Inspired by Josh’s earlier rant about rarity, a slightly bad day at work, and a very bad experience just now at Kroger I, bring you the following public service announcement.
Don’t buy beer at Kroger.
I like good beer and my Kroger, as with most Krogers (not counting Hyde Park), has a small smattering of “good” beer. 1 or 2 6-packs of Rivertown and Mt. carmel, maybe 3 for Moerlein, 5 or so for Sam Adams. Then a random assortment of more distant beers, recently adding in Oskar Blues’ Dale’s Pale and Mama’s little yella pils. They also always carry Guinness in cans and bottles. I usually make it to a better beer store frequently enough that I don’t buy beer at Kroger because my fridge is already full/overflowing. Unfortunately last week I did not make it to a better beer store so I only had 2 bottles left, 1 Sam Adams’ Latitude 48 IPA (which is a very nice IPA) and a “wanna be Belgian” that a friend homebrewed. So during our Sunday grocery trip I looked at what Kroger had and saw something I never noticed before, had heard good things about, and fit quite nicely into my adventures into stouts and porters: Guinness Foreign Extra Stout. I did a quick Googling on my phone and saw rate beer gave it a 97 and beer advocate a 96! Well damn, that’s a buy!
I get home with my purchase ready to crack one open when I notice the “Best before” date. Though calling it a date is generous, L1261GG002 isn’t really a date. Now I’m curious so I decide to email Guinness. The next day I get a response:
In regards to your question, the shelf life for Guinness Foreign Extra Stout is 9 months. To find out for sure, here’s some information on the date codes.
The lot code will be listed as a number starting with L followed by four numbers, such as L1244, with additional digits. This would be the 1st of September, of 2011. In this example the first 1 is 2011, and the 244 is the 1st of September using the Julian date calendar in which each day is sequentially numbered, i.e. January 1st is one, the 2nd is two, and so on.
Judging by the lot code you provided it appears that the product was produced on Sept. 18th, 2011 and expired in June 2012.
So… the beer I’m so delighted to try has been “expired” for 5 months!? Alas, woe is me, I decide to just go back to Kroger, explain the situation and get a refund or exchange it for more beer. I knew they didn’t have any more Foreign Extra Stout but was quite willing to just get some standard Guinness. I explain the situation to the person at the counter, volunteer to show them the email, and am promptly shutdown by this lady telling me that they cannot accept beer back under any conditions. I explain that all I really want is to exchange it for more beer and she, with slightly more attitude, explains that state law prevents them from blah blah blah, I stopped caring. I tell her this is one of the reasons I don’t buy beer here and walk out.
Right… I feel better now. Rant over time for reality. The truth is any beer seller may not move enough of X beer and it may expire on the shelf. Lots of breweries don’t include date codes and if they do they can be hard to determine the actual date from, like in this case. However stores and distributors should be up on there stuff about checking these dates, or codes, or just knowing that somethings been there way too long. I imagine most breweries would be happy to take something back over having someone new to craft beer drink a bad brew. And Kroger is not alone in this boat, I’m sure Walmart, Meijer, and most grocery stores are just as likely to have this issue. Especially with a more uncommon beer like a Guinness Foreign Extra Stout.
Bottom line is to beware when buying craft beer at grocery stores. If there is a date code check it, if not and you’re in doubt then buy something or somewhere else. Because once you leave the store with that bad beer you’re hosed.
Determined to turn my frown upside down (I hate it when people say that) I decided to dip into my cellar and pull out Schlafly’s Tripel. Because after having to toss beer that is past it’s prime it somehow feels right to go drink a beer your aging on purpose. I had wanted to keep this down there for at least as long as possible but I always knew it would last only as long as my patience and my supply of other beer. Heck, the reason I started aging beer in the first place was because I bought way too much to fit in the fridge! So in the next few days look for my review of 1 year old Schlafly Tripel.