Chapter 11

Priming and Bottling


Two common questions are, "How long will a homebrewed beer keep?" and "Will it spoil?" The answer is that homebrewed beer has a fairly long storage life. Depending on the style and original gravity, the beer will keep for more than a year. I occasionally come across a year-old six pack of pale ale that I had forgotten about and it tastes great! Of course, there are other cases when that year-old six pack has gotten very oxidized in that time, tasting of cardboard or cooking sherry. It really depends on how careful you were with the bottling - Quality in, Quality out.

When cooled prior to serving, some batches will exhibit chill haze. It is caused by proteins left over from those taken out by the cold break. The proteins responsible for chill haze need to be thermally shocked into precipitating out of the wort. Slow cooling will not affect them. When a beer is chilled for drinking, these proteins partially precipitate forming a haze. As the beer warms up, the proteins re-dissolve.

Chill haze is usually regarded as a cosmetic problem. You cannot taste it. However, chill haze indicates that there is an appreciable level of cold-break-type protein in the beer, which has been linked to long-term stability problems. Hazy beer tends to become stale sooner than non-hazy beer.

Finally, it is important to keep the beer out of direct sunlight, especially if you use clear or green bottles. Exposure to sunlight or fluorescent light will cause beer to develop a skunky character. It is the result of a photo-chemical reaction with hop compounds and sulfur compounds. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a character that Heineken, Grolsch, and Molson strive for in their beer. It is simply a result of poor handling by retailers, and storing them under fluorescent lighting. Other beers like Miller High Life? don't boil hops with the wort but instead use a specially processed hop extract for bittering which lacks the compounds that cause skunking (and flavor). Brown bottles are best unless you make a point of keeping your beer in the dark.