Drinking a delicious beer is one of the great joys of life. The bright aroma hitting your nose, the refreshment of that first sip, the vibrant flavours filling your mouth… and of course, that satisfied sigh.
Unfortunately, we all know what it’s like to have a disappointing beer, too. Maybe it’s flat, or it tastes dull and bland, or there’s a weird flavour that isn’t supposed to be there.
We often talk about ‘fresh’ in regards to food—fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh ingredients, or freshly baked bread. But freshness matters for beer as well. Fresh beer tastes better, has a bolder aroma, brighter flavours, more subtleties, and even feels more crisp and lively in your mouth.
Think of the difference between warm, soft bakery-fresh bread… and stale bread that’s been sitting around for days. Now consider the difference between a refreshing beer that smells amazing, tingles on your tongue, and is bursting with flavour… and a glass of mediocre swill that tastes like wet cardboard.
When you taste a fresh beer, your eyes are opened. You savour fresh beer. You remember fresh beer. You enjoy fresh beer—the way it’s supposed to be enjoyed.
WHY DOES BEER LOSE ITS FRESHNESS?
There are four main ‘enemies’ of beer, which affect the freshness in different ways.
Oxygen - It’s good for breathing, but bad for beer. Try as they might, brewers can never completely protect their beer from oxygen. The small amounts in the bottle, can, or keg will slowly degrade beer—hops flavours fade, malt flavours can become overly sweet or stale, and the beer can take on a papery flavour.
Light - Have you ever heard of ‘lightstruck’ or ‘skunked’ beer? Ultraviolet light breaks down light-sensitive compounds in hops, giving beer a sulphur-y smell and taste, similar to a skunk’s smell. This can happen with a little bit of light over a long time (months of halogen lights) or a lot of light in a short time (half an hour of direct sunlight). Clear bottles let all light in; darker bottles let a little light in; and kegs and cans let no light in.The uKeg also protects beer from 100% of light.
Heat - Heat speeds up chemical reactions—it’s as simple as that. Warm or hot beer will oxidise more quickly, and UV light will break down hops more quickly.
Time - Luckily, beer doesn’t spoil and become unsafe to drink—alcohol and hops are both natural preservatives. But even small amounts of oxygen, light, and heat will deteriorate beer over time. Beers with a higher alcohol percentage will last longer, and malt-driven beers (such as stouts and porters) will keep their flavours for longer than hop-driven beers (such as pale ales and IPAs). But time stops for no man—or beer.
When brewers work hard to craft perfectly delicious beers for us to drink, shouldn’t we do our best to drink them fresh, so they taste as the brewer intended?
1. CHOOSE CAREFULLY
Try to drink beers as close as possible to the time they were packaged—for most beers (especially hoppy beers like pale ales or IPAs), the first three months is best for enjoying the optimal flavours. By the time a beer is approaching 12 months, it can taste quite different.
If you’re buying bottled or canned beer, check the ‘Best Before’ date—for most craft beers, this will be 12 months from packaging.
If you’re at a bar, it’s not this simple. But if the bar has a regularly rotating range of beers, there’s a good chance the venue is serious about getting fresh beer.
2. GO TO THE SOURCE
Of course, the most reliable place to get a fresh beer is at the brewery itself, and you don’t have to travel far to find one in Australia’s thriving beer scene. Most local breweries serve up their beers on tap, including limited releases you can’t buy anywhere else.
There’s something special about enjoying the freshest beer you’ll ever drink while looking at the brewing tanks. And if you want to take that golden nectar home with you, you can get the brewery tofill up a uKeg with your favourite brew. Brewery fresh beer on tap at home… what a world we live in!
3. PROTECT FROM HEAT, LIGHT, AND OXYGEN
You can’t always know how beer has been treated before you buy it. But once it’s in your hands, it’s up to you to look after it. Keep your beer in a cool, dark place—either the fridge, or a cool cupboard. The only time your beer should be in direct sunlight is if it’s in your hand while you’re drinking it outside!
Of course,the uKeg protects beer from light, is vacuum insulated to keep beer cold all day, and is pressurised for up to 2 weeks to keep the oxygen at bay. Keep your beer brewery fresh to drink at home—or at a friend’s house, or the beach, or a picnic…
4. DON’T WAIT
The best way to experience fresh beer? Drink it. Beer isn’t something to hold onto, like whisky. If you want to taste the best flavours a beer has to offer, don’t wait.
Enjoy fresh beer now—and later.