Fullers Vintage has a best before date and any beer less than 10% has to have such a date by law. Wine, on the other hand, does not. OK, most wine is over 10% but even a sub 10% light German white fails to attract this trading standard law. The oldest Fullers Vintage, and indeed the oldest beer I own, is over 10 years old, well past its best before date and much better than it was before the best before date. Best before dates are just silly on beer.
We are finishing the design for our two 2009 vintage beers. Both are higher gravity and great care has been taken to ensure that clean and oxygen free products are produced and so extending their shelf lives well beyond any scientifically determinable lifetime. I arbitrarily set the 8% whisky stout at 3 years after the bottling date and the 10% barley wine at 5 years after bottling. We also designed into the label a couple of tongue in cheek comments that hinted, perhaps not that subtly, that the best before date was silly.
Mr Stringers, being the ever helpful fellow Cumbrian as he is, suggested we ran any label design past trading standards. That, I thought, was a very sensible idea.
We got a list of stuff back from the nice man which included objection to my "rendering the best before date an irrelevant and contradictory semantic" It would seem that the best before date is a legal requirement that I'm not allowed to take the piss out of on my bottle.
My friends at Plain Creative, who are rather less hot headed than me, rewrote the label to take into account some of the gentleman's concerns; like for instance the fact that one of the beers proclaimed to be a wine, all be it a barley one, instead of stating it to be a beer. One is tempted to think that our local trading standards office fail to understand esoteric beer. The resultant labels can be seen here. I like them a lot.
You will see that the jibes at the best before date are staying. I'm not going to write a letter to trading standards complaining about my own beer, but it's tempting. Let's see what happens.
I repeat, for hand bottled beer like these, the best before date is indeed an irrelevant and contradictory semantic.