It’s a fact of life, any myth or rumor that gets repeated enough becomes “truth.” The beer world is rife with misconceptions, most of which have probably been passed down through generations and have become engrained in our minds as the truth.
Probably the biggest myth is that once refrigerated a beer will “skunk” if brought back up to room temperature. While skunking is certainly something that can and does happen it is not caused by temperature swings. The origin of this misconception is hard to pinpoint but probably dates back to the early days of widespread beer distribution. Brewers would keep beer iced down during the long and relatively slow journey from the brewery to the end consumer. This would help preserve the beer and give the end consumer a product that actually tasted decently fresh. Beer cases would be delivered cold and would be stamped “keep cold.” See where this is going…
While going from 38 degrees to 75 and back again won’t do any damage, it is advisable however to avoid extreme temperatures. Freezing a beer will not damage it’s flavor but could cause the bottle to explode as the freezing water expands. Heat can also cause bottle to explode for much the same reason and will cause the beer to age and lose its fresh taste much, much faster, so I would advise against leaving your six pack in the hot car.
So what causes “skunking?” To start, the nerdy term for skunked beer is “light-struck.” Ultraviolet radiation will actually break down the isohumulones – a molecule derived from hops. Some of these molecular fragments will then combine with sulfur creating thiols, which is the same family of molecules skunks create as an odor-producer. The best way to protect against light-struck beer is to buy beer in brown glass or cans. Cans allow no UV light through and brown glass will filter out about 95 percent of it. Clear and green glass does a very poor job blocking light and could cause your beer to become light-struck.
Another common misconception is that canned beer tastes inferior to bottled beer. This one actually used to be true! The tin or aluminum of the can would impart a metallic flavor into the beer, making it inferior to bottles. This went out the window with the introduction of the epoxy resin can liner, which imparts no flavor into the beer and keeps the metallic taste out. So your beer out of a can will taste just as good, if not better out of a can. Plus cans are lightweight, chill quickly and don’t break!
Hopefully I have cleared the air a little surrounding these subjects, and maybe put a few fears to bed. So don’t be afraid to buy your beer cold, as a matter of fact I would encourage it, and keep it out of the sunlight!