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How to Know if Beer is Bad

There are ways to recognize if your beer has gone bad even before you taste it. Follow these tips to avoid a mouthful of foul foam.


  • Step 1: Open the beer up and have a taste. A beer that has gone stale will have a flat, dull, off-flavor taste. If it's skunked, you won't want to get near it.
  • Step 2: Keg beers don't "skunk," but they can go bad, too. Look for dimethyl sulfide, which produces a taste like cooked canned corn. Oxidation of the beer produces a wet cardboard smell, and diacetyl gives the beer a taste like buttery popcorn. Taste OK? Well, then, drink up!
  • FACT: Belgium produces over 400 brands of beer.
  • Step 3: Check the bottle cap seal for signs of seepage. This is a sign that the bottle has been exposed to heat during storage -- another factor that can shorten the beer's life.
  • Step 4: Consider the color of the bottle's glass and whether the beer has likely been exposed to light. Beer can acquire a skunk-like smell when the hop compounds in it react with light. Brown glass transmits less light than clear, blue, or green glass.
  • Step 5: Check the beer's label. Breweries use different methods of dating their beers. Some use a "consume by" date; others use a "born on" date. Still, others don't list any date at all.
  • TIP: The shelf life of a beer -- the time it takes for it to go bad -- depends on the beer's alcoholic strength and hopping level.
  • Step 6: Look for dust on the bottle or a discolored label if you are buying a bottled beer. These could be indications that the beer has been sitting too long on the retailer's shelf.
  • : Do not drink unless you are of legal age. Drink responsibly, and never drink and drive.

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