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Science Friday: New Coding Dates

Jul 24, 2015 Comments (0) Science Friday: New Coding Dates

Our Quality Manager likes to tell us that "freshness can be the difference between appreciating a great beer and disliking what was once a great beer."

Which means it's critically important that we're helping all of you drink fresh beer, because we definitely much prefer to get you beer you'll appreciate instead of beer you'll dislike. One way that we've been doing this, is to stamp our bottles and cases with the date the beer was packaged on. This way you know when the batch was brewed and bottled. 

But  is that all you need to know in order to determine if the beer is fresh enough to enjoy?

We recently decided that we could provide you with even better information about our beer's freshness, and changed our system to stamp the beer with the "best by" date instead of the date it was bottled.


To explain why we thought this would help customers get the freshest beer possible, we asked Ben, our super fresh Quality Manager, to walk us through the change.

As Ninkasi stretches into new regions, one major focus is to make sure that anyone drinking our beer outside of Eugene is enjoying beer as fresh as it's flowing in our backyard.

To ensure this, we started by examining the current shelf lives of all our beer. In order to do this, we pulled beers from different dates that we keep retained and ran those through a special sensory panel called a vertical panel. This type of sensory panel was borrowed from a regular practice of the wine industry in which they taste and rate different vintages. 

At this point I know some of you have that burning question: Yes, we do drink the beer on this panel and don’t spit it out like wine tasters because, well, beer is delicious…


We noticed that we were right on the nose with the hop-forward beers, which, who are we kidding, is the majority of our beers. However, we also noticed that some of our brands held their flavor better and thus didn’t start to stray from what that brand tastes like for several more days. This allowed us to extend the shelf life on these beers.

Side note: Some may even have tasted better the older they got, but the standard we set to determine shelf life is that it couldn’t taste different at all, so everyone knows what to expect when they crack open a cold, delicious bottle of Ninkasi. If anyone is curious which beers get better with age, in my opinion, I’d be happy to share. Just write in.

Now if I thought this was enough work to satisfy the masses of Ninkasi fans in the more distant markets, I’d be doing everyone a disservice. From here, we’re now moving on to improving our beer to make sure it stays fresher for longer. There are two ways we are doing this.

Warning: here is where it gets sciencey. One part of our strategy is to diminish dissolved oxygen as much as possible. As some of you know, oxygen is the enemy to bottled beer as it oxidizes the beer and changes its flavor profile through oxidative reactions to the flavor compounds. The result could be off flavors in the beer you drink that could range from cardboard to sherry to soy sauce.

The other strategy is to optimize our polyphenol levels. These come mostly from hop material left over from dry hopping. Even though we centrifuge our beers for clarity, these compounds can carry over to the final product. If this sound undesirable in any way, don’t worry, polyphenols are actually healthy for you and they’re associated with those wonderful hop aromas we love so much. So why do we want to limit them at all? Polyphenols will actually age beer faster. Because of this we are experimenting to find the optimal level for maximum aroma and minimal aging.

You can rest assure that we’re working hard to make sure your Ninkasi beers are enjoyable anywhere can be found. Now all this talk has gotten me thirsty. Time for a beer! Cheers!

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