What Skunked My Beer?

by Jamie Barrie

I always wondered why some beers taste skunky, if that is such a word.  I remember many years ago when I was first introduced to Corona.  My buddy and I were heading to the beach and he had brought a 6 pack with him to have a few sociables while soaking up the sun by the water as I was going to be doing the driving.  It was a hot day on the beach and after pouring a few waters into me and several offers from my buddy to try one of these amazing Mexican beers, I took him up on the offer.  Now I was not expecting it to taste like my Keith`s, the favorite of mine at the time, but my first taste was one that would stay with me for years and would be my first experience with what is known as a skunked beer.

For those of you who have been fortunate enough not to experience this, “skunked beer” is a term we use when referring to beer that has been compromised by exposure to UV rays and a chemical reaction in the beer.  Now I want everyone to know that the technical industry term is “lightstruck.”  This only happens in bottles, as you would expect, as cans are not affected by UV rays just the warmth of the sun, but that is a different story.  However, I will take a warm beer over a skunked one any day of the week.

Now the reason only bottled beer can be skunked or “lightstruck” is because UV rays can only reach the beer through glass bottles, which makes sense and now your question may be does the color of the bottle make a difference, which would be an excellent question and the answer would be, yes it does.  Brown bottles do the best job at protecting the beer, about four times more protected than other glass colors and likely why most brewers use them when bottling beer.  The green bottles would be second to the brown glass, while the clear bottles would definitely be the most susceptible to skunking, which explains my first experience with Corona. 

Also remember that the UV rays affect the beer very quickly and it does not take a long time for a beer to get skunked.  Now knowing this makes all the difference in the world, as I know now to keep green or clear glass bottled beer or any bottled beer for that matter out of the sun.

Back to my Corona, I always thought that a beer that is promoted to be enjoyed on the beach should be better protected against the harmful rays of the sun, but then I remembered that once out of the cooler they do not tend to stay in the sun for too long, and the clear bottle makes it easy to see your lime floating around in there as a beer gauge for when you need another.

by Jamie Barrie