In the interest of full-disclosure, the genuine Anheuser-Busch BREWMASTER himself, George Reisch, contacted us here at Wall Street Fighter about Tuesday’s post on what makes a good beer go so bad.

The third generation brewmaster/home brewer has a few points of clarification to make on our very glib, yet entirely grammatically correct post.

George’s comments in red:

1. Bottles of beer kept in a glass-door cooler are slowly being skunked by light. Beer is like a vampire that craves darkness. True, especially if the bottles are right against the light versus the bottles on the shelf below “in the shade”.

2. Beer can get skunked from being in less than 10 seconds of direct sunlight. True, IF using whole hops or pellets AND the beer is in a clear beer bottle or glass. If in a can or aluminum bottle (where the sunlight is blocked) only the light entering through the opening affects the beer. Green and clear bottles containing beer that uses whole hops or pellets will also become light-struck in seconds. If in a brown bottle, the beer will not become light-struck in the normal time it takes to drink the beer. However, even the beer in brown bottles will become light-struck over several days.

3. Brown bottles offer the best protection, while green and clear bottles are not good protection from light. Miller uses hops that are more resistant to light than most beers. (Good call, Miller) Though there’s no such thing as “hops” that are more resistant to light, it is true that SABMiller, Anheuser-Busch, MolsonCoors and other major brewers use light-stable hop extracts in most beers packaged in clear glass bottles to prevent the light-struck note and preserve the beer’s shelf life.

4. Chilling and warming beer does not effect it. (Hard to believe, right?) It goes through so many different heating and warming processes that you wouldn’t notice a change in taste unless you chilled and warmed it everyday for a month. Beer has a “freshness timer” that goes faster at higher temperatures. If your beer is allowed to warm up, the “aging timer” goes faster and the beer becomes stale. Therefore, if you keep your beer as cold as possible from the moment you buy it and take it home (without freezing it), it will stay fresher longer.

5. Freezing beer makes it taste better, but exposing beer to extreme heat can lead to a gross frothy taste. (This one is kind of obvious. Why would you put a beer in an oven?) Not true. Freezing beer makes beer taste softer and duller and also produces a haze in the beer. Ice beers are brewed and fermented differently in order to accommodate freezing the beer late in the process, rethawing it, and filtering it. (In essence, Ice Beers are brewed, fermented, and aged so as to taste great when frozen,thawed, and filtered). As stated above, heat speeds up staling (oxidation) of beer and should be avoided at all costs.

6. Beer won’t spoil like milk, so don’t worry about those ‘born on dates’ too much. It’s still drinkable after 110 days. Although the taste of every brand of beer will vary over time, in general during the summer months, if you store bottles of the same beer brand from the same case in the refrigerator, inside your home at your “living temp”, or in the garage or trunk of your car (very hot in the summer), you will find each storage temperature tastes different than the others in just a matter of days. Remember that three things are bad for beer: “heat”, “air” inside the closed package, and “light”. The brewer’s job is to remove the air from the packages (bottles, cans, and kegs) before filling with beer. The retailers and consumers should keep the beer appropriately stored (to guard against staling) and dark (to guard against light struck effects) until consuming. Though beer won’t “spoil,” it certainly will change in taste if not stored properly.

7. Beer with more than 7% alcohol gets better with age. In general, beers with higher alcohols are usually brewed to accommodate the higher alcohol level with a greater percentage of darker malted and unmalted grains and also more hops. They are frequently fermented at higher temperatures giving more fruity and winey notes. These higher alcohol beers also change – better or worse – with age, and the aged beer (although different than when tasted fresh) still has an interesting taste. On the contrary, delicate 4-5% ABV lager beers allowed to age in the package will show the harsh, woody, papery aroma and taste notes of staling to a greater degree and therefore should be consumed as fresh as possible. As stated earlier, if stored cold (without freezing the beer) these delicate lagers will stay fresh in taste for a longer period of time than if stored warmer.

Now that we’re all fully versed in the latest anti-skunking techniques, let us all go out and make this the summer of beer. Keeping our beer as frugal as our checking accounts, without an ounce wasted.

Any other questions about beer you’ve always wondered about? Let us hear them in the comments section.

Defending Your Beer by Lew Bryson, May 2, 2008