Since we started packaging our beer into bottles back in 2015, we have been careful to convey as much information as we can, to help you enjoy our beer in the best possible shape. We've printed packaged on dates since September 2015, in an effort to help those of you that care about fresh beer enjoy precisely that. Along the way, however, we have compromised reasonable shelf lives with short BBE dates, to encourage every link in the distribution chain to move our beer in the quickest possible fashion. This has helped ensure there aren't stockpiles of our beer anywhere, except for the days after a packaging run, when a few pallets of cans sit in near suspended animation conditions in our 3-4ºC cold store.
Where our efforts have started to work against your and our best interests in the enjoyment of fresh beer, is when we've felt compelled to "short BBE date" our cans (as we have done recently to accommodate for the as yet unknown long term result of the centrifugation of our beer as we continue to dial in new transfer processes), leaving distributors and retailers struggling to get our cans to a shelf in a retailer's fridge in time for there to be enough of a remaining BBE for it to appear fresh to consumers. Using BBE to convey both the shelf live of the beer (when most of our beers are ok at 4-6 months in can), and to convey when we think the beer stops tasting its very best after isn't as good as our date coding can be.
Best Before End dates are wholly unreliable as a sign of freshness, because there is no industry standard, they don't tell you when the beer was packaged, and of course, even a packaging date tells you nothing of how the beer has been treated between perfect conditions at the brewery, and the retail shelf you find it on. Short BBE dates are furthermore confusing because they give a false impression that the beer will all of a sudden turn into a mess in the days coming up to and just after the BBE date.
As of today, all our canned beer will have a date code with the following format (using today's code as an example):
COD = canned on date, followed by the date in DDMMYY format.
R1 = the label reel number (giving us a sense of whether the beer was from the start or end of a particular run)
FFB = freshest flavour before, followed by the date in DDMMYY format.
BBE = best before end, followed by the date in DDMMYY format.
G = our gyle (or batch) number, followed by a three digit number.
Freshest Flavour Before is our way of saying that if a can has been well looked after once it left our warehouse (by continuing to be kept at a constant low temperature below 5ºC), it should present very well to you, and as we intended, before such date passes. After the FFB date, the beer might still be delicious to you, but it will have lost at least some of its freshest edges, and will no longer be quite the same beer we passed in our sensory panel for packaging. The BBE date will now simply convey when we expect the beer to start a less graceful decline towards being a shadow of its former self, by starting to showing age related off flavours.
I sincerely hope this development both continues to offer those of you who care deeply about fresh beer all the information you need to continue to enjoy it, and that it eases the previous and existing pressure in our distribution chains somewhat too. At this time we are inclined to state our BBE as double the period of time between the Canned On Date and the Freshest Flavour Before date, but of course this may change according to our force aged and retrospective ageing analysis in the coming months.