Will cold beer skunk if it gets warm?

Answered by Cody Janus

Contrary to popular belief, cold beer does not skunk or go bad when it gets warm. The skunking of beer is actually a chemical reaction caused by light, not temperature. Let me explain this in more detail.

Skunking, also known as light-struck or light-skinned beer, occurs when ultraviolet light interacts with a specific compound found in hops called isohumulones. This interaction produces a chemical reaction that leads to the formation of a compound called 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol, which has a distinctly skunky odor. This is why beers that have been exposed to light for extended periods of time can develop a skunky smell and taste.

Temperature, on the other hand, does not directly cause skunking. However, temperature can affect the rate at which the chemical reaction occurs. Cold temperatures can slow down the reaction, while warmer temperatures can speed it up. So, if a cold beer is warmed to room temperature, the skunking process may be accelerated if exposed to light. But it’s important to note that the temperature itself is not the cause of skunking.

In fact, many beer styles are meant to be enjoyed at warmer temperatures to fully appreciate their flavors and aromas. For example, traditional British ales and Belgian beers are often served at cellar temperature (around 50-55°F or 10-13°C) to enhance their complexity and bouquet. So, warming a cold beer to room temperature won’t automatically make it skunky or bad.

To protect beer from skunking, it is best to store it in dark or opaque containers that block out UV light. This is why beer bottles are usually made of brown or green glass, as these colors provide some level of protection against light exposure. Canned beers are also less susceptible to skunking because the aluminum cans block out light more effectively than glass bottles.

The myth that cold beer will go skunky or bad when warmed to room temperature is not accurate. Skunking is primarily caused by light interacting with certain compounds in hops, not by temperature. While warming a cold beer may speed up the skunking reaction if exposed to light, the temperature itself is not the culprit. So, feel free to enjoy your beer at the temperature that best suits your taste preferences without worrying about it going skunky.