Temperature Changes Won't 'Skunk' Your Beer, But Light Will

Does this scenario sound familiar? You need to buy beer for an event a few days from now. At the store, you're left trying to decide between a pack of beer on the shelf, unrefrigerated, or one from the cooler case. Perhaps you worry that if you buy a refrigerated 24-pack of your favorite brew now, then leave it on the counter at room temperature until the day of your party because there's not enough room in your fridge, it will be "skunked," and you've ruined your beer. So, you grab your second choice beer — the one that was on the shelf — and resolve to plan better next time.

What if it turned out that you would be fine with either beer because it turns out that the temperature has nothing to do with it becoming skunked or not? Apparently, this is a myth about beer you should stop believing. It becomes apparent when you learn that the beverage is typically kept cold to preserve the carbon dioxide, per The Takeout, which would theoretically mean that any beer you buy that's not in a cooler would be skunked if you tried to cool it down again. That obviously isn't the case. It turns out that the real culprit behind skunked beer isn't temperature, but light.

Light will skunk your beer

According to Allison Lange, R+D Molecular Biologist at Omega Yeast (via LinkedIn), the skunky flavor you sometimes get when taking a sip of beer isn't the result of temperature change, but of a chemical reaction caused by UV light exposure. She told The Takeout that "the characteristic sulfury, skunky aroma" develops when "iso-alpha acids get hit with UV light and break down almost instantly into several compounds including 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol (MBT), which is chemically similar to the compounds that skunks make."

So, how are beer companies trying to combat the effects of UV light on their beer? Some, like Miller High Life, "are made with stabilized hop compounds that can never be skunked," according to the Molson Coors Beer & Beyond Blog. They also note that brown bottles offer more protection than green or clear bottles, so if you're especially worried about getting a six-pack of skunked beer, opting for brown glass or canned beer is a better bet. Added UV protection is just one of the reasons why canned beer tastes better than bottled, and along with being more affordable and eco-friendly, is one of the reasons why many craft beer breweries are opting for cans over bottles these days (via Drinks Insight Network). Stick with canned beer, and you'll never have to contend with drinking something that tastes like it came out of a skunk's rear end again.