It's about the beer
Gina Miller and Bill Keeper
Hey Bill, I'm fed up with my local beer store. These guys always do the wrong thing with good
beer. Mostly they just leave it on the shelf or let it sit in the floor. At the same time they give
suitcase macro beers and multiple 40 ounce bottles of un-ruinable malt liquor space in the
cooler. So the junk stays cool and many great beers are exposed to never ending light and
warmth. Don't they realize that beer is a perishable food? Don't they understand that most
beer does not get better with age? Don't they understand that flavor destroying chemical
changes happen they keep a beer under the influence of light and heat?
Since great (and expensive) beer is not for everyone it tends to sit longer in the store than the
fast moving Buds and Millers. As the beer sits it can become stale, hazy and skunky. So we
who love quality beer are often paying the highest prices for beers that receive the worst
Bill, I know you've had beers that tasted soapy, winey, wet cardboard, cooked vegetables and
celery. That's because they are stale. After six months on a warm shelf there is hardly a
bottle of beer that is anywhere near the level it was when it left the brewery. Even the best of
beers can become undrinkable.
Beer stores are not the only culprits. I know of some pubs that also ruin good bee. One day I
was involved in a promo for a beer and decided to taste it before serving it. It was horrid.
Upon investigation I found out that the bar manager had left the keg in the sun for an entire
summer weekend. The promo was immediately canceled.
Correct me if I'm wrong Bill (not that I have to ask you to do that), but I think the only way
breweries can get around the shelf-life issues is to fortify their beers with chemical inhibitors of
the natural aging reactions. For real ales however there is no antidote to aging.
I understand that spending $10 on a bottle of beer and finding it skunked is not worth a federal
law suit but if I were to add up all the money I've spend on those bad beers I might have more
than enough to pay an attorney. So from now on if I get one of these rotten beers I'm bringing
it back and making a scene!
All beer lovers should speak up about inappropriate beer storage or simply boycott stores that
persist in selling bad beer. I'd also ask everyone to send a beer back at your local pub if you
detect any acrid flavors or smells. Be especially wary of those 50 plus tap places that don't
clean their lines or move their beer. Ugh.
That's it from me, chug-a-lug, Bill.....see you next month.
There you go again Gina being Ms. doom and gloom. Things are not nearly as bad as you
picture it. First you have to realize that the vast majority of beer is pasteurized. Pasteurization
used in the production of beer is not designed to kill bacteria (this happens in the boiling of the
wart) but to kill off any living yeast left in the beer. This is done to keep the beer from re-
conditioning in the bottle during distribution. Killing the yeast allows beers to have a longer shelf
life with a much more predictable flavor. For many beer producers it is important to maintain a
consistent flavor year round and pasteurization helps make it so. If a beer is pasteurized, minor
fluctuations in temperature WILL NOT affect thee beer’s flavor. These beers are often not
shipped or stored cold to reduce costs and they still taste just fine.
If a beer says it is “bottle conditioned” this means that it has live yeast in it, still fermenting, and
will change with age (temperature changes accelerate this process). A majority of bottle
conditioned beer however will improve with some of this aging; unpleasant flavors fade and the
beer will develop into a more delicate and complex beverage. There is an exception though as
bottle conditioned beer with a lot of hops or pale malts is best fresh and should be kept cold;
these ingredients tend to become stale tasting with age.
Beer turns "skunky" not so much from warmth, but from a chemical process involving light and
hop oils as you mentioned. That's why green and clear bottle beers have that horrendous taste if
not protected. I agree that your beer store should keep good brews cool, but It is fine to cool
your beer more than once. Yes, I'm actually saying you can take your beer from the fridge, leave
it in you basement for a while and then re-refrigerate it. The flavor will not be affected. Beer is
only sensitive to extreme temperature. Treat your brew as if it is your pet. Would you leave it in
the car on a 100 degree day? Would leave it in a freezing garage most of the winter? Of course
not but reasonable changes in temperature will have no bad effects.
Remember that when beer gets shipped, it is not always cold. It could go through a ton of temp
changes before it passes into your hands. The beer delivery trucks in my area that bring us all
the specialty micro brews are not refrigerated and yet the beer is fine.
Oh, I readily agree with you that anyone getting a skunked beer should bring it back to the store
or send it back when at a bar. If it's a quality store or pub they'd much rather make things right
than to lose a customer.
Here's looking at you, kid! See you next month.