Beer is typically packaged in one of three different bottle colors: brown, green and clear. Now, selection of the bottle colors usually boils down to a marketing decision – what looks good with the corresponding label and logo. From a beer protection standpoint, brown bottles offer the most bang for the buck.
The brown tint of the glass protects (but not completely) the beer from wave-lengths of blue light that cause beer to become skunked. Green and clear bottle offer virtually no protection from damaging light and therefore make the beer much more susceptible to becoming skunked.
Beer bottles that use completely opaque bottles and therefore keeping light away from the beer offer the best protection. Think of opaque bottles as the ultimate Trojan equivalent for beers.
In short, light exposure is bad, bad, bad when it comes to beer. Even beers that are sitting in the grocery store under flourescent light is susceptible to damage, especially those in lighter colored bottles.
A Few Commercial Beers and the Color of their Bottles:
Brown Bottles: Bass, Brooklyn Lager, Dos Equis, Negro Modelo, Pacifico, Quilmes, and Red Stripe.
Green Bottles: Becks, Heineken, and Molson.
Clear Bottles: Corona, Sol, Tesoro
What does skunky beer taste/smell like?
Here’s an experiment that you can do: Take two fresh non-skunked bottles of a hoppy beer such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and pour one bottle into a drinking glass and keep the other bottle away from direct sunlight. Let the one in the glass sit in the sun for 5-10 minutes an then smell and taste both the glass of beer that was exposed to sunlight and the beer that was not exposed. You should get an idea of what skunked beer tastes like from the sun exposed glass of beer.
So How Does A Beer Become Skunked?
Ultraviolet light is the uber enemy when it comes to beer. Hop-derived molecules known as isohumulones (they contribute to the bitter taste of beer) are torn from each other when exposed to UV light causing them to bind to sulfur atoms and in effect producing the skunked aroma.
Why is it called “skunk”, “skunky”, “skunked”?
It’s because the odor is reminiscent of the smell that skunks release when they are in defensive mode. In other words, skunked beer is unappealing to the taste buds.
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