Don’t Go to the Light: How Light Skunks Beer

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Don’t Go to the Light: How Light Skunks Beer

In a recent blog I discussed one common enemy of great beer; oxidization as a result of time. Today, I want to take some time to discuss a much more aggressive and fast acting villain against beer; “skunkiness” as a result of UV light.

You may have heard the term “skunked” to describe any beer that tastes off. However, “skunked” is actually a reference to beer being spoiled specially by light. In fact another term for this phenomenon is “light-struck”. You will recognize the scent of this off flavor as it smells like, well, skunk. Specifically this aroma is called Mercaptan. This reaction is caused by high energy UV rays from the sun and from florescent lighting interacting with isohumulones found in hops in the beer. This reaction can happen within a very short amount of time.

Clear bottles are the absolute worst for protecting beer from skunking. This is why Corona often has this flavor present. If you don’t mind – or enjoy this flavor – don’t let this rant deter you. For beers like Corona and Heineken, it has become part of the flavor profile (the Heineken green bottle isn’t much better at protecting beer than clear bottles).

Brown bottles are much better than green and clear bottles at protecting beer but are not perfect. This is the reason that the vast majority of beer, specifically craft beer, is bottled in brown bottles.

Cans are the best solution to protecting beer from becoming light struck. They fully prevent this phenomenon in most cases. We love cans here at West Vail Liquor Mart! Not only are they portable, but they give you the best chance of drinking fresh and non-light affected beer. We also are luckily living in a time where there are a TON of options in cans. Virtually every craft brewery that distributes has cans as an option, even those who have resisted for years. Cans also have come a long way and no longer impart any metallic flavor to the beer, so fear not and drink from the can!

We have taken a few extra steps here at West Vail Liquor Mart to best protect you the consumer from getting light struck beer.

#1. Most of our lights are LEDs, not florescent bulbs – LEDs are far better and do not give off nearly as much of the high energy UV rays which could harm a beer. We have switched over our bomber door to LEDs as well, so every light directly close to beer is innocuous.

#2. Our beer is positioned away from the doors to the outside – and harmful UV rays.

#3. We keep a large collection of beer in cans which are fully protected. 

We are continuing to find new ways to deliver you the best quality product so you can enjoy your beverage to the full extent.

-Dean LoRusso, Beer Buyer, West Vail Liquor Mart