Beer brewers are long-term thinkers. And why wouldn’t they be? When you regularly play the waiting game for wort to become beer, it’s to be expected. It’s exactly this mindset that has led generations of intrepid brewers to search for new ways to extend the longevity of their favorite alcoholic beverages.
British brewers preserved the contents of their kegs by adding extra hops to their wort, ensuring a safe transoceanic journey to India and creating the floral and piney IPA in the process. Farmers from Wallonia brewed spice-forward beers in the fall and winter, tinkering with recipes until they had beers that lasted long enough to slake workers’ thirsts in the warm summer months.
Outside of experimenting with recipes and the fermentation process, the brewing community has refined best practices to prolong the shelf life of brewing ingredients. Everything from hops and grains to yeast and Irish moss requires different conditions to remain stable, but taking precautions now leads to better-tasting, longer-lasting brews in the future.
Hops are likely the most expensive brewing ingredient, so you’ll want to do all you can to protect your pellets or whole seed cones from spoilage (especially if you buy in bulk to cut costs). You have your work cut out for you because heat, light, oxygen, and moisture all accelerate decay.
Start by reducing oxygen exposure. Some brewers suggest vacuum-sealing or using glass jars to reduce oxidation of your hops. As long as it’s airtight, you’ll boost the longevity of these bitter yet floral buds.
Since light can still accelerate the aging process, it’s key to store your hops in a dark place. If you choose a freezer for storage, you can reduce light and heat exposure—all without any risk of cold damage, thanks to the resilience provided by hops’ natural oils.
Plus, acquainting yourself with the Heat Stability Index (HIS) and free tools like the Hop Freshness Calculator can help you better estimate shelf lives. That way, you can prevent yourself from introducing staleness into your ale, stout, or pilsner.
Quality grains are key if you want the perfect taste, hue, and aroma from your desired style. Again, buying grains in bulk can help to reduce the cost of brewing, but you’ll need to find ways to prevent light, moisture, and voracious pests from depleting your usable stock.
Where should you keep your grains? Dave Carpenter, the current Editor-in-Chief of Zymurgy, wrote in an old article for Craft Beer & Brewing that he stores his grains in an old, sterilized aluminum trashcan. But he clarifies this only works if you live in a dry climate. Wet or humid climates can allow moisture to seep into firmly shut containers. That’s why many breweries and homebrewers swear by plastic bins or sealed bags to maximize the shelf duration.
Otherwise, the goal is to keep grains cool, whether that’s in a refrigerator for crushed and milled grains or a basement, cellar, or climate-controlled storage area for uncrushed and unmilled grains.
Without vital and viable yeast, fermentation is a nonstarter. There are drastically different best practices for yeast storage depending on whether you go with dry or liquid varieties, but brewers need to be attentive to both.
Storing liquid yeast is all about keeping these helpful microorganisms refrigerated (but never frozen). At most, they’ll last for three to four months after production, so always be sure to check the production day when purchasing a batch.
Dry yeast is far more shelf stable. If deposited in a cold environment and vacuum-sealed, you can extend the lifespan of your yeast for two to four years, depending on the exact strain. Once opened, the estimated viability of dry yeast is comparable to that of the liquid form: four to six months.
For those who want a crisp and clear beer, Irish moss is always a staple ingredient. Using this red seaweed as a beer-clarifying agent not only provides reliable results (brewers have used it for almost 200 years) but it’s vegan friendly, too. Whether you buy per batch or in bulk, you still want to make sure you’re aware of shelf stability.
The good news is the Chondracanthus chamissoi used as Irish moss can last a considerable amount of time. When dehydrated, the salt in this red alga acts as a natural preservative, keeping properly stored clarifying agents viable for up to two years. Again, you’ll need to keep that seaweed in a cool and dry storage space (airtight containers always help), but there’s not much else to worry about.
The Key to Preserving Your Brewing Ingredients
In general, long-lasting beer requires fresh ingredients, and brewers who keep vigilant watch over the shelf life of their brewing ingredients will get more consistent—and delicious—results. For some, that means using brewery management platforms or homebrewer apps to manage inventory stock and expirations.
Monitoring the shelf life of your beer is the only way to ensure each bottle or can you brew is good to the last drop.
Looking for high-quality clarifying agents you can trust to last? Message us and we’ll let you know the suppliers nearest you who carry our exceptional Acadian SeaPlus Irish moss: