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 1990'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.
“LUCKY AGE DATED LAGER”
1930-40’s, Lucky labels stamped with the brewing date to ensure proper lagering period.
“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
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
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 
“… 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 insures the consumer receivers the freshest-tasting Coors beer possible by rushing the product through the distribution pipeline. The beer is transported from the brewery in heavily insulated rail cars or refrigerated trucks into each state where it is then stored in refrigerated warehouses. Coors distributors are required to keep the beer cold from their warehouse to local retail outlets. Distributors, in turn, encourage local merchants to keep their beer at cool temperatures, and as a result, most of the Coors sold by retailers has never lost its original brewery chill.
Distributors are also required to pay strict attention to the rotation of stock in the warehouse and retail outlets. All cases and individual packages are marked according to the date they were filled at the brewery. All stock more than 60 days old, must be removed and replaced by new stock.
Distribution is so efficient, that on the average, a Coors beer is consumed just a little over a month after it leaves the brewery – in contrast to the industry average of three months.
Coors Promo publication, 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
"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
"I would suggest drinking the beer within 60 days of its leaving the plant. After that, it starts to oxidize, as any vegetable product does, and gets stale.”
Schlitz Tampa Brewmaster (1974)
"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.
THE AMERICAN BREWER - Oct. 1936
(Above) Label from Carling's Red Cap Ale from the late 1970's when it was a Heileman product - with pre-printed initials for the months of year on either side, to be notched as a date code.
(Click on label images for larger view)
(Below) Similar coding on a label from the Sebewaing Brewing Co., days listed on the left, months on the right.
MORE "NOTCHING' EXAMPLES FROM ANHEUSER-BUSCH AND FALSTAFF AT BOTTOM OF PAGE
(ABOVE) 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.
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"
MILLER BREWING CO. ©1979
[BELOW] 1970 Canadian brewers date code and shelf life
This 'snip' from an article about a mid-70s Schlitz recall shows they had a rather simple date code:
Day of the Month + Alphabetic Month
(Sixth letter F = June)
“We’re making sure the brewery department is putting out the best and freshest product they can…
Fresh beer. That’s what it’s all about. That rubbed off on me from my days at Anheuser-Busch. They're sticklers for that."
--- Frank J. Sellinger,
Former AB VP, hired in 1977
in an ultimately failed attempt
to save the Milwaukee company.
[ABOVE] A 1930-40s era Budweiser label, with a date code "J 1" punched through the label.
[BELOW] AB used the notched label method in the 1970s-90s before using their now defunct "Born On" dating
Bottled during the 11th week of the year.
Falstaff's date coding method in the 1960-1980s was displayed via 9 "dots" printed on their labels, notched either at the dot (first digit) or in the space between dots (second digit) - adding up to the week of the year the beer was bottled.
Falstaff's bottled beer brands at the time included Falstaff Beer, Narrangansett Beer & Ale, Krueger Beer & Ale, Hanley Beer & Ale, Ballantine Beer & Ale, Croft Ale, Pickwick Ale and Haffenreffer Malt Liquor.
ON ALL FALSTAFF BOTTLES THE DATE THE
BEER WAS BOTTLED IS SHOWN BY NOTCHES
CUT IN THE EDGE OF LABEL.