You may have heard someone comment after a quick swig of beer “this is skunked!”, and you may have noticed that such comments are often expressed by someone drinking from a green-bottle of beer. You might also feel that this person knows something about beer. Let it be known that may not always be the case.
So what exactly is a skunked beer?
Contrary to popular belief, this particular “skunked” flavor has very little to do with green bottles, or any other colored bottles for that matter. Certain colors used for beer bottles are more prone to being what’s known as “light-struck”, nonetheless, thinking that the color is the only reason for skunked beer is simply unfounded.
The industry term “light-struck” refers to the process of unintentionally exposing beer to ultraviolet light for a certain amount of time, causing hop-derived molecules, called isohumulones, to almost completely rip apart. Some of these parts bond with sulfur atoms and create a “skunky” flavor that is similar in personality to a skunk’s natural guard and is such a strong composite that parts-per-trillion can be identified and even destroy the best beers. Even though brown bottles help in shielding beer from getting naturally light-struck, it hardly makes the beer invulnerable. However, green or clear bottles offer little to no protection. If a bottle of beer is exposed to bright sun light it can become light-struck in less than a minute, if it is left in diffused daylight it could take a few hours. And you will be surprised to hear that a beer can become light-struck in a few days when kept under normal fluorescent lighting.
This light-struck condition is often the cause of a skunked beer. A lot of famous, high quality, imported beers come in green bottles, and when it is combined with misrepresentation and an inexpert palate, the common misconception comes out, that beer in a green bottle is skunked. So much is this the case that one might think that all beers produced in a green bottle tastes skunked.
The majority of international breweries work hard to prevent their beer from being inadvertently exposed to ultraviolet light prior to and during distribution. Breweries are definitely not in the habit of selling spoiled brews to their customers. In all actuality, traditionally, that’s how some beer is supposed to smell and taste. The natural and most of the time desired sulfur characteristics formed by some strains of lager yeast, under some artisan style brewing environments, does not yield a skunked beer. The strong hop flavor that you may not be familiar with does not make your beer skunked.
Some may even go as far to claim that all beer tastes skunked when in a bottle but yet not from the tap. Drinking from the bottle is a more focused “delivery system”. Drinking from a glass permits the beer’s characters to become more unstable, and less pin pointed. It doesn’t essentially suggest that the beer in the bottle is skunked.
If you want to avoid skunked beers, steer clear of purchasing beer on display or beer in brightly lit coolers and make sure you are not overly exposing your beer to light. Just keep in mind that before you call a beer fowl, there may be something else going on.
Larry Austeen is the PR manager at Micro Beer Club. A company known for quality Australian Beers and the number one Beer club in Melbourne. Breweries in Melbourne Victoria are now available to deliver fresh brew right your door step. He reccomends Craft beer Melbourne another well known beer from Melbourne made for Beer Lovers!