We never stopped trading but we’ve only brewed twice since Lockdown started, the brews that were planned and beers that needed putting into Cask or keg around the time of lockdown were indeed put into Cask and Keg.
Different breweries work in different ways with regards to Best Before Dates:
For a Brewery a Best Before Date (BBD) is a date that breweries are required to add to their products unless they are above 10% ABV. It’s up to the individual Brewery to decide how long they should put on their BBD.
- Some breweries start their BBD from the time the beer goes into Cask, Keg etc
- Some breweries start their BBD from the time the beer goes into Cask, Keg etc, but if it doesn’t leave the building in time before the date expires then the brewery re-labels the beer and sends it out with an extended date.
- Some breweries start their BBD from the time the beer leaves the building and goes out to trade.
- Some breweries start their BBD from the time the beer goes into Cask, Keg etc and I would guess a very few breweries would ditch the beer and not sell it.
- Some breweries start their BBD from the time the beer goes into Cask, Keg etc and tell you the date that the beer was filled and the BBD date reflects the amount of time that the brewer thinks the beer will be at peak-condition and exactly how they prefer it.
So all of the above can range from a couple of weeks to a couple of years, or more depending on the style and what container the beer is in.
*The containers the beer is put in must be spotlessly clean and sanitised.
The beer must have been produced in a way that it is free from any contaminants and beer spoilage organisms.
The beer must be cold stored at an appropriate temperature.
So if we brewers cover all bases and have confidence in our process and procedure I don’t see any reason why the beer we put in package (Casks, Kegs, Bottles, Cans) can’t endure an extended period of maturation and still come out of that package in a lovely drinkable condition.
I guess we are lucky in some ways, lockdown has allowed us here at Wishbone to regularly taste our packaged beers over the last 3 months because we have been turning Casks into Boxes and Minikegs, this does bring a level of confidence that all our process and procedure have paid off and our beers are tasting really rather good. Yet you could, if you wished to, consider them to be out-of-date 😉
BBD can be meaningless.
BBD can be used by brewers to make a Pub use their beer sooner.
BBD could be extended at any time should a brewer see fit and have confidence that the beer will not suffer for that extension.
BBD can be ignored by Landlords and served passed their BBD at the Landlord’s discretion.
*There must be nearly 100% of small independent brewers use Chlorinated Caustic or Caustic cleaning chemicals to do Hot-clean their Casks and Kegs. Though some bigger breweries use hot water and steam only, I would speculate that this large-scale practice must reduce the shelf-life of the beer inside and I have seen the difference between Package-Dates and Best Before Date on a Cask well within the month (Those beers would be in and out of that cask within 2 weeks) and I’ve been told by a Brewery Consultant that small brewers need to be better at cleaning because the beer stays in cask longer.
I suppose you can extrapolate from that, the bigger the brewer (and I do mean really big) the less confident they will be of the longevity of their beer in Cask and if they are used to a 2 week turn-around then a 4 /6 /8 week turnaround may see the beer within being tainted. (Beer Stone, Staining, Contamination, beer spoilage organisms)