There's been some talk, both on Beer Advocate and in their new magazine regarding the issue of brewers dating their bottles. Those who date will usually either do a "bottled on" date or a "best by". The methods of dating can be as simple as marking a date with a pen, to using a laser to cut it into the label.
Unfortunately, finding a brewer that dates their goods is pretty hit or miss. A lot of brewers do date their beers, likely an equal amount of brewers do not.
So where is this all leading? A couple of recent date mishaps, courtesy of yours truely.
Tonight, I popped open a Deschutes Black Butte Porter I got in trade this fall. Checking for a date on the bottle, I see a best-by of 08/22/06. Dammit! I try it anyways and while its far from amazing, it is drinkable. Not worth a review, but drinkable. Note to self, check dates on bottles as soon as you receive them.
This past winter I picked up a case of Great Divide Hibernation Ale from my local distributor. Okay, it wasn't quite that simple, it was a special order. I called, waited, got a call and picked it up. I drank it, and liked it, a lot. I gave a few away, traded a few over Christmas and recently and then finally got around to doing a formal review.
That's when I check the bottled-on date. Bottled 2005. Hmm, that odd. And while Hibernation is brewed in the summer and cellared until fall, its hardly sitting at the brewery for a year. A mistake I thought, and checked at a local six pack shop that had stocked Hibernation the last time I was there. Same story, bottled 2005.
I'm not sure where things fell apart, but I'm doubting it's my local beer distributor holding on to last year's stock, especially since another store in town has the same vintage. The fact is though, that someone somewhere is shipping old beer.
Luckily, Hibernation Ale is a strong beer that can last a year or five in good conditions. I'm not sure how this one was stored, but its still excellent. I wouldn't have known it was last year's vintage until I was smart enough to check.
Well, at least its a good beer. I sort of lucked out, since the 2005 vintage of Hibernation Ale won a silver medal in the Aged Beer Category at the GABF 2006. In fact, I might have to go pick up the rest of that 'old' beer.