Beer Freshness and Date Coding

(before Anheuser- Busch's "BORN ON" package dating)

A collection of quotes and information from US breweries from the post-Repeal era, in reaction to the current  beer  mythology that either Anheuser-Busch or Boston Beer Co. (Samuel Adams), in the 1980-90's, were the "first" brewers to emphasis freshness and/or date code their beers or that it is simply a "gimmick" to sell more beer.

(Above) Label from Carling's Red Cap Ale from the late 1970's, with pre-printed months of years (July-December shown on this right side portion), notched as a date code.

(Below) Similar coding on a label from the Sebewaing Brewing Co., days listed on the left, months on the right. (Click on image for larger view)



1930-40’s, Lucky labels stamped with dates.

 “Holahan says the beer is at its best when it is brewery fresh in the bottles, cans or kegs.  He says that beer deteriorates with age regardless of what container it is in.”

1951, Interview with Billings Brewing Co.  brewmaster

“Look for a number on every label.  Every Rainier Ale label is stamped with a number.  The number corresponds to the date the Ale was brewed.”

Rainier Ale ad, 1934


Naturally not.

Why? Well, because by the time you got your milk, it would not be fresh.

What’s milk, cows and Wisconsin got to do with beer and ale? A lot! Beer and ale are perishable products – similar to milk in many respects.

Beer tastes better the sooner it’s served after leaving the brewery aging cellars.

Holihan Brewing Co. ad, 1952

“Bottled beer does not improve with age!

Insist on brewery fresh Congress.

Bottled Daily – Delivered Daily.”

Congress Beer ad, Syracuse NY1959

 “Under ideal conditions, packaged beer will maintain its flavor and clarity for at least 3 months”

Proper Handling of Pabst Package and Keg Beer

<<<<<  Pabst Brewing Co., 1977

 “After it is bottled, beer is no different from many other packaged food products.  The fresher it is when served, the better it will be appreciated by the consumer.  Therefore rotation of stock is of utmost importance.”

The Practical Brewer,  MBAA, 1947

Schaefer has determined that our beer will maintain flavor and body for at least 120 days, and ... we remove our product from the shelves at that time and replace it.

The Story of Quality, F & M Schaefer  1974

 “… people don’t seem to realize that beer is more perishable than-say, milk.  If they appreciated the fact that beer is a food and showed it the same respect they show other foods, more people would enjoy and appreciate the real worth of beer.”

The Simple Truth about Beer C. Schmidt, 1962

 “The fresher the beer, the better it is.  Beer doesn’t improve in taste after canning or bottling.”

“…beer should be consumed as soon as possible after leaving the brewery.  Beer does not improve while stored in kegs, bottles or cans.”

“Ask Joe” columns, Joe Ortlieb, brewer, 1969-70

 “…the sooner after (Schmidt’s Beer) is packaged you drink it, the better.”

Beer As Beer Should Be, C. Schmidt’s 1979

“Coors beer, like any other beer, is at its best when it is first packaged.” 

A Handful of Questions about Coors, 1977

"Coors takes absolutely no chances when it comes to fresh beer taste.  The company's 60-day freshness policy, the strictest in the beer industry, assures that Coors is always stocked fresh..."

A Hatful of Questions about Coors, 1985

(LEFT) Minster, Ohio's WOODEN SHOE BREWING CO. not only date coded their labels as noted in this ad from 1948, they recommended a very short 30 day shelf life.

"Bottled or canned pasteurized beer should be consumed within two months and draught unpasteurized within one week after it leaves the brewery to be at its flavorful best."
----1970s Genesee booklet

"Our bottled beer has a shelf life
of two months." 

--- 1980 - Herb Straub
Straub Brewing Co.
St. Marys PA

Croft Brewing Company, Boston, Mass., has installed canning equipment and is now producing Pilgrim Ale and Croft Ale in cans...The marvel of the new canning equipment, which was set in motion during September, is the electric eye past which each can travels as it automatically weighted, examined and dated.


    Pioneered by Miller in 1975, the freshness date is a simple series of number indicating the last day Miller considers the product fresh enough for consumers to buy.

    The date is stamped by month, day, and the second digit of the year: e.g., 12-31-8.  The freshness date on packaged beer is exactly four months from the day the beer was packaged at the brewery.

    The freshness date is the most visible sign of Miller's commitment to quality - a commitment best repre-sented by our sophisticated and efficient Quality Control Department.

"Our Commitment to Quality"