Beer improves with age in its lagering tanks. But once it is packaged, it’s a different matter. Proper handling and packaging extend beer’s shelf life. Still, depending on storage conditions, natural changes take place over several months. So to get the most enjoyment from beer you can’t drink right away, you need to store it right.
Beer should be refrigerated or kept in a cool area. The best temperature for storing your beer is between 40 and 70 degrees. At higher temperatures its aroma and flavor deteriorate; at lower temperatures it can freeze. When beer freezes ingredients break down and separate, ruining the brew—although beer that is frozen lightly just once, is sometimes still okay when it thaws.
In addition to temperature, there are three things to keep in mind when it comes to storing your beer: keep it clean, keep it dry, and keep it dark. A dark storage place is especially important to prevent bottled beer from becoming light-struck, which causes it to take on an undesirable flavor and aroma. Direct exposure to the sun rapidly changes some of the bitter hop compounds in beer, creating a smell a little like a skunk, a.k.a. “skunky beer.” Not a good thing. Brown or amber-colored bottles cut down on light penetration, so they can help prevent the skunkification of your brew. And while light doesn’t affect beer in cans, direct sun rays can cause overheating, which changes aroma and taste.
Handle with care
When you are ready to serve your beer, just remember easy does it. Rough handling causes beer to foam and gush when opened. Hold bottles by the shoulder, not the bottom, to keep them from foaming over.
Most beers are best served no colder than 38 degrees Fahrenheit. Chillier than that and you will miss many of the subtle flavor notes in the brew.
If you are serious about your beer, you’ll want to designate beer-only glassware. A beer-ready glass should be air-dried on a clean, odor-free rack. Make sure it’s free from cloth lint and residue from other beverages, such as soda or coffee.
Remember, beer is always best enjoyed in moderation, and only by those of legal drinking age.