

Good news, all these tips actually apply to beer for The SUB too. Most beers that are available for this purpose are best stored for short periods also. 

It is important to keep SUB Kegs in a dark, cool and (stable) storage place. This way you can guarantee you'll enjoy your freshly tapped beer at its very best.

Can you drink beer that has passed its best before date?

Yes, beer can still be drunk after the expiry date. It will not make you ill; because of the boiling during the brewing process and thanks to the alcohol and hops, a beer does not contain any bacteria or germs.

However, a beer can start to taste quite different after the use-by date and that effect is usually not positive. So the most important thing is: smell and taste! Doesn't it taste good anymore? Then don't drink it.

A negative taste development will be even stronger if the beer has not been stored or kept in the right way. Sometimes, however, the change in flavour is desirable and beer lovers deliberately keep their beer until (well) after the best-before date. You can read more about that below.

Storing and maturing beer for longer

Some beer lovers believe that beer is there to be drunk. In a cellar it is of no use to anyone; you do the best justice to a beer by simply enjoying it. There is something to be said for this, but it is also very interesting to experience the development of a beer's taste when you store it for a longer period of time. 

Which beers can you keep?

Contrary to the earlier mentioned beer styles, other beers are extremely suitable for storing for a longer period of time. Dark and heavy beer styles such as quadruple or (imperial) stout can easily be stored for a year or even several years (more on that later). They are also called 'storage beers'.

Here are a few examples of beer styles that you can keep:

  • Double
  • Quadruple or Barley Wine
  • Stout
  • Bockbeer
  • Geuze or Lambic

However, there are also plenty of beers that do not necessarily fall into these styles and can still be stored well. For example, Orval, which is known and loved for the flavour development it goes through. 

What happens to the taste when you keep beer?

What exactly happens to the taste depends on the style of beer and the beer. Generally speaking, beers that are left to age will eventually become softer, rounder, sweeter and more complex in flavour. The carbon dioxide will also decrease over time.

For example, in a quadruple, you might detect notes of dried fruit (currants and plums) when you taste it next to a "fresh" version of the same beer. Other beers may develop notes of port, whisky and cognac. Geuze and lambics lose a bit of their sharp acid edge and will taste a bit rounder and fruitier.

How to store beer?

Light, temperature and moisture

Also in the case of storage beer, it is especially important that you store the bottles in a dark, cool and stable place. Cool and stable are the key words here, because cool is not necessarily cold. It is better to store your bottles in a cellar where the temperature is always 12°C than in a fridge that fluctuates between 5°C and 10°C because you open and close the door all day.

An additional factor in beer storage is the humidity of the storage place. If it is too high, the crown cap can rust and then leak. Beer can then leak out of the bottle or come into contact with oxygen. That oxygen in turn causes oxidation, making your beer taste like wet newspaper. Not good!

Standing up or lying down?

The rule of thumb is to keep a bottle with a cork lying down and a crown cap upright. Cork can dry out and crumble, while a crown cap will rust if it comes into contact with moisture.