Does Beer Need to be Refrigerated? | The FDA Weighs in


There are several different types of beer and different storage techniques for each variation. Some beers come in cans, bottles, and kegs. Beer will last a while with proper storage techniques.

Although beer is best preserved when cold, not all beer needs to be refrigerated. Storing beer warm degrades the quality much faster and shortens the life of beer. Sunlight can affect the flavor of beer in a few days. Storing beer in the refrigerator or out of the sunlight will keep it fresh longer. 

Here are a few techniques for keeping the beer at its best quality.

What is the Best Way to Store Beer?

Storing beer depends on the packaging and the type of beer you are dealing with. Beer can last a long time under proper storage conditions. Beer may come in a bottle, can, or keg. Think of beer the same way you would think of bread or milk. Although these items can be left out for a short period, they will last longer stored in a cooler environment or a fridge.

Beer is best when kept in a dark or cooler area. The cold temperatures slow down the aging process of beer. If beer is kept in a cooler area or fridge, it will maintain its taste better. Keep beer away from light because light can affect the quality of beer.

Some places beer can be kept are in a dark room, a closet, or under a bed. When storing a keg, keep it away from food to decrease the risk of contamination. Ideally, beer should be stored at 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The FDA recommends monitoring your cooler by placing a thermometer near the front and checking it weekly.

It is crucial to make sure beer is standing up rather than lying on its side. When beer is on its side, it gets exposed to more air. This will affect the quality of the beer. It can also cause a yeast ring. Keeping beer standing up helps prevent yeast buildup or a leak. It also limits the amount of oxygen that beer can be exposed to. Refrigerated beer can last from six to eight months. The main goal is to keep beer away from direct sunlight. The higher the temperature, the shorter the lifespan of beer.

Does Unpasteurized Beer Need to be Refrigerated?

Unpasteurized beer is a beer that has not gone through the pasteurization process. These beers are considered “unfiltered.” Unpasteurized beer is like any other beer, and it will last longer in the refrigerator. Unpasteurized beer consists of all craft beers. These beers will be kept fresher if they are chilled. Unpasteurized beers should be consumed as close to the production date. It is best to drink these beers within 45 to 60 days.

Can Beer Be Stored at Room Temperature?

Beer can be stored at room temperature, but the cooler it is kept, the better. If you are storing beer at room temperature, keep it away from sunlight. Try to keep beer in a closet or somewhere dark. Beer that is at room temperature can still last quite a while.

Beer is fine stored at room temperature, as long as the house is not super warm. If your house is too hot, the beer will slowly go bad. If beer is not being served right away, it is best to keep it in a cooler location. Draft beer should be refrigerated at all times. 

How Long Can You Keep Beer Unrefrigerated?

If beer is appropriately stored, it can last from four to six months unrefrigerated. Most beer will remain good after the expiration date. The FDA notes that any food will eventually begin to go bad.

Beer is like any other food. If it sits out for a while, it can go bad. When food items are placed in the fridge, they are preserved and last longer. Many items can only sit out for a few hours before they go bad. Beer that is in light will not last as long as it would last when it is in the dark. Beer will remain good unrefrigerated when placed in a dark area.

Pro Tip: Some strong beers consist of barleywines, tripels, and dark ales. They are best at a room temperature of 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Standard ales may consist of bitters, IPAs, doppelbocks, lambics, and stouts. They are kept best at 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit or cellar temperature. Lighter beers consist of lagers, pilsners, wheat beers. They are stored at 45 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit or refrigerated temperatures.

The higher the alcohol content, the higher the temperature can be. The lower the alcohol content, the lower the temperature should be. This is because beer lasts longer with higher alcohol content. It is impossible for most people to constantly regulate the temperature all the time.

On average, beer is okay between 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit. If there is no fridge, a dark room or closet will do for most beers. Make sure not to overfill the refrigerator because this may affect the temperature. Every beer is kept at slightly different temperatures.

Can You Drink Beer Left Out Overnight?

If a can of beer is left out overnight, it will not kill you, but there may be a loss of taste. A beer that is left out overnight may taste warm and flat. It may not be as safe, but nothing major will happen. The worst that may occur is a slight stomach ache. Once the beer has been opened, it should not be restored.

It would be best if you drank beer as soon as possible because it will lose carbonation. Flat beer the day after does not taste as good. Bacteria can start to grow on beer after a few hours. You would be better off grabbing a new bottle of beer the next day.

Can Beer Go Bad?

Beer can go bad, but it usually takes a while for this to happen. Some alcohol will last a while, while others may have a more complicated shelf life. Most beer will last longer than the expiration date. At room temperature, beer can last six to nine months. Refrigerated beer can last longer than two years. The best by date is an estimate rather than a safety date.

Unopened beer is bad if it develops an odor or flavor, or appearance. If you consume most beers in a few weeks or months of brewing, it is the best quality. Some beers have a 12 month recommended drink date, while other beers can last for several years. Beer with alcohol 7 percent or less can usually be enjoyed within a year of bottling. The fresher the beer, the better it will taste.

There are a few factors in determining how long beer will last:

  • Distance: This consists of how far beer travels within a certain area or distribution range. The longer distance traveled, the older the beer must be. Pay attention to how far beer travels within the distribution range. Long road trips mean beer, maybe older or left in the heat.
  • Popularity: How popular is the beer? How long does the beer last? Pay attention to the turnover rate and when you purchased the beer.
  • Packaging: Is the beer packaged in cans, bottled glass? Some packaging will last longer than others.
  • Temperature: How does the seller store the beer before you buy it? Is the beer stored upright?

These four things play a factor in beer going bad. It is important to pay attention to the distance, popularity, packaging, and temperature beer is kept.

What Does it Mean for a Beer to be Skunked?

When a beer is skunked, it is caused by a chemical reaction triggered by being exposed to light. A beer is skunked when it is exposed to UV rays. When a beer is left out in sunlight, it will become skunked. When the bottle is then opened, it will have a strong aroma, and you may not want to drink it. 

UV rays reach a can of beer through glass bottles. Glass bottles are easily skunked. Brown bottles protect the beer from being skunked better. There is no way to prevent it besides keeping beer out of the sun. Therefore, if you have a glass bottle, keep it away from the sunlight.

Although it is not dangerous to drink skunk beer, the smell is bad, and the taste is awful. Beer is sensitive to natural light, and a chemical reaction will be triggered. Beers packaged in kegs or cans cannot be skunked.

The fastest way for beer to go bad is light. Light affects the quality of beer when the beer gets exposed to too much light.

Clear bottles can become light-struck in less than a minute with bright sun. It takes a few hours in diffuse daylight and a few days with normal lighting. Brown bottles can minimize the light, and green bottles can block out some light. Beer may become skunked when someone is drinking Corona or Heineken. 

There are a few ways to skunk-proof beer.

  1. Use a glass modified to block out light 
  2. Put a lemon wedge in the bottle 
  3. Use hop extract (tetra-hops) with light-resistant acids

Can You Get Sick From Old Beer?

Although it is not great to drink old beer, it is not likely to make you sick. The higher the alcohol content, the longer it takes for beer to go bad. Although it will not kill you, there may be a few side effects. The most it may do is cause a stomach ache and a gross feeling. It is important to be cautious of expired beer for this reason.

Any drink that is old or expired is never good to drink. It is always good to pay attention to expiration dates or when an item goes bad. Being on the safe side is always best.

The FDA talks about how it is imperative to not take any chances with any sort of food or beverage product. It is important to read dates before a product is consumed and pay attention to signs of alcohol aging.

Is Beer Still Good if it Gets Hot?

Beer is still okay if it gets hot, it will just not last as long. Like any refrigerated food, it will not last. Think about it, if milk were sitting out for a while, it would go bad a lot quicker. If you can, keep your beer in a shady spot.

It is okay if beer is at room temperature. Higher temperatures for an extended period may affect beer flavor. A beer at 60 degrees will remain its flavor a lot longer than a beer sitting at 90 degrees. As the temperature goes up, the effects of oxidation increase.

The product will not last as long when it is warmer out. When beer gets hot, it just causes it to age faster. When the temperature rises, it causes beer to expand or evaporate quicker. If it is only warm for a few hours, there probably won’t be a big difference.

If beer stays warm over the course of a few days, it might be a problem. Warm temperatures will quicken the spoilage, like any other food. The higher the temperature, the worse it gets for beer. Heat accelerates the staling process producing different flavors. The longer the exposure, the worse it gets for beer.

Can Alcohol Go From Cold to Hot?

If alcohol goes from cold to hot, it will not affect it very much. When alcohol was traveling to the store, it probably went from cold to hot a few times. If hot alcohol is put in the fridge after being warm, it will still be okay. It will not hurt you healthwise to consume this, although some of the flavor might be lost.

Alcohol that is in a fridge will eventually be taken out when a customer purchases it. They will have to take it in a car and bring it home. Therefore, alcohol will go from cold to hot. If they keep it in the shade or a dark area, it should not go bad.

Thanks for reading! For more, check out How Long Does Beer Last? | It’s All About Taste.

Jim James

Hey, I'm Jim and the author of this website. I have always been interested in survival, fishing, camping, and anything in nature. In fact, while growing up I spent more time on the water than on land! I am also a best-selling author and have a degree in History, Anthropology, and Music. I hope you find value in the articles on this website. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or input!

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