Freshness in beer is a topic that we are going to be taking an in-depth look soon, but until then here is a helpful graphic that allows you to decode the date and time that your Sierra Nevada beer was bottled.
Every 12oz can and bottle of Sierra Nevada beer has a 9-digit code above the barcode (or on the bottom of the can.) This code contains when the beer was packaged down to the minute.
- The first digit represents the last numeral in the year it was bottled, i.e. “1” means the beer was bottled in 2011.
- The next three digits correlate to the sequential day of the julian calendar. You can use this chart to easily translate (be sure to scroll down to the “leap year” version of the chart for beers brewed in 2012).
- The fifth digit refers to which packaging line the beer came off of, and it can be ignored.
- The final 4 numbers are the time it was packaged in “military time” PST.
For the example beers at the top of the post, the Hoptimum (green bottle on the left) was bottled March 15th 2012 at 11:31am PST, while the Celebration (red bottle on the right) was bottled on November 9th 2011 at 4:58am PST.
Generally, you want to consume craft beer within 120 days from the time it was packaged. Stone Brewing recommends less than 90 days for many of its beers. The general rule of thumb is IPAs and hop-forward beers are best fresh and shouldn’t go much past 8-10 weeks as the hop flavors and aromas will fade dramatically past this point while more malty beers will keep a little longer (many of these can even be cellared for years, but that’s a different post.)
- via the Sierra Nevada FAQ