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What is 'skunked' beer?

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What is 'skunked' beer?


You can probably guess that if you're beer is skunked, your beer is done for.

Just like your clothes are ruined if a skunk manages to offload the contents of their anal glands over you, skunked beer can be undrinkable.

So how does beer become skunked?


It occurs when a chemical reaction happens in the bottled beer due to exposure to sunlight.

This 'lightstruck' beer is caused by the UV radiation in light from the sun. 

If a beer has been left too long in a store under the shops lights, it can happen as well.

What actually happens is the so-alpha acids in the beer (which come from hops) are broken down and form a new compound in the beer by joining with any proteins floating around. 

This compound stinks! Kind of like a skunk's odorous spray.

So how can you prevent skunked beer?


It seems pretty obvious eh, keep your beer in the dark and at the very least, out of direct sunlight. 

Brown glass is pretty handy at preventing this from occurring but not so much green bottles or clear glass. 

So, the trick to avoiding skunked beer is clearly to store your beer in the dark.

To sum up:
  • If you are brewing a lager, bear in mind a strange smell could be 'normal' and may disappear after the beer has been conditioned. 
  • It could well be your beer is contaminated by bacteria, in which case nothing will save it. Head to the pub for a self pitying pint.
  • Lightstruck or skunked beer can happen when bottled beer is left in sunlight too long so leave your homebrew in a cool and dark place. 

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