In the US., beer is not legally required to have any type of expiration date printed on the can or bottle. But, because it is a perishable product, the taste can be quickly degraded by several factors. Therefore, brewers will provide some information regarding freshness, like the date the beer was packaged. But why don’t the companies just advise how long the beer is good for? That is because the shelf life of a product like this is dependent on many different factors such as processing, packaging, transport, and storage. Ultimately, though, the biggest factor is exposure to light and heat.
One way to reduce these effects is through the use of certain types of packaging. For example, the amber bottle used for many beers blocks damaging wavelengths of light whereas colorless bottles do not. Although usually associated with less-expensive, mass-produced beers, aluminum cans are now being seen as a superior form of packaging because they block all light, are more securely sealed, and now with a special lining material, the metal has no noticeable effect on taste. In fact, so much time and effort goes into developing brewing and packaging processes that in many cases, these procedures have been patented by the brewers, giving them the ability to produce a beer that tastes better for longer. However, once the product leaves the companies’ facilities, it’s out of their hands.
Therefore, many tests are done to ensure product quality, like performing Accelerated Beverage Aging Studies. By cycling bottled beer samples through various time/temperature cycles ranging from 5° to 40°C, the brewer can simulate environmental temperature fluctuations that the product will likely encounter on its way from the brewery to the store shelf, where ultimately it is purchased by the consumer.
Accelerated Beverage Aging Studies and other quality control studies allow brewers to examine how well the product can endure unpredictable and unavoidable fluctuations in temperatures. They can then better determine if any adjustments are required in their processes to minimize the risk of premature degradation, or in other words, leaving their customers with a bad taste in their mouths.
What kind of technology is used to perform such Accelerated Beverage Aging Studies? There are many types of temperature control technologies available, but at many breweries you will find the most economical and efficient technology used is a large capacity refrigerated/heated circulating bath. Such a bath allows ample space where beverage samples can be submerged and run through time/temperature cycles and then tested for the resulting effects on product quality.
PolyScience’s 75L Refrigerated/Heated Circulating Bath is a great product for this. The bath features a -20° to 100°C working temperature range, ±0.005°C temperature stability, and a 1.8 cu. Ft reservoir. The Performance Programmable touch screen temperature controller displays temperature to 1/1000th of a degree and allows an endless array of thermal cycling options and programs.
The 75 Liter Refrigerated Circulator incorporates a wide variety of communication options, including USB A and USB B, Ethernet, RS232, addressable RS485, remote on/off, and external temperature control. Among its many design innovations are a swiveling control head that permits viewing of the temperature display anywhere within a 180° viewing radius, a corrosion and chemical resistant top plate that remains cooler at high temperatures, and PolyScience’s patent-pending WhisperCool® environmental control technology that reduces operational noise and energy consumption. The 75L Refrigerated Circulating Bath complies with DIN 12876-1 Class III safety requirements for use with flammable liquids.