On a hot summer day or during a football game, nothing is quite as refreshing as Mike’s Hard Lemonade. It’s as satisfying as an icy glass of Minute Maid with the kick of a cold lager. Mike’s is a consistently top-selling brand in the hard beverage market.
Although Mike’s Hard Lemonade entered this market as a vodka-based drink in the 1990s, it is now a malt beverage. This means that it is fermented from malted grain. You can think of it like beer, minus the hops. Mike’s trademark lemon taste comes from an infusion of fruit flavoring.
Mike’s Hard Lemonade does not have an expiration date in the same way that milk or orange juice does. So, a consumer might well wonder, does it expire?
Does Mike’s Hard Lemonade Expire? No, Mike’s Hard Lemonade does not expire when unopened. You can drink it long after its packaging date without fear of any adverse effects. However, as with all malt beverages, you can expect Mike’s quality to deteriorate over time.
How Do I Know How Old My Mike’s Hard Lemonade Is?
Mike’s Hard Lemonade has coded production information printed on the neck of every bottle and the bottom of every can. The format is as follows (from an example taken from the Mike’s company website): A0119XXXX XX:XX FL. You can decipher this batch code as such:
- Month, coded to a corresponding letter (ie: A is January, B is February, etc).
- Day, in two digits. So, 01 would be the first of the month.
- Year, in two digits. So, 19 would indicate 2019.
- The next four digits are an internal company code, so disregard them.
- Time of Production in a XX:XX format.
- Production location. In this example, FL stands for Florida.
How Long Will Unopened Mike’s Hard Lemonade Last?
So, you’ve happened to find some Mike’s Hard Lemonade from a Fourth of July barbecue you hosted over a year ago. It’s been collecting dust in the corner of that mini-fridge in your garage. Can you crack one of them at this later date? Should you pour it down the drain?
The company recommends that you consume Mike’s Hard Lemonade within a year of its production. You can consider this more of a “best by” recommendation. There is nothing in Mike’s Hard Lemonade that will spoil. You can enjoy that year-old Mike’s Hard Lemonade without fear.
Will Mike’s Hard Lemonade Improve with Age?
A good many boozy drinks develop and improve with time. Perhaps you have a buddy with a cellar of fine Bourdeaux aging to perfection. Maybe you’ve noticed that the more years a whiskey was aged in the barrel, the pricier it is. Heck, even a high-alcohol stout or a bottle-conditioned Lambic beer will mature for years in compelling, often delightful ways.
The same cannot be said for fruit-forward malt beverages like Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Low-ABV drinks are less fortified against aging, and any drink that contains non-fermentable adjuncts like fruit flavoring will mostly fade and develop off-flavors. Aging such a drink will do only harm, no good.
In short, a bottle of Mike’s is best right off the assembly line. It may not be significantly worse after a year, but it will definitely not improve because of the added age.
What Exactly Will Change About Mike’s Hard Lemonade Over Time?
As with all carbonated malt beverages, Mike’s Hard Lemonade will change as a result of temperature fluctuations and oxidation. This will manifest itself in mostly subtle ways.
You will notice that the fruit component has become less pronounced, and you’ll probably detect certain off-flavors. You might taste undertones of butter, cardboard, or other “stale” notes. Also, you may notice that the carbonation decreasing, giving it a “flat” sensation.
With your Mike’s become totally undrinkable? That’s unlikely. It just won’t have the same flavor punch and fizz that a fresh one would.
Will Old Mike’s Hard Lemonade Make Me Sick?
You will not get sick from drinking old Mike’s Hard Lemonade, unless, of course, you drink too many of them! Alcoholic beverages, in general, do not develop toxic agents unless they have been tampered with in some way.
In fact, before the advent of water filtration and purification became common, people created fermented beverages as a way to make water drinkable. The brewing process kills off pernicious bacteria that can reside in grain and water alike. When yeast converts sugars into ethanol, this further purifies the resulting beverage.
This isn’t to say that malt beverages are super healthy. They are, however, resistant to sickening agents.
How Can I Slow the Deterioration of Mike’s Hard Lemonade?
The best way to reduce the effects of time on Mike’s Hard Lemonade is to keep it in a dark, cool place. Exposure to light and heat speeds the deterioration of flavor. So does the infiltration of oxygen. As mentioned above, all of these factors contribute to a duller, flatter drink over time.
You can reduce the risk of both light and oxygen infiltration by opting for Mike’s cans instead of bottles. You can slow the entire process by making some room in your fridge and keeping your Hard Lemonade in there. This will keep it out of the light and suspended at frigid temperatures.
Mike’s Hard Lemonade, like beer or any other malt-based alcoholic drink, does not have a defined expiration point. Even aged for a significant amount of time, it remains totally safe to drink.
With that being said, you still want to drink your Mike’s as fresh as possible, ideally within a year of its bottling or canning. Paying attention to the batch code on Mike’s packaging will ensure you get the youngest product available.
If you keep your Mike’s Hard Lemonade in a refrigerator – or, at minimum, away from excessive light and heat – you can preserve its flavors and carbonation longer.
As long as you’re reading this, though, maybe you should go ahead and open a Mike’s right now. We’re sure it hit the spot!