Many breweries currently have beer in stock that are several weeks or months old, which puts them in uncharted territory. Deciding what to do with this beer is difficult and important. This is especially true for taprooms and breweries that have never packaged before and are considering selling packaged beer for the first time.
If the beer is on-brand and stable, it makes sense to sell it with reasonable date codes. But if the beer isn’t true to the brand or shows signs of microbiological problems, selling it can lead to serious reputational risk. In these cases, getting rid of the beer may be the best decision, even if it is financially difficult.
Some factors to consider:
- Understand the quality needs of your brewery. No one knows your beer brands better than you, and your team holds the life of each brand in their hands.
- Start with the sensory. Each employee of the brewery has a palace (and can continue to develop this palace). Put those noses and taste buds to work and be honest with yourselves as a team. Does the beer taste the same as usual or is it not branded? If you have cold-stored packaged beer, compare the flavor profiles with your aged beer. If the flavor profile of the aged beer is off-brand, find alternatives on sale.
- Check the pH of beer. Ideally, you know the pH of your beer throughout its life, through fermentation, maturation and packaging. An increase in pH in stored beer can indicate yeast autolysis, which can cause off-flavors from the yeast to spill into your beer. Dropping the bottom of the tanks weekly during unusually long storage can help avoid autolysis. If you notice the pH starting to rise, remove the yeast from the beer (filter if you can), then go back to sensory analysis to decide if the beer meets your flavor specifications. Likewise, a drop in the pH of beer can indicate microbiological problems.
- Check for microbiological contamination. Even beers from the most demanding breweries will show microbiological problems in beer stored longer than usual. Your lab will often find significant microbiological issues before your sensory panel. The fate of such a beer will depend on whether it can be stabilized by microfiltration or pasteurization. If you don’t plan to stabilize beer with microbiological issues, consider not selling it.
- It is strongly not recommended to combine several beer kegs or tanks for packaging. Just like a rotten apple ruins the whole barrel, combining 10, 20 or 50 kegs of beer multiplies the risk of spoilage exponentially. This suggestion relates to product and reputational risk management.
The decision to sell aging stored beer will be particularly difficult for breweries and drinking establishments that typically retail fresh beer in draft form and may not have established shelf life for their brands. of beer.
If you decide to sell aged stored beer:
- Draft on the brewery website: Monitor beer daily via sensory and stop selling when and if it strays from brand flavor specifications. Ideally, you’ll anticipate less than positive customer feedback.
- In draft at partner merchants: Keep keg inventory low and monitor sales velocity. Be prepared to discuss with retailers replacing beer that does not meet brand flavor specifications over time.
- In packaging (cans/bottles): Assuming the beer meets flavor and micro specifications, and you decide to package it for sale, be sure to establish a reasonable date code for this packaging lot. For example, if you normally code with an expiration date of six months, but the beer is eight weeks older when packaged than usual, consider reducing the date code for that batch by 2 months, with a four-month code instead. The more you know about the aging cycle of your beer, the more appropriate date code you get.