What Is A Skunked Beer?

There are a number of different myths in the beer world. One of these beer myth includes that you shouldn’t take beer out of the fridge and then let it warm.

What Is A Skunked Beer?

While beer can tolerate mild temperature changes, there are quite a few things that will affect the taste and foam of the beer.

This is where skunked beer comes in. We find out what skunked beer is, what it tastes like and how best to avoid it.

What Is Skunked Beer?

Although beer does not ‘go off’ in the traditional sense as some fresh food can go off, beer can develop a dank odor and unpleasant taste.

When a beer is skunked, it develops a sulfuric smell which resembles the sour spray of a skunk.

Bottled beer gets skunked when it has been exposed to UV rays from the sun. Beer experts also call this ‘lightstruck’.

When an exposed, skunked beer bottle is then opened, you will be able to smell the foul odor immediately.

How Do You Know If A Beer Is Skunked?

Open the beer bottle and smell it. The foul odor will be the first sign that your beer is skunked.

Once you smelled skunked beer a few times, you will recognize it.

Additionally, skunked beer also tastes unpleasant, so try to sip some of it, and if it doesn’t taste like normal beer, then it is skunked.

What Happens When A Beer Is Skunked?

When a beer is skunked, there is a long, complex chemical process going on. This involves some UV light and blue light in the rays from the sun.

These elements change the compounds that have been produced by the hops in the beer. These compounds are called iso-alpha acids or iso-humulones.

The UV light and blue light create another compound called 3-MBT, which is responsible for the unpleasant skunk flavor and smell.

Why Is Only Bottled Beer Skunked?

If ever you have the unfortunate luck to find more skunked beer amongst your beer stash, you will notice that skunked beer can only be found in bottles.

This is because the UV light can only reach the beer through a glass bottle, and no through a can.

As there is no way to protect bottled beer, it is essential that you store your beer bottles away from the sunlight. Ideally, bottles of beer should be stored in a cool, dark place.

Additionally, different colors of bottles protect beer in different ways, and the beer industry uses a number of marketing and label designs which are not always beneficial to protect the beverage from sunlight.

Brown glass blocks out most of the light that is below 500nm. That covers UV light as well as the blue light spectrum.

In comparison, green glass only blocks out up to 400nm which means it isn’t as effective as brown glass and this can lead to the beer getting skunked.

The worst is clear glass. It does not block any of the light that is harmful to the beer, and that’s the reason why clear glass is not typically used for beer.

If you spot a beer in a clear glass, this may mean that the brewery used something called tetra-hops. This is essentially a hop extra which contains light-resistant compounds.

This means that the hops in this beer in clear glass bottles will not react with the sunlight.

Is It Safe To Drink Skunked Beer?

Yes, you can still safely drunk skunked beer. However, it is important to say here that it is not going to taste as pleasant as fresh beer.

You will also notice a strong odor which might make it very difficult to drink.

Despite the odor and the foul taste, you cannot get sick from skunked beer. There is nothing particularly different to normal beer, except for the flavor and smell.

Does Skunked Beer Still Has The Same Alcohol Content?

Yes, skunked beer has exactly the same ABV as the same beer when it is fresh. The light-strike reaction inside the bottle does not alter the alcohol content of the beer.

This is because the light reacts with the hop compounds, not the alcohol.

What Should You Do With Skunked Beer?

What Should You Do With Skunked Beer?

When you discover that a beer is skunked, then there is unfortunately nothing that you can do with the beer to make it taste or smell any better.

If you get a skunked beer in a bar or a pub, then you can ask for another beer. If the replacement is also skunked, then it is likely that the establishment stores their beer bottles in the wrong way.

However, most places that serve alcoholic beverages store their beer in kegs, casks or cans. As all these containers are opaque, there is no risk of the beer getting skunked.

You will only receive a glass of beer that is skunked when it has been stored in a bottle or glass container of some sort.

When you are out, you may be able to ask for a beer from the tap, but what do you do with skunked beer at home?

At home, you can either drink the skunked beer or simply throw it away. If you stored your beer in sunlight, then it is likely that the entire batch is skunked.

How To Store Your Beer Properly

One of the best ways to avoid skunked beer is to store your bottled beer. Alternatively, you can also buy canned beer which doesn’t allow any of the sunlight in, and can never be skunked.

However, some beer fans prefer to drink beer from a bottle, so here are some tips on how to store your beer bottles the skunk-safe way.

Don’t Buy Hot Or Old Beer

The right treatment of your beer starts the moment it leaves the brewery, and beer also needs to be stored the right way in warehouses and at retail shops.

When it comes to buying your beer, you need to check that it is not stored in the sunlight in the shop. Also make sure that the bottle doesn’t have a layer of dust on, as this means it has been there for some time.

It can easily happen that beer can pile up for a while and stocks do not sell as fast as shops may want, so buyers need to be careful.

Get To Know Your Beer

Before you can store your beer properly, you know to get to know it a little bit better. Take a look at the label and check the ABV.

If your beer’s alcohol content is higher than 8%, then it is fine to keep it outside of the fridge but away from sunlight.

Also the style of the beer can have an impact on whether it gets easily skunked. Smoked and sour beers are usually safe to store outside the fridge.

In comparison, hop-centric beers and IPAs, such as lagers, pale and strong ales, can age fast and should be consumed as soon as possible.

This is not just to avoid them getting skunked, but hop flavors do not last very long and they can fade quickly. So, if you want to enjoy your beer as fresh as possible, then drink it as soon as possible.

Another thing to look out for on the label of your beer is whether it has been pasteurized. The majority of craft breweries in the US do not pasteurize their beer.

This means that the beer’s shelf life is much shorter and they should be consumed quickly after purchase.

Drink The Beer Within Three Months

If you buy a larger batch of beer or you have an unpasteurized beer, then you simply cannot drink it all in one go. Luckily, you can store most beer for at least three months from the bottling date.

Pasteurized beer can last for much longer than three months, sometimes even up to a year when stored in the fridge at 33 degrees Fahrenheit.

Store Beer In The Fridge

Beer starts to age as soon as it filled into bottles. From then, the bottled beer needs to be kept cool to ensure that it lasts as long as possible.

There are a few advantages of keeping your beer in the fridge. Your refrigerator is dark which means the bottles are protected from the sunlight.

Then, it is also a cool place, keeping the flavors and taste of your beer exactly the same as when it was bottled.

Store Beer In A Dark Place

If you don’t have any space in your fridge for your beer, then it is also fine to store the bottles in a dark and cool place, such as a basement.

Alternatively, you can also store your beer under a bed or in a closet.

As long as the beer is away from direct sunlight, there is no risk that your beer can turn sour and transform into skunked beer.

This is also ideal for any beer that has a high alcohol level above 8%. The high ABV works as a preservative which means your beer ages much slower.

Store Beer Upright

While storing your beer in the fridge may be an obvious one (also for the best taste), it’s also important to store your beer in an upright position.

Beer in bottles that aren’t lying down minimizes the surface area where the beer is touching the air inside the bottle.

The less contact your beer has with air, the less oxidization will occur inside the bottle.

Oxidization is the process that break the beer compounds down and you definitely don’t want that when storing your beer for a longer period of time.

Do Not Store Too Much

It’s important to remember that beer is not like wine. You do not need to store it for a long time, and the best drinking time is as soon as it leaves the brewery.

Conclusion

Although we talked a lot about beer going off, skunked beer is relatively rare thanks to the many different techniques brewers have developed to tackle this problem.

However, as a consumer, you also need to ensure that you store your beer in a dark and cold place, so you can enjoy your favorite drink for longer.

Mandy Winters
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