Skunked Beer – What You Need To Know

So, you just finished an afternoon of yard work and all you can think about is downing an iced cold bottle of beer. You grab it out of the cooler, pop the top, take a big ole swig and “Yuck!”. You just got “skunked”, or more accurately your beer did. What happened and what can you do to prevent this tragedy in the future?

What Causes Skunked Beer?

The term “skunked” refers to the smell a beer gets when it’s been exposed to light. And that’s right, it smells just like it sounds. Interestingly, this reaction only occurs in bottled beers. When beer is exposed to sunlight a fairly complex chemical reaction occurs.

One of the main ingredients that makes beer so flavorful is the hops. During the brewing process, these hops release iso-alpha acids. And, when beer is exposed to the dreaded sunlight, those iso-alpha acids get broken down and bind with proteins that contain sulfur. This ultimately creates a new chemical that’s almost identical to the one released by skunks.

Now, what’s a beer-loving person supposed to do?

1. Pick the right bottle.

Beer that is packaged in brown or black bottles are your best bet. The darker the bottle the more UV protection. Conversely, blue, green, or clear-colored bottles basically give you zero protection from light.

2. Be choosy about where you buy beer.

How the beer is stored is also a key component. It’s important to keep your beer in a cool place where direct sunlight can’t get to it. Likely, if you purchase your little friends from a liquor store (ahem, Festival in Annapolis) they will have stored it properly. That gas station down the street, not so much.

3. Select the right beer.

All beers do not skunk equally. Every beer brewed in the United States contains hops. And, keep in mind, the more hops the more chance for a reaction. For example, American lagers contain lower contents of hops. So, they are the least likely to get smelly. On the other hand, IPAs and pale ales are more susceptible to skunking as they have more hops.

4. Bust the misconceptions.

One common myth is that taking a beer from cold to warm and back to cold again can cause the beer to skunk. But, this is not the case. Sunlight is the culprit, not temperature. Another misconception is that it takes a long time for a beer to get skunked when it actually can happen quite quickly. In fact, a well-hopped beer in clear glass can become “skunked” within just 30 seconds of exposure to sunshine.

Shop Your Favorites at Festival

So, let’s all make a pact to treat our precious bottled beer with respect! Keep those babies cool and out of the sun to ensure maximum protection and enjoyment. And, if you’re looking for the best in craft beer, seasonal brews, and old faithfuls, check out our selection from Festival Wine and Spirits! We carry every major brand at the best prices in Annapolis, Maryland.