Beer freshness isn’t often thought about by the average consumer, but when it is it can be a confusing issue. For an industry predicated upon the idea of quality ingredients, precision production and target drink-by dates, craft brewing sure likes to befuddle their audience.
Now, we can’t expect every last bit of minutiae the brewing process entails to show up on our beer labels and cans. What should be uniform, however, is an agreed-upon industry standard for presenting a beer’s age. Here’s where the debate kicks in.
If craft brewers were to print the day the beer was transferred from the tank to the package, that would show the true age of the beer minus the amount of time spent brewing. The con is that less-informed consumers don’t know the general age limit of each beer style; stout, porter and most Belgian strong styles can age for years while weizenbier, IPA and pilsner should be consumed within a few months of production.
Conversely, if brewers printed a drink-by date it could guide those less-informed more easily but also turn off potential customers if a targeted date has been passed. Again, some beer ages and would, instead, benefit from additional info on the packaging. This goes back to the minutiae issue.
Currently, brewers use a number of different methods of dating their beer for the public. For most, it’s a line of boxes along the side of the label representing months and years with tiny notches indicating either when born or when it should be drank; usually the difference isn’t explained. Others print what’s called a Julian Date on the bottle neck where the first 3 digits of the code represent the day of the year it was made and the last digit corresponds to the last number of the year. For example, January 1, 2013 would have a code of 0013.
Stone Brewing has devised a sure-fire way of letting people know what the optimal date is for one of their beers. Enjoy By is a double IPA released every couple of months with a new target date as part of the name, currently 10-25-13. As hop oil sits around in beer, it flavors begin to fade and oxidize turning them into something flat and undesirable. Enjoy By is crafted to be quaffed as soon as possible.
What we have here is one amazing IPA. The color is somewhere between gold, copper and orange with a skyscraper of head and abundant lacing. A study in pure hop elements, both nose and flavors represent mango, pineapple, pine resin, mint, lemon, herbs, honey and pepper with just enough bready malt showing up for balance. The crisp texture yields a long, lingering finish.
Enjoy By 10-25? If it even lasts that long!