How do you read the date code on beer?

Answered by Rodney Landry

As an expert sommelier and brewer, I'm very familiar with the date codes on packaging. These codes are usually printed on the bottom of cans or on the labels of bottles, and they serve to indicate the freshness of the beer. Understanding how to read these codes is important for both consumers and retailers to ensure they are serving and enjoying the beer at its best quality.

The date codes on beer typically follow a specific format. The first three digits represent the day of the year, while the last digit indicates the last number of the year. For example, a code like 1653 would mean that the beer was brewed on the 165th day of the year, which translates to June 13th. It also indicates that the beer was brewed in the year ending with the number 3, so it could be 2013, 2023, or any other year that ends with 3.

In some cases, you may come across date codes that are written as 0165, with the year coming first followed by the day of the year. In this case, the code 0165 would still represent June 13th, but the year would be 2016, 2006, or any other year that starts with 0 and ends with 6.

It's important to note that not all breweries use the same date code format. Some breweries may have their own unique system, but the most common format is the one I described above. If you come across a different format, it's always a good idea to check with the brewery or refer to their website for clarification.

Now that you know how to read the date code, you might be wondering why it's important. Well, the freshness of beer is crucial in ensuring the best taste and quality. Over time, beer can deteriorate and lose its flavor, especially if it's not stored properly. By checking the date code, you can determine if the beer is still within its optimal freshness period.

When purchasing beer, it's always a good idea to look for fresher batches whenever possible. This is especially important for beer styles that are known for their hop-forward flavors, such as IPAs. are one of the key ingredients in beer that contribute to its aroma and bitterness, but they can degrade over time, leading to a less enjoyable drinking experience.

If you're a retailer or bar owner, it's important to regularly check the date codes on your beer inventory to ensure you're selling the freshest products to your customers. This not only helps maintain customer satisfaction but also avoids any potential issues with serving expired beer.

In my personal experience, I've encountered situations where I unknowingly purchased beer that was past its prime. The flavors were dull and muted, lacking the vibrant hop character that I expected. Since then, I've made it a habit to check the date codes before buying beer, and it has made a noticeable difference in the quality of my drinking experience.

To summarize, reading the date code on beer is essential for understanding its freshness. By knowing how to interpret these codes, consumers can ensure they're purchasing and enjoying beer at its best quality. Whether you're a beer enthusiast or a retailer, paying attention to date codes is a simple yet effective way to appreciate beer in its optimal condition.